A plea for inclusion

In response to my observation’s about the contradictions and inconsistencies in the Ozanne Foundation and its supporters, David Bennett, a gay celibate Christian, makes this appeal. David is originally from Australia and, having studied at Oxford, he is now undertaking research at St Andrew’s, Scotland. His book A War of Loves is due out later this year with Zondervan

As a gay celibate disciple of Jesus Christ, my first reaction to the creation of the Ozanne foundation was that it will most likely be a new effort to resist, persecute and reject celibate (or ‘Side B’) gay Christians (these include many who are in happy Mixed Orientation Marriages, missional communities, and living lives of joyful celibacy). We are a new generation that doesn’t carry the same baggage and who have come through in a context where we are loved and celebrated by our local congregations, even if we are often hated by the world. Unlike an older generation who dealt with real homophobia, and the idolatry and brokenness of the ex-gay movement in the Church that elevated heterosexuality, we have come to a far more complex and nuanced understanding of both our faith and same-sex desire. We chose to side with the Church’s historic teaching articulated, for example, in the St Andrew’s Day Statement, which is authoritative, orthodox, biblically profound and guards against the unchristian thinking that is knocking on the door of the Church to secularise it.

I fear that allowing a foundation to be established by the central administration of the Church indicates a failure to stand up for the thousands of young disciples of Christ within its walls who are silently hoping the Church will put an end to this pain-driven and polarising activism, and provide a model of flourishing for us and healty conversation between Side A and Side B. This polarisation has only been harmful to our generation, feeding off the old-hat conservative/liberal divide.

This has not helped us slowly to process our sexuality so that we can follow Christ. We are seeking to live faithfully and by God’s longstanding teaching in his Church. The teaching of the school who stand behind this foundation is porous intellectually because it ignores the very compelling arguments to the contrary, misinforming its followers. Whilst I am not accusing of false teaching, scripture commands us carefully to test the teaching we receive. This ‘school’ behind the foundation blocks our voice as we threaten its easy conclusions. We are told that to obey Christ in celibacy as gay people is self-hating—which throws a reverse prejudice our way. We are beloved children of God who came out without shame or condemnation, but decided that Jesus was worthy of all of ourselves, sexuality included. That is a witness that must be upheld and celebrated. Rather, the idolatrous belief that one needs sexual expression to be whole is adopted, hook line and sinker.

The ethical complexity of same-sex desire for gay Christians is ignored. Is this really about a “conversation” that makes the Church of England a welcome home for all or sticking to its “via media”? After my studies at Oxford, I could never see scripture, reason or tradition (the triumvirate developed by Richard Hooker) endorsing this movement’s beliefs. The Church, no matter what, must always prioritise those faithful within its walls. Healthy, godly saints will mean new disciples. There must be support, foundations and contact for those who face an increasingly negative and pressurised world, not one that props them up with incredibly power. I fear that the establishment of such a foundation and the lack of celebration or support for Side B organisations (like Spiritual Friendship and Living Out) signal that this is anything but about a conversation. This is not about being accepting evangelicals, but rather is about dogmatically affirming liberalism.

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341 thoughts on “A plea for inclusion”

  1. Thank you for this. One of the things which I lament most about the ‘debate’ within the church at the moment is that the real damage being done is pastorally to people who want to live lives in accord with the Bible and traditional Christian teaching on sexuality, and yet are being ignored and sidelined. I hope and pray that the day will come soon when the CofE is able to affirm what it currently teaches with confidence, and which will enable support for all those in David’s situation.

  2. “We are beloved children of God who came out without shame or condemnation, but decided that Jesus was worthy of all of ourselves, sexuality included.”

    “Rather, the idolatrous belief that one needs sexual expression to be whole is adopted hook, line and sinker.”

    Excellently said.

  3. Thank you for your honest and insightful post. I find it disheartening that so many within the church see only one sexual sin (homosexuality) and give a pass to co-habitating singles, and a flurry of others. Making the choice to be celibate for Jesus Christ speaks of a deep devotion. Alleluia for a life in Christ without shame or condemnation.

  4. I hope that the Ozanne Foundation will no more persecute abstinent gay Christians, than Living Out persecutes gay Christians in PSF relationships! Abstinent gay Christians are certainly not persecuted by the church (apart from in ultra conservative circles) nor ignored by the media. Sam Allberry was the first gay person chosen to help write the Bishops’ forthcoming Report on marriage. No ‘out’ gay (or transgender, or intersex) person was on the Working Group of either Pilling or Men and Women in marriage.

    However ‘actively’ gay men and women and trans men and women and intersex people are often persecuted by the church and by the world. Modern British society is not an easy place to be gay or trans as the number of attacks and beatings testifies. The Ozanne Foundation will, I hope, seek to remove this inequality and injustice.

    • Women in London protesting about transgenderism were violently beaten up and it was all on video for you to watch. So what “attacks and beatings” are you referring to given that there is clear evidence of attacks the other way round?

  5. ‘This is not about being accepting evangelicals, but rather is about dogmatically affirming liberalism.’ Well I hear the concerns in David’s article and would like the Foundation to address the more clearly. But this last sentence is unhelpful and inaccurate. These are evangelical who, like me, support an including welcome of gay Christians and their relationships and who believe they do so on the basis of scripture not by by-passng it. I respect celibacy as a vocation for some alongside that.

    This has been talked through enough on these threads and I am not wanting kick off another round of debate. And for the record there is plenty of dogmatic conservative opinion around on this subject. No group has a monopoly of that. But I would ask David to recognise he is talking to Christians who share his own high view of scripture and desire to be faithful to it – even if we strongly disagree.

    • “These are evangelical who, like me, support an including welcome of gay Christians and their relationships and who believe they do so on the basis of scripture not by by-passng it.”

      But that’s the point, David – if you mean ‘same-sex genital is right for some people’ then you are going against the whole teaching of Scripture and the consensus of Christian tradition. You can call yourself an evangelical until you’re blue in the face – and Steve Chalke no doubt can do the same and maybe even Jayne Ozanne – but you know that is Humpty Dumpty’s use of language. Benny Hazlehurst used to do the same as well – but at some point language can stretch no further and it snaps.

      Aren’t you much more a ‘post-evangelical’ like Dave Tomlinson and others? There is nothing ‘judgmental’ in my saying so; I am simply talking about accurate use of language.

      • I meant to write: ‘same-sex genital behaviour’ but I think my meaning was clear.
        The list of people who were traditionally evangelical but are no longer is quite a long one (Chalke, McClaren, Rob Bell etc etc) and it is no service to clarity and understanding to affirm one thing but in practice to deny it.

        As the (thoroughly orthodox, non-cafeteria Roman Catholic contributor to Archbishop Cranmer’s blog ‘Happy Jack’ put it today (8 January 2018), there are now so many brands of ‘evangelical’ (open, conservative, affirming, post-, fundamentalist etc etc) that the word has ceased to be useful.

        • If Roman Catholicism can be a flexible ‘label’, then so, perhaps, can evangelical. I know many RCs who woul not endorse anything that ‘Happy Jack’ writes, and who are perfectly orthodox.

          • ‘perfectly orthodox’? By whose lights – their own? I was taught as a Catholic by the Order of the Christian Brothers of Ireland and everything I’ve read by him sounds orthodoxly Catholic, i.e. in keeping with his church’s Magisterium and Catechism.
            The fact that there are many, many ‘cultural Catholics’ who are OK with sex before marriage, homosexuality, divorce, contraception, abortion and voluntary euthanasia doesn’t make their thinking ‘orthodox’, just ignorant or disobedient.

          • ‘perfectly orthodox’? By whose lights – their own? I was raised as a Catholic by the Christian Brothers of Ireland and everything I’ve read by ‘Happy Jack’ accords with the teaching of his church’s Magisterium. That is what ‘orthodox’ means in Catholic terms. The fact that many, many ‘cultural Catholics’ disagree with their church on abortion, contraception, divorce, homosexuality, sex before marriage or medically-assisted suicide doesn’t make them ‘orthodox’, just confused or disobedient.

          • Perhaps I meant perfectly orthodox in that their discussions demonstrate the love of Christ and the love of neighbour….unlike ‘Happy Jack’. And also that they follow Catholic social teaching, again unlike…..

          • ‘Orthodox’ or ‘orthe doxa’ is not itself especially a biblical concept, but the idea that a deposit of sound teaching exists which needs to be safeguarded is a New Testament idea (2 Timothy, 1 John etc.). Myself I sometimes wonder how coherent a biblical theology can possibly be if it is not NT-centred and allowing the Old to be illumined by the New: I’m not alone in that, of course – but it does mean that I’m less anxious to be ‘biblical’ than to be NT-oriented. Orthodox means being actually Christian rather than heretical.

            What you spoke of (the 2 great commandments) is orthopraxis. Believing the NT teachings of and about Jesus and so on is orthodoxy. Theory and practice are inseparable, and it is impoverishing to try and have one without the other.

            Love as you probably know is an English concept that does not map onto any one Greek concept; the Greeks had (as has often been rehearsed) 4 terms for love. Sometimes people quote ‘God is love’ in a facile way as though God is pure indulgence without a care for holiness or righteousness, places no demands on us, is wishywashy, etc etc. – all of which is not only untrue but very far from true. Having the right attitude is one thing – but there obviously also has to be some content to one’s beliefs (to put it mildly), and the content just listed by Brian is full of ugliness and awfulness. It is not interchangeable with proper and holy content.

          • Christopher you can’t have one without the other. As the Apostles wrote, correct belief without love is nothing….

          • Penelope, of all your replies, that last one was the most mysterious. I write ‘It is impoverishing to try to have one without the other’. To this you reply: ‘you can’t have one without the other’. Anyone can see that we are not only agreeing but actually making precisely the same point. Despite that, you write as though we are disagreeing on this!!

            There is no disagreement on the love bit, never could be. All discussion focuses therefore on (1)what love means to a Christian and on (2) what is the content of accurate belief.

          • “….Christopher you can’t have one without the other. As the Apostles wrote, correct belief without love is nothing….” except Penelope you’ve used the completely unspecific english version of the word “love” which is not the one in the Bible. When Jesus showed his love for us by dying on the cross the word doesn’t mean that he wanted to marry any of us.

      • Brian And you saying I am not an evangelical till you are blue in the face doesn’t change anything either. Evangelicals disagree strongly at times. They always have. Why can’t we? I can live with that. And I didn’t mention genitals actually.

        • David, I am only saying that the word ‘evangelical’ has a determinative meaning, that Holy Scripture is the true and dependable inspired Word of God and as such it should determine what amounts to God-pleasing conduct. I have read all the debates from Gagnon, Via, Pannenberg etc etc and they are unanimous about what the Bible teaches on acceptable sexual behaviour for Christians – it’s just that some think it’s true and binding on Christians today, others like Via think it’s wrong and needs to be corrected. If you think that the entirety of the Christian Church has wrongly exegeted these texts throughout history, you can make such a bold claim – but don’t expect to convince people easily. It is much easier – and more reputable intellectually – to say that the evangelical (and in fact traditional orthodox Catholic) doctrine of Scripture is wrong and that the Bible is not the Word of God but a receptacle for the word, admixing truth and error. Liberal theology has been saying this since Philipp Gabler in the 18th century and this is what I understand to be the position arrived at by people like David Gillett and James Jones. Nothing new about this. It’s post-evangelicalism.

          • ‘Holy Scripture is the true and dependable inspired Word of God and as such it should determine what amounts to God-pleasing conduct.’ I agree. That’s what I believe too. You appear to think that I believe the bible is wrong in some way. I don’t. That is not what including evangelicals think at all. Which rather shows you have not understood the terms of the debate. The issue is one of how we faithfully interpret the Word.

          • David R. writes: “Holy Scripture is the true and dependable inspired Word of God and as such it should determine what amounts to God-pleasing conduct.’ I agree. That’s what I believe too. You appear to think that I believe the bible is wrong in some way. I don’t. That is not what including evangelicals think at all. Which rather shows you have not understood the terms of the debate. The issue is one of how we faithfully interpret the Word.”

            No, I think I have understood the terms o the debate OK. You think the ancient consensus that the Bible rejects same-sex genital behaviour is mistaken exegesis and that Jesus, Paul and the apostolic church were actually accepting of homosexual relationships, but Christian history has misunderstood them seriously. That is what you mean, isn’t it?

          • Brian Are you telling me or asking me?

            You are wrong in what you claim I think about Jesus, Paul and the apostolic church – and therefore wrong about how I interpret church history. So no – you do not understand the debate as far as I am concerned.
            I am not able to sustain this discussion much further but to offer a little more detail on the challenge of exegesis.

            Biblical interpretation of any text needs to ask:
            – what behaviour is actually being described there? (so far as we can clear)
            – what exactly is being condemned here and why?
            – what did this text mean to those who first received it?
            – how does this text apply to today’s world and what would a faithful response to it look like?

            On that basis I am unconvinced those OT texts presumed to condemn same-sex relationships as we know the today do not – they are condemning something quite different and for different reasons.

          • David R – no, I have misunderstood you at all and I think I have a pretty clear grasp of what ‘the debate’ is about. At no point did I refer to “those OT texts” – my words were entirely about the New Testament: about Jesus, Paul and the apostolic church and what they had to say about sexual purity for Christians. The OT texts are interesting but not immediately germane to the discussion. I know what “the challenge of exegesis entails”: I have been involved in this throughout my adult life, including my doctoral studies.
            You evidently believe that Jesus, Paul and the apostolic church believed that homosexual relations were consistent with being faithful Christians for those who have same-sex desires.
            You believe that the New Testament has been misunderstood throughout history.
            But there isn’t a scintilla of evidence to support your novel exegesis.

          • Brian, contemporary texts are no more unanimous on ‘God pleasing’ behaviour than were, for example, patristic texts. What is often claimed as the ‘clear meaning’ of scripture was not always clear to the Fathers (nor do all of us consider scripture as the Word of God, that is Christ).

          • David,

            You seem to be suggesting that the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual activity refers to activity which is so different from today’s homosexual activity that, while the former kind is utterly abhorrent to God, he is now ready to celebrate and bless the latter.

            I’m sure you’d agree that such a distinction is as great as that between life and death, darkness and light, wickedness and righteousness. And I’m sure you would agree that it is vital that we Christians understand exactly what that distinction is and why it exists, what is its purpose, and how we can be certain that it exists before we take it upon ourselves to declare God’s blessing on the one behaviour while faithfully continuing to warn of his curse on the other. And I’m sure you’d agree that the God who loves us would make sure that we have been given a clear understanding about this issue in the Bible – after all, there’s far too much at stake (the spiritual life and death of individuals) for us to get it wrong.

            And if you’re asking us to believe that, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, this distinction was so artfully hidden amongst the few biblical verses that deal with the subject that it took about 2000 years before a select group of theologians became clever enough to discover it, what does that say about God? Is his Gospel time sensitive in an ever more loving and liberal way? Does the ever upward movement of fallen man mean that he sees progressively more clearly into new revelations from the mind of God?

            I’m just wondering if simple obedience to what is certain is by far the wiser and kinder option when set against speculation about what we might get away with if our exegesis is clever enough.

          • Brian You keep telling me what I believe even after I have told you I don’t. OK. Have it your own way.

          • Don ‘I’m sure you’d agree that such a distinction is as great as that between life and death, darkness and light, wickedness and righteousness.’ No I do not.
            I hope you’d agree there is a distinction as great as that between life and death between an attempt a violent gang rape of visitors and faithful, committed covenant love.

          • The social conventions around homosexual behaviour are different in the modern west from in the ancient near east.

            Well – yes – how could it be otherwise?

            The social conventions around the other biblical sins are also different: lying, stealing etc..

          • David,

            I’m not sure why you would deny that the distinction between what ‘is utterly abhorrent to God’ and what ‘he is now ready to celebrate and bless’ is ‘as great as that between life and death, darkness and light, wickedness and righteousness.’ Perhaps you misread this part of what I said?

            And why would you follow that denial by saying ‘I hope you’d agree there is a distinction as great as that between life and death between an attempt at violent gang rape of visitors and faithful, committed covenant love’? That’s clearly a diversion from the substance of my comment which questioned how it could be that ‘this distinction was so artfully hidden amongst the few biblical verses that deal with the subject that it took about 2000 years before a select group of theologians became clever enough to discover it, [and] what does that say about God?’

            But I’ll comment on your diversion if you wish. ‘Violent gang rape’ is specific and wicked behaviour without exception. ‘Committed covenant love’ is a rather loose term but in the right situation is wonderful; for myself and anyone who might wish to know my opinion (doubtless very few!), I would look to the design and the commandments of God to discern where it should apply, and leave it to God alone to judge where, in practice, it has pleased him.

        • Either (1) the word means nothing (in which case people ought not to use it)
          or (2) it means something, in which latter case its appropriateness can be tested.

          • David Runcorn,

            You seem quite forthright in telling others that they are mistaken as to what you believe about SSM and its associated issues, but much less so about saying what you actually believe about them. People are drawing conclusions about your beliefs that you disagree with because they perceive your responses to be oblique and lacking clarity.

            So for the benefit of all of us following this discussion could you be clear as to what *you* personally think about SSM for example? I mean not – what so called inclusive evangelicals think – but your *own* personal views?

            So for example, would you say that SSM is unequivocally sin and should not be something that the Cof E supports or condones as being contrary to the historic doctrine of marriage as received by the church? I think it is clear that Ian and Christopher clearly believe this. Would you say that the Cof E needs to evolve a new doctrine on marriage in a manner that say Steve Chalke for example has essentially done? If so then how would you proceed? Would you have any other things to add?

            Now I know that you think that the texts about homosexuality do not say what people commonly think them to mean but you don’t seem to say *what* in fact you think they mean. You don’t really want to engage on this other than pointing it out. Does it to your mind suit your position for them to have a certain ambiguity?

            I have read many of your postings but I am genuinely baffled what you believe about this other than a sympathy to the homosexual cause. Is this sympathy based primarily on notions of equality or does it have a theological underpinning and if it the latter, can we have some detail please.?

            It would be a shame if this very interesting discussion became no more than a Theresa May type dialogue where many platitudes are given but are devoid of substance.

    • “These are evangelical who, like me, support an including welcome of gay Christians and their relationships…”

      So then…. *not* an evangelical in any recognisable form or by any historical/theological standard…?!

  6. “I fear that allowing a foundation to be established by the central administration of the Church indicates a failure to stand up for the thousands of young disciples of Christ within its walls..”

    As I understand it, the Ozanne Foundation has no official standing in the Church of England, but is an initiative by individuals in their personal capacity. This blog reaches for the victim T Shirt too quickly; short of banning individuals from taking conscientious actions as the supporters of the OF have there is nothing “the Church” can do about it.

    Nor is there any evidence that Jayne and her supporters are out to persecute the conscientiously celibate.

    He may not like the arrival of the OF, but this an inaccurate and rather self-regarding over-reaction.

    • Of course it has no “official standing in the Church of England” – but the fact that one of the C of E’s diocesan bishops, Bayes of Liverpool, has very publicly lent his name to a group that rejects the C of E’s teaching on marriage – that it is between one man and one woman – is a cause of scandal or confusion at least and runs counter to the official perception of a bishop as the upholder of the church’s doctrine and a ‘focus of unity’.

        • None of them do, though surely it is the subtext of the 3rd objective: “Equality”.

          “the promotion of equality and diversity within religious organisations around the world, particularly in the area of LGBTI and gender equality,”

          You are not so naive Penelope that you think this ‘equality and diversity’ means addressing the ethnic make-up of congregations, or clergy, do you? Or ratios of women and men? Or pay? These are not invalid aims of course, but given what you know of Jayne’s campaigning work, what do you think the intent here is?

          • Sorry, the “women and men” line should be removed, as the aim does clearly state that one. 😉

    • For once, I am in near-complete agreement with you.

      On the previous post I have been very critical and skeptical of the OF, but that is because I think there is a mismatch between it’s stated objectives, as per the admittedly brief website, and what i think it actually wants, as per Jayne’s actions in the recent past. I certainly do not think the OF is an attempt to persecute celibate SSA people.

      I am also surprised by the use in this article of the term “central administration”, as while several key Anglicans have ‘endorsed’ (though that is debated) the OF through becoming a trustee, there is no official or financial link to the CofE proper.

      • If a diocean bishop is not a link (‘CofE proper’) what is? And if it isn’t – what was the point?

        I also find it rather difficult to disassociate the known views and activity of the founder from the principles/ direction of OF. Everything has a context. The context of the OF trustees is that ‘orthodox marriage’ as the only godly – marriage definition is wrong. Surely that’s incontestable and can’t be put on one side?

        • “I also find it rather difficult to disassociate the known views and activity of the founder from the principles/ direction of OF. “

          Well, yes, that was exactly my point on the previous article……

          My complaint here is with the implication that this link is somehow ‘official’, or that the OF speaks for the CofE (or vice-versa) when it does neither. And anyway, the article doesn’t say ‘link’, it says the OF was “established by..” the CofE, indicating causative purpose and intent.

          So, to be absolutely clear:

          Does the CofE (as an institution) officially endorse or support the OF, or have any controlling influence over it? It is legally connected to the OF? No.

          Does the endorsement of several senior clergymen, some of whom are actually trustees of the OF, indicate an approval of it’s purpose and objectives by those members (and those members alone)? I certainly think yes, but that conclusion did not go unchallenged.

          • This is why it is potentially an issue for Bishop Paul, and why his involvement as a trustee is problematic..

          • Mat…. I ‘kind of’ agree…. (Though I’m struggling with the placing my postings on the blog)…

            Where I may differ (conversation would be easier!) is that I think Bishop P taking this role can’t be seen as ‘unofficial’ in reality. I doubt it’s seen as merely a personal link in Liverpool. But I’m not there and wouldn’t know. Is that 90% agreement?

          • You’re right, conversation would be so much easier.

            Specifically RE Bishop Paul, while I don’t think the role is ‘official’ I do agree it puts him in a problematic position, as he has positioned himself in such a way that he implicitly advocates against the church’s teaching, rather than upholding it. You’d have to ask Liverpool to know how it is received there, but I can’t imagine his appointment made for comfortable reading for the traditionalists..

          • As Laura Sykes wrote in a comment on the previous blog, the CofEis episcopally led and synodically governed. It is quite proper for bishops to propose and Synod to dispose.

          • This isn’t a proposal though…. If he were proposing change, through the property routes and in the proper way, then I would not be questioning it. This is like hiring mercenaries to fight your battles for you.

    • This blog reaches for the victim T-shirt too quickly.

      Undisputed winner of of our ‘pot-calling-kettle-black’ comment of the week.

  7. Thank you David for this – I am proud to have you as a friend and learnt much from your grace, perseverance and passion for Jesus during your years in Oxford.

  8. Penelope writes: “Brian, contemporary texts are no more unanimous on ‘God pleasing’ behaviour than were, for example, patristic texts. What is often claimed as the ‘clear meaning’ of scripture was not always clear to the Fathers (nor do all of us consider scripture as the Word of God, that is Christ).”

    I do not know what you mean by “contemporary texts”. “Patristic texts” do not have the status of Scripture for me – nor did they for the Church Fathers. All they were trying to do was faithfully exegete Scripture – which they, at least *did consider the Word of God. (I have carefully read through Athanasius’s ‘De Incarnatione’ twice in Greek and it’s clear what he thought). The same applies to the Cappadocians and to Augustine (of whom I’ve read rather less). The Fathers lived in a world in which homosexual relations had been for a very long time, before Plato’s Symposium, valorised by many pagan writers (though more so among the Greeks than the Romans).

    • Brian. I wasn’t suggesting that the Patristics have the authority of scripture. I was suggesting that there isn’t 2000 years of univocal tradition on the reading of scripture.
      Nor am I persuaded that the Symposium was seen as anything other than an historic text in the first centuries CE.

  9. Unlike the article – which is very helpful to the wider debate. The responses sound like two groups of people talking at each other. Each telling the other side what they must believe rather than asking what they do believe and listening to understand the answer.

    • And I have given David R multiple opportunities to clarify why he believes that Jesus, Paul and apostolic church believed that consensual homosexual acts (NOT gang rape!) were approved by God and holy – even though *nobody* in church history until the latter part of the 20th century ever claimed this – and he has repeatedly refused to do so – and airily dismissed us ‘de haut en bas’ as ‘not understanding the debate. That won’t do. I’m with Luke T. Johnson on the meaning of the NT texts – not on his dismissal of their authority. If David wants to side with Johnson, Via, Steve Chalke and Rob Bell, so be it. But that isn’t what evangelicalism means and it would only be honest to recognise this.

      • It is absolutely miles from what evangelicalism means, and (more importantly) from what being a disciple of Jesus means. In fact, it is an about-turn away from it. Evangelicalism and being a disciple of Jesus mean many things that are good and rich and challenging and involving, and character-forming and everything Philippians 4.8. Do people actually think that the antichristian sexual revolution belongs in this company? Can people actually be that impoverished and/or deceived and/or disobedient?

        • But the issue (as I’m sure you know) is that a number of people reared in what we traditionally called the ‘Open Evangelical’ now accept the Jeffrey John view of homosexual relations – while still wanting to hold on to the ‘evangelical’ label. Maybe they won’t if the word becomes completely toxic in post-Christian Britain. James Jones of Liverpool did a volte face on this, so too did David Gillett, former Bishop of Bolton. It was not really a surprising outcome since they had been moving in this trajectory for a long time, often finding fault with traditional evangelicalism as spiritually inadequate while lionising ‘catholic spirituality’ – as they termed it but in reality it was an eclectic mix of modern charismaticism, medievalism, enneagrams, Jung etc. Not especially evangelical at all and not much that a Bunyan or a Sibbes, let alone Calvin or Luther, would see as central to the renewed life in Christ – but sometimes it seems anything can fly today under the name of ‘spirituality’. This is a very uncritical age but that’s not unexpected in a world dominated by fantasy films.

          • Viewing gay and lesbian as something that people *are* (essence) rather than *have become* through fair means or foul.

            Using the words gay or lesbian or sexuality assumes essence, which the evidence mostly does not back up.

            The idea that inclinations should be followed, rather than some being sinful (undermining of the soul and/or of society) and some not.

          • Christopher, I didn’t say that they were essence, any more than heterosexuality is. Though I don’t see how that alters the ethical argument. We all, gay and straight, and neither, follow inclinations: some good, some bad.

            You didn’t answer my question about which of the OF’s charitable objects are fruits of the anti-Christian sexual revolution

          • You persist in seeing ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ as 2 equal options, ignoring the most central point of all, that one could be healthy development and one could be an aberration because one is obvious and understandable biologically and the other is not, but can be explained by circumstantial and cultural factors. On that point there is no equality, nor even similarity. If people’s view is dogmatically framed by the gay/straight idea, one has to ask them whether they have the other angles in their purview. This one-track approach shows the danger of dogma and of framing.

          • Christopher
            Both gay and straight orientations are ‘understandable biologically’. Look at the other species. This does not tell us whether they are morally ‘equal’ of course. I think they are. You don’t.

          • Hi Penelope. Which species are you thinking of which display individuals with gay ‘orientation’ (as opposed to some homosexual behaviour)?

            I agree that observations about other species have little moral relevance, but I was interested in what you were referring to.

          • Penelope – re other species:

            There are so many points you did not mention, and would need to address first:

            First, and most obviously, many things are same-sex behaviour but not homosexual. Attending football matches / pubs / makeovers together.

            Second, some behaviours (dog plus table-leg) are just mating-season hyper-sexuality indifferent to object and gender. Same-sex contact may therefore be included only
            because an object with a pulse may be preferred to one without a pulse
            or because other-sex is absent;
            or unattainable.
            None of that is ‘orientation’.

            Third, it is very rare for animal behaviour to be *exclusively* same-sex
            -and also for same-sex affection to be witnessed.
            Even Simon Le Vay a leading gay researcher doubts homosexual orientation in animals for such reasons as this.

            Fourth, even when orientation does appear, there is often more to be said: the domestication of rams by definition involves a degree of artificial emasculation. Nature alone would never have produced that.

            Fifth, it is odd for humans to try and copy non-self-aware animals as though they are our models (when in reality they are not even equal to our level let alone above us)
            and to be so selective in what they do and do not copy!

          • In any case, I was not asking whether things are *attested* biologically but whether they are *understandable* biologically. The 2 are distant from each other.

            Homosexuality accords neither with physiology nor with evolution (survival of the species). Biological families accord perfectly with both. That is a sharp, jarring -and of course v. obvious – divide.

          • Penguins always mate and reproduce eventually, even if they go through a same-sex phase. It’s not an ‘orientation’ in the sense meant by LGBT proponents.

          • The New York gay penguins turned out not to be, because we were not only imposing human concepts on them, but also very culturally-specific human concepts.

            Also the vast majority of mammals do not practise anal intercourse; there are some hyper-sexual ones that do (see above on hyper-sexuality).

    • Nick whilst I respect the concerns behind the article and said so it concluded by dismissing fellow, biblically centred evangelicals as ‘dogmatic liberals’. In what way was that a helpful? And for the record I have told no here what they must believe.

      • Nor have you told us why you believe Jesus, Paul and the apostolic church now in glory approve of consensual same-sex relations for Christians – though I have asked you several times to explain how you claim to know this.
        I understand perfectly well how modern liberal arrive at this point of view – Andrew Godsall, Penelope and James Byrom often contribute here. But they do not call themselves ‘evangelicals’ because they understand what that word means biblically.

  10. Brian ‘You think’ … ‘You evidently believe’ …. ‘You believe that’ … I don’t see any question marks here. You have repeatedly told me what I (and others you describe in totally dismissive terms) believe – even when I have assured you I don’t.

  11. Hi Brian – I have read David’s more considered written reasonings and whilst I find his conclusions lead towards those held by liberals, his spirit and source is different. I believe he genuinely attempts to do so from a love for God’s Word and a love for others. I think he always says ‘let us keep searching the scriptures together’. In that sense he is evangelical. There are other vocal church leaders who loudly boast the title ‘evangelical’ and whose spirit and source are far from that – and who seem to have a complete disregard for the Bible and who make it their aim to attack evangelicals with a working agenda to wreck evangelical doctrine and ethics. That I can’t stomach. But that aint David. Yes, I do enjoy reading Penelope et al ‘cos they play a straight bat and don’t pretend to be what they aint.

    • Thank you Simon! But what am I? Certainly not an evangelical. I do take scripture seriously, but I don’t believe it is inerrant or infallible.

      • lol – well, I hope I didn’t sound patronising but I always enjoy reading you cos you dont pussy-foot around and you make me think. No, you definitely aint an evangelical but you dont pretend to be one like others who claim the title whilst undermining evangelicals. You have integrity and grit in debate and disagreement. Yes you do take Scripture seriously, (aren’t you doing a PHD in it?) but it seems to me the Bible is but one voice at the table among many, rather than the presupposition and foundation for all you think and say and believe and do. I think you are a classic Liberal, it seems your worldview and frame of reference and authority come as much from culture and your own/friend’s experiences as it does Scripture, and when these are in conflict with Scripture, it is Scripture that seems to bend. I think sometimes you give more credit to idiosyncratic unbelievers and their deconstruction of the texts over historic faithful believers treasuring the Bible from faith to faith. Is that fair?

        For me, evangelicalism’s non negotiables are 1) the centrality of the Infallible Bible for all matters related to doctrine and practise and 2) The absolute necessity of New Birth through faith in Jesus as Lord alone and Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world through his substitutionary death which 3) demands active sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ and warning of the consequences of rejecting Jesus as only Lord and Saviour.

        • Simon. Thank you. I don’t believe that open evangelicals are trying to undermine the ‘brand’. But it is not my constituency, so I had better leave it to other, more able than I, to defend their approach.
          On reflection, I think I am a classic liberal, in many areas besides faith and the scriptures. Perhaps rather old-fashioned in the days of C.P. Scott’s Guardian kind of way! I certainly do feel in a bit of a minority in a church (CofE) which is increasingly evangelical, and if there is to be change (on sexuality, as well as in other areas) I feel that it will be brought about by the evangelical wing of the church, rather than by old-fashioned liberal catholics like me!
          I believe that the Bible is the voice at the table – but that it has to be heard through different channels – reason, experience and tradition. Without those ‘lenses’, to change the metaphor, we wouldn’t be able to read it (or anything) at all. yet without it, we wouldn’t know anything (or very little) about God. So, I take scripture very seriously, though I don’t believe the bible is inerrant or infallible, and parts of both the Hebrew bible, and even the NT, make my flesh creep.
          I think we all shape scripture a little to fit our cultural purposes. As Christians, of whatever ‘tribe’, we come to it expecting to find things there, and we do. Surprisingly, perhaps, I’m a bit of a Lutheran – if scripture shows thee Christ, it passes the test!

  12. Dear Simon, I am very, very grateful for your words. It is all I aspire to in this midst of this conflicted debate. Thank you so much. My starting place is found in these words: ‘My confidence is not in the certainty of being right, but rather on the grace and mercy of God, before whom I have sought truth as best I can.’ (source unknown).

  13. HappyJack offers this with love:

    Every human being is called to receive a gift of Divine sonship, to become a child of God by
    grace. However, to receive this gift, we must reject sin, including homosexual behaviour—that is, acts intended to arouse or stimulate a sexual response regarding a person of the same sex. Such acts are always violations of Divine law.

    People are subject to a wide variety of sinful desires over which they have little direct control. These become sinful when a person acts out the desire or encourages the desire and deliberately engages in fantasies about acting it out.

    Homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity; they are intrinsically disordered and contrary to the revealed the law of God and natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.

    Homosexual persons are called to chastity and self-mastery that teaches them inner freedom. By prayer and grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. As Saint Paul comfortingly reminds us, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

  14. Greetings Chris Bishop If our paths have not crossed before I understand your frustration with my comments on this thread. It was out of my frustration with the tone of one other contributor. In fact those who know me on this blog site (and elsewhere) know that I usually contribute very fully in the debates here on this subject.
    Briefly – you ask *me* about SSM. I am still thinking this through theologically. But basically I support moves towards the blessing of same-sex relationships in covenant partnerships. I want gay couples to have the same support and love in the community that I enjoy in my own marriage.
    As to the interpreting of scripture. Well I wrote an appendix to the Pilling report. The CofE website seems to have lost all its links to sexuality reports but here is a link to my website. I hope it behaves for you (it has been temperamental recently).
    I also wrote a piece that Fulcrum and the CEN published – ‘And how do I know when I am wrong – evangelical faith and the bible?’
    I contributed a chapter to the book ‘Journeys in grace and truth – Revisiting Scripture and Sexuality’ ed Jayne Ozanne.
    Sorry to dump all this reading on you – but you asked! I hope it helps you map my biblical and theological journey even it is not yours … Thanks for asking.

    • Yes, I linked your article from your website in my response(s) to Brian (above).

      I also linked to Ian’s article on the Hereford synod motion, underneath which most of the regular commentators on this blog (Myself, Will Jones, Penelope, David Shepherd, Chris Shell and James Byron, plus a bunch of others) had a lengthy unpacking of some of these ideas and discussions, ones that are well worth reading.

  15. I’m unsure whether this will be posted, as I’ve tried once, unsuccessfully, to post a comment on the previous blog. That, however ,may be due to my ineptitude.
    Whilst I was confirmed in the CoE as a 47 year old, lawyer, convert, I no longer worship there.
    The term “evangelical” has largely become redundant, gutted of content through worshipping at the altar of interpretation. One of the first books I read, after conversion was Stott’s orginal “Basic Christianity” which sketched Canons of Construction, of scripture, which immediately gelled with me and the Canons of Construction of Statutory construction at law. The Golden rule, remains a primary rule.
    Alastair Roberts has written at length on the continued use of “evangelical.” I’m at a loss as to why those who don’t seem to know what the “evangel” is, seek to self-identify as evangelical, particularly when, in some quarters, it has become a derogatory term. It’s a bit strange to see Chalke claim an evangelical attachment while at the same time largely denying it’s tenets. (subsitutionary atonement) and having been denounced by the Evangelical Alliance.
    I first became aware of David Bennett, through a link to his wonderful, stunning, supernatural conversion testimony, from Sam Allberry. It is heart warming to see he is continuing in the faith even in the face of opposition.
    He said this, “We are beloved children of God who came out without shame or condemnation, but decided that Jesus was worthy of all of ourselves, sexuality included. That is a witness that must be upheld and celebrated. Rather, the idolatrous belief that one needs sexual expression to be whole is adopted, hook line and sinker.”
    This is to misquote someone, “If Christ is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all”. David has demonstrated that Christ is Lord over his sexuality.
    There is one thing I’d take up with David Bennett. Where does he get his identity from, from his sexuality, self identified as gay? From where I sit, his identity is in Christ, in his union with Him . It is a challenge to all of us.: from where of what do we get our identity, our security, our significance– our sexuality, gender, qualifications, achievements, career, position in church, out status, our finances, marital status? Any or all can take the rightful place of Christ in our lives.
    David, may you know the keeping power of Christ.

        • I’m glad you don’t. I don’t either. Just imagine paying an extra £50 for a designer label!!

          The sort of thing I mean is Accepting Evangelicals taking a culturally-conformist position, and then turning round and saying – ‘Look! evangelicals disagree on this!’. There can be change in their belief but not in their self-description. But why?

          • Christopher,
            I agree. Whether this is an activist strategy within the church, rather than osmosis from without, a strategy in directions other than the primacy of evangel it depends on the starting point of their belief on God and humanity and who comes first. I don’t know about the CoE, but for Chalke, it comes across as a deliberate strategy. As I’m clearly an outsider here my ignorance of the politics in the CoE is deep, but,to return to branding. it seems to be experts in “confusion marketing.”
            And as for obectivity, a lot of those who have studied scripture. down the years, have done so from an anti -supernatural proscibed presumption.
            It is cetainly possible to study scripture in the way law or physics may be studied. I started some study after conversion as part of Methodist Preaching training, only to find a swathe of unbelieving thesis, (hypothesis – which can not be proved -only disproved) for which there were answers from the likes of Alec Motyer and Josh McDowell (new Evidence that Demands a Verdict). This led me to study, informally, Systematic Theology and almost at the same time Biblical Theology, starting with Goldsworthy, subsequently, many others. As part of my law degree I studied jurisprudence -the source of law – which included philosophy. Even then, in a secular degree, God as the souce of law, natural law was studied.

          • Well – you have pursued an excellent course of study. I am particularly glad that you have tried to make your study maximally scientific, to keep out ideology.

            It is often stated that evangelicals honestly come to different (in fact actually polarised!!) conclusions on the basis of faithful study of texts. When, for example, Jayne Ozanne repeats this, it is done in a very generalised way without either details being given or acknowledgement that they are running counter to all the major critical commentaries and to common sense straightforward reading. What one longs for is a great deal more chapter and verse from revisionists (or those who say they hold counter-intuitive positions) on the details of this. This could then be submitted to criticism. there is some of that out there (e.g., vs Vines and Brownson on same-sex ”relationships”), which has already received much critique. Counter-critique is hard to come by.

    • Geoff, I am very sorry that you are are no longer able to worship in the CofE. That is a loss for our Father’s house has many mansions. All churches and types of church interpret the scriptures. Every translation is an interpretation. David’s life is honest and truthful and scriptural, as are the lives of my gay married friends. Christianity has always been contested, the CofE always interim and provisional. People try to be faithful in different ways and it is Christ who will separate the wheat and the tastes, not us.

        • Strangely, Penelope, I knew what you meant, without interpretation!

          I’m not sure, without particulars, what you mean in other parts of of your rejoinder, and I’d disagree with other parts.

          I’ve been employed in an organistion where over 90% were gay, even before these present days of sea change. They were excellent and highly committed and qualified colleagues. I was appointed by one nowtithstanding their knowledge that I was a committed Christian. Their lives revolved around being gay and socialising almost entirely within their own community. They were surprised that I accepted them, even in the face of testing and challenge and even though they knew I didn’t go along with their lives and they in turn accepted me. But that has nothing to do with the churches (called -out ones) scripture’s clear teaching on sin and holiness, but is more to do with my application of the imperatives of scripture flowing from the indicatives, only through God’s grace.

          This is something I posted on another blog in relation to Chalke’s recent undermining of scriptureto make my position clear:
          It seems that Chalke, changes his message according to his target, whilst consistently denying the authority of the revelation of and by God in and through scripture:
          1 He has, as recent as last week, poured scorn on the Genesis account of creation, no doubt for his own ends, to serve his own purpose, so that he can deny the binary creation of male and female, created in God’s image. Does he also not understand John Chapter 1. Jesus the Creator, as a member of our Triune God, is the one he is crossing swords with, is contradicting. Jesus the God of the Old Testament. And again, he is pouring scorn on the scriptures Jesus read and studied, and which pointed forward to the need for his own incarnation, ministry, cross and resurrection and ascension, to the need for the last Adam (Jesus) and a new humanity in Him.
          2 At the same time he asserts that it is not necessary to be a theologian to know that God is love, yet he adorns the robes of a theologian to write books, preach and teach, in which he picks and chooses scripture to serve his own purpose. And with a robustness of a man who knows he is one of the chosen few to fully understand through his study. I don’t know how many pages of the Bible he has needed to tear out.
          3 Many, I think, as scripture shows that the Triune God’s love is only ever Holy-Love as He is only ever Holy-Love.
          3 He makes no reference to the Bible as the Holy Bible.
          4 He seems to be well behind the times in his understanding of the biblical theological flow of the history of redemption from Genesis through Revelation and the preaching of Christ in all scripture. He’s not been on the road to Emmaus with Jesus. Has he read the book of John, including the “I am’s” “Before Abraham was “I am.” His view on Genesis is well known “old hat” biblical studies which he puts forward as if it is new with it genesis in liberal theology, documentary hypothesis, form citicism, Bultman, the Jesus Seminar, and others.
          5 He ignores “natural law”. Alastaire Roberts has written extensively about natural law.
          6 Years ago Chalke was known as the TV vicar. I fear that he enjoys his status, and making a name for himself.
          7 It seems a long time ago when Chalke was removed (if that is the right term) from the Evangelical Alliance, though he seems to wear it lightly, with all the blinkered zeal of an activist. Would that he were an activist for the evangel, Good News of Jesus. There is no Good News, without the Fall and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus, our sin his: his righteousness ours
          8There will be those who say, just preach the gospel. That’s not what scripture teaches, throughout. It certainly not what Paul advocated, nor indeed Jesus.

          Perhaps there is a need to read DA Carson’s recent tome, “The Enduring Authority of Scripture” from a number of evangelicals.
          The bottom line is this: can/has a supernatural, infallible, omniscient, omnipotent God communicate/d infallibly to and through fallible human beings? Yes He can. Yes He has.

          • Hi Geoff. I think you probably did ‘interpret’ what I wrote! We all do, which is how we sometimes miss each other. I find your observations on your gay colleagues interesting and generous. I would conclude that they inhabited a ‘ghetto’ because that is where they felt affirmed and safe. I would also conclude that they were not Christians, attempting to live a chaste and faithful life. But I may be wrong.
            I cannot comment on Chalkes’s hermeneutics generally, because I am not familiar with them. But I did watch Chalke Talk 10 on Genesis the other day and found nothing unexceptionable in his reading of the texts. Others have misconstrued his argument and claimed that Chalke was claiming that Genesis 1 and 2 were parodies of Babylonian creation myths. That is not what he says. He claims that they were written to undermine Babylonian myths, and this is persuasive. It is a theory I have proposed when teaching about creation. Though it is not the only reason they were written.
            I am not, as you may have gathered, an evangelical. But even if I were, I could not subscribe to the position statements of the Evangelical Alliance. I do not believe in PSA. I find the doctrine horrifying. I believe that God does communicate through fallible human beings and that the result, though inspired, is fallible. For now, we see through a glass darkly.

        • Christopher
          Loving, faithful, outward looking, stable, chaste, sacrificial, generous, covenantal (if you consider those scriptural values).

          • Penelope, do scriptural “values” replace scriptural morals, ethics and holiness. It is the way of today, to replace definition with description. And where do God’s covenants enter into your “values” unless you subscribe to a covenant of works. Were or are His covenants with his people conditional or unilateral? Where do you go to find out?
            Where does God’s holiness fit into your value system? Where do you find out?

          • It is widespread for chaste not to figure; but, that said, it depends what particular activity is in view as well as how that activity is being conducted.

  16. I have read through David’s piece twice (a long time ago, though I had forgotten I had read it and today) and I do not find it persuasive on several levels.

    I don’t see any teal engagement with Robert Gagnon, who has very exhaustively studies all the relevant texts (including a number missed by David relating to ‘dogs’ as cult prostitutes were called), both in the OT and NT, and in particular he has done so ‘stereoscopically’, seeing how the NT references to Sodom (e.g. Jude 7) are not focused on inhospitality. Biblical Theology seeks to read both testaments together and the NT can deepen our understanding of the OT.

    Second, the handling of the NT texts seems very much like trying to neutralise them – and to avoid the larger point about life in the Kingdom of God, something expressed clearly in the St Andrew’s Day Statement.

    Third, the insistence made there that the NT writers “knew nothing of what we know about consensual same-sex relations today” seems very far-fetched to anyone who has done even a small amount of research and teaching in ancient Greco-Roman literature, as I have. It’s there is book 9 of The Aeneid (Nisus and Euryalus), in Plato’s Symposium (Aristophanes’ speech), in the Theban institution of the ‘Sacred Band’ of partnered homosexual soldiers, and indeed in the very educational structures of Sparta, the ‘agoge’.

    Fourth, I don’t see any interaction with first century Jewish sources, including apocryphal and rabbinic writings, which formed part of the mental world of the NT.

    Fifth, there is nothing about natural law and where this should feature in evangelical theology – as historically it always has, at least since Calvin. This includes thinking (though we may not want to) about the structure of sex acts. J. Budzizeweski expressed it circumspectly in a debate once when he asked a gay activist to think on the philosophical significance of presenting the organ of generation to the organ of excretion (in other words, life meeting death). His interlocutor could make no comment and Budzizewski thought that telling. Now take it further, in a post-Christian world that has decoupled marriage from producing and nurturing children.

    I could say more but this is comment, not an essay. You may not believe it, but I don’t like talking about this subject, not least because I am very aware of the struggles and pain felt by people with unwanted SSA and I have no desire to add to their difficulties in seeking to be faithful Christians (nor to the struggles of single heterosexuals who will never find a marriage partner). It is the holy love and the loving holiness of the Bride of Christ that I care for. Sadly I have known clergy who have left their wives and children to pursue same-sex relationships (and heterosexuals who embarked on affairs), and I can only wonder how this is felt in the heart of God. My last comment on this thread.

    • I have to point out that Gagnon, though he has some careful exegesis (as well as some dreadful exegesis) is not Holy Writ. Moreover, he is, as we all are, influenced by his ingrained bias, cf. his FB page.

      • ngrained bias certainly wrong, I think.

        Firstly, people who are academically trained are perfectly at liberty to recognise their biases (which can often be done quite easily) and weight the scales against them.

        Second, to be trained academically involves being trained in objectivity, and self-awareness of biases. That being the case, academics will be better able than average to make sure their biases do not distort the issue.

        Third, it is agreed that some people are more self-aware than others in this respect. How are we to say what is the maximum self-awareness that is possible here?

        Fourth, the fact that someone’s general position is at an extreme is irrelevant – what matters is how it squares with the facts. Every innovator (including innovators who are correct) takes an extreme position. You would end up saying that the main thinkers in history were all extremists.

        Fifth, there is the truth issue. Many people’s conscience will not allow them to be biased. They might well, and with good reason, even regard bias as a type of lying.

        These 5 points would need addressing individually.

        • Christopher
          Forgive me if I take all 5 points together. Academics are trained (or at least encouraged) to be self aware. That does not remove bias. It only makes one aware of it and able – to a degree – to compensate.
          I wouldn’t claim that Gagnon’s bias amounts to (deliberate) lying. But it does distort his every argument. For evidence of this, just look at his FB page.

          • Hi Penelope.

            As the 5 points are different, it is not possible to take them together. All you need to do is agree or disagree with each – and if disagree, give reasons.

            Further, the one point you made is already covered and addressed in what I wrote.

            It is also the same point you made previously (discussion has not therefore been advanced).

          • Christopher

            4 of the points are about bias, which I addressed.
            One is about extremism. Which is morally neutral. Some extremes are harmful. Some are beneficent.

          • You did not address the lying / conscience issue.

            Not the additional academic credibility issue. If people’s results are skewed, this will become apparent. Where then is their academic credibility? Many want to jealously guard that.

            Thirdly, there are many issues where people have no preference and therefore no bias.
            But these have to form an overall theory or paradigm with those issues where they may have a preference. The former issues will provide a constraint on the latter.

            What is the bias (against reality and research findings) on Gagnon’s page?

    • Hi Brian,
      You have made several interesting points – I will comment on just one of them here. Yes, marriage has indeed to some extent become ‘decoupled’ from the procreation and nurturing of children – and so has sexuality in general. We do not need our reproductive organs for our own personal survival – they are not ‘vital organs’. God created us male and female, ‘sexed beings’, for altruistic reasons – for the procreation and nurturing of future generations. A good marriage can be personally very rewarding, but its fundamental purpose is altruistic. Having children can also be very rewarding, but it can also be very sacrificial, as parents of children with, for instance, Down Syndrome or autism know well. For me an important question is this: do we want to be the best stewards possible of what God has given us, or do we want to strive for whatever things may make us personally most comfortable?

      • Christine, That’s a marvellous description of marriage. But why does it not also apply to same-sex couples. Can their love and care for each other and for their families not also be altruistic and sacrificial?does

        • Penelope – thank you for your comment.
          Since I became a Christian 25 years ago, I have believed that God created us male and female for the procreation of children, that sexual relations belonged uniquely to marriage between a man and a woman, that sexual activities in any other context were outside God’s plan for us, and outside His will for our lives, and that we have a loving, forgiving God who sent His Son for the for the forgiveness of sins, I thought that people who felt same-sex attraction were more to be pitied than condemned – I would hate to be in their position, and I prayed for them then and I still pray for them.
          I found it difficult to believe it when some people wanted the church to regard same-sex marriage as a valid and Godly alternative to marriage between a man an a woman. I have read many blogs and comments on this subject and find that my beliefs about God’s will for marriage are even stronger than they were 25 years ago , but I don’t seem to have the skills to persuade anyone about what I believe about this, any more than I have the skills to persuade anyone about the Divinity of Christ Incarnate. So I won’t attempt to persuade you. But I will pray for you.

          • Christine. Thank you. I don’t believe that we were created solely for procreation. If we were, I have failed. And since (generally) we accept as licit sexual activities which are not open to procreation, then I can see no ‘natural law’ objection to same-sex relationships. I don’t see these as an alternative to mixed-sex marriage, but as an extension of what marriage might and can mean.
            I don’t think you have to persuade anyone. I would hope that the church has room for both of us.

          • Hi Penelope,
            I did not say that God created us ‘solely’ for procreation – I said that He created us as sexed beings, male and female, for the procreation of future generations. If God had not created us male and female for that purpose, none of us would be here to discuss it! I know that many people are single for many reasons, and many people are not blessed with children or choose not to become parents – I am sure you can think of as many such people as I can who live Godly lives without becoming parents, and I don’t see you as’ a failure’ because you are not a parent. God made His purpose clear when he created us male and female – I have no reason to believe that he gave us male/female organs and hormones with the intention of leaving us to do exactly what we wanted with them!

          • Hi again Christine.

            We are sexed and gendered beings, but we are not created only male or female, as science is increasingly demonstrating.

            Nor do I believe that people in same-sex relationships simply do exactly what they want with their organs, any more than people in mixed-sex relationships do! There are a variety of consensual sexual practices, only some of which are open to procreation.

          • Penelope – to say humanity is created male and female is not to say that no individual diverges from this if something goes wrong in their genetics or gestation. It is about the design of the human being, not what happens in every instance (which is an imperfect process subject to error). It is similar to saying human beings are created with two arms, two legs, two eyes, a nose, a tongue etc even though some individuals are born without these – as a result of unfortunate mistakes in their formation. As so often in these discussions there is a failure to distinguish between healthy biological variation and unfortunate conditions resulting from the imperfection of biological nature,

          • Hi Will
            You call it imperfection. Many intersex people would not agree. I call it natural variation.

          • Penelope, it is not really a question of would any of us choose to ‘call it’—unless you are happy to reduce all biology to mere ideology.

            Legs appear to have a biological function of walking. If we cannot walk with our legs, then in biological terms, our legs don’t work. This is not mere variation; it is failure of function. The usual term for this is ‘disability’.

            Sex organs have a biological function of procreation. If they have not developed in a way which allows that to happen, then it is not mere variation; it is a failure of function. It is difficult to see why this should not also be called ‘disability’.

            This can only be viewed as an ideological issue if you (one) has become so detached from the reality of human existence that you (one) lives in a bizarre existential present, were contemporary existence is the acme of human development, and there is no need for a future or hope. I think that is where quite a lot of modern culture has reached, looking at the past with horror at its primitive lack of sophistication, and not even looking to the future, since we have arrived.

            The result of this is a loss of interest in continuation or procreation—and a consequence of this (with the declining birth rates) looks like it will be the extinction of Western liberal culture as those of other cultures overtake us demographically.

          • Ian
            My sex organs have never reproduced. That is not disability.
            intersex people are part of the natural variety of creation. They are not disabled (though they may be unable to reproduce).
            You speak as though the telos of sexual organs, and indeed of humanity, is to reproduce.
            That is not in any way biblical.

          • And I live in a bizarre eschatological present, inaugurated by the coming of Christ. Which has relativised the good of procreation.

            As a western liberal, living in this eschatological age, I am wary of the eugenecist-seeming claim that we are to be overtaken by hordes of rapidly breeding ‘other’. That sounds too much like the alt-right and not at all like you, Ian.

          • ‘My sex organs have never reproduced. That is not disability.’ The discussion is quite difficult if you don’t actually read what I said. If your sex organs *could not* reproduce, that would be a disability. Babies are not disabled because they have not yet walked on their legs. But we would describe them as disabled is, when time came, their legs didn’t not enable them to do so.

            You offer no explanation of why we should not say the same about sexual organs.

            The telos of sexual organs is indeed to reproduce. That is why Christian virgins were such a cultural oddity, and why virginity becomes such an important subject for theological discussion in the early church in relation to eschatology.

            Our eschatological present is only partially realised; the command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ has now been supplemented by the command ‘go and make disciples of all nations’—but the first has not been eradicated by the second.

            And modern culture has not lost its interest in procreation because of a laudable concern to spread the gospel. It has lost it because it has no vision for the future, no ability to displace the needs of the self by the sacrifice of having children, and no connection between sexual pleasure and procreation. I say this not of individuals, but of our culture—though individuals often buy into these values.

            Saying that those who reproduce will inherit the future is not paranoid as you depict it (reading your own prejudice into my comments btw)—it is a statistical reality, one that e.g. Angela Merkel is well aware of.

    • Hello Brian,

      late as this is… a handful of thoughts.

      You mention Robert Gagnon, but what about critical responses to his work and/or questions about his arguments? For example: his logically fallacious use of the story of Sodom; his flawed argument that the rationale for the Levitical prohibition of sex between men is that same-sex sex, like incest, is a case of ‘too much structural sameness’ (from which it would follow that there is a distinction between other-sex and same-sex incest, the latter being worse… but there is no such biblical distinction); and his inconsistency relating to his use of how Jesus reads Genesis texts. He is very keen on Jesus’ quoting of Gen 2:24 but if memory serves, rather less so on Jesus’ use of the story of Sodom (see e.g. Luke 10:10-12 which links it to inhospitality). You mention Jude 7 but isn’t it a little odd to use a text the Greek of which is sarkas *heteras* as part of a condemnation of *homo*sexuality?

      There seems to be a tacit view that at the name of Gagnon, the liberal knee should bow (or something), but his work is not impregnable. I’ve mentioned before on here that I think the work of Gareth Moore OP (e.g. ‘A question of truth’) deserves more engagement than it has received – though would have to accept that it is not impregnable either.

      Likewise, you mention the St Andrew’s Day Statement: Rowan Williams’ essay in response in ‘The way forward?’ raises a number of points and questions which I’d suggest still merit more attention – including his point that Christians who like him accept all of the statement’s theological basis might not accept its view of homosexuality. Mike Higton’s blog (see http://mikehigton.org.uk/) does a reading of Romans 1 which might go some way to addressing your point about reading NT texts.

      For interaction with Jewish sources, there’s always Rabbi Steven Greenberg’s ‘Wrestling with God and men’ (Uni of Wisconsin Press, 2004), which I’ve droned on about before on here.

      On the exchange between Budzizewski and the activist: a shame the activist didn’t reply by asking the prof whether he was referring to anal sex between men or between a man and a woman. It would have been interesting to hear if Budzizewski made any distinction between those scenarios and if so why.

      in friendship, Blair

  17. Brian ‘I could say more but this is comment, not an essay.’ And mine was a brief paper note
    a Gagnon length academic tome. But thank you for actually engaging.

  18. David Runcorn,

    Thank you for your reply and the links. This does help me to get a better understanding on where you are coming from.

    I am curious to know what you thought of the gay atheist Matthew Parris’s take on being gay which was posted earlier somewhere here I think. This seems quite a different angle to what might be normally expected from gay advocacy especially as coming from someone who is gay themselves.Quite startling I would have thought.

    • Hi Chris,

      sorry, I’m not David, but I did leave a comment beneath the Matthew Parris article on the other thread. I can’t help thinking that while there’s some truth in it, it’s not as helpful for a conservative case as some of you seemed to think…

      in friendship, Blair

      • Hi Blair

        The reason the argument of the MP article is helpful is because it challenges the notion of ‘orientation’ as the basis for the legitimacy of same sex relationships and replaces it with that of freedom. This is important because the principal argument in the church for affirming SSM is that there is an ontological category called orientation of which the biblical writers were unaware which underpins the ethics and legitimacy of same sex attraction and activity. But if orientation is really just a loose term for a complex reality of various forms of SSA and their overlapping causes and the real ground of legitimacy for same sex relationships is freedom then the theological and biblical argument fails because there is no way of reconciling an ethic of sexual freedom with the holiness ethic of scripture.

        • Hello Will,

          thanks for your response. One of my criticisms of Matthew Parris’ article was that I don’t think he manages to make his case. If memory serves, his closing line hopes for a day when men (sic) can say they chose their sexuality, but I thought it notable that he couldn’t say that described his experience, nor could he cite any witnesses who could say that of themselves – so it’s rather unclear how his hoped-for day might come. I’m not sure that he manages to make a coherent argument. A central point of his is that ‘people can change’ – well yes, there are people (e.g. Jackie Clune and I think Stephen Daldry, and some Christians) part of whose story is some degree of change in orientation. But this does not seem to happen by any act of will, let alone choice in most senses of the word; I hope it’s fair to say that such people tend to describe their orientation change as something that they noticed happen to them, that they underwent. (Not to mention the fact that I’m not alone in having hoped my own orientation would change, and having experienced no change). Moreover, the fact that some people’s orientation has changed does not mean that nobody’s orientation is stable, and so I don’t see how this gives a solid basis, or much help, for arguing that committed same-sex relationships should not be recognised and blessed (I wouldn’t use the word marriage so I’m not using the SSM shorthand).

          You write that, “the principal argument in the church for affirming SSM is that there is an ontological category called orientation”; I would suggest it’s a moot point whether that is the *principal* argument. It’s certainly not the only one. What about the argument, mentioned en passant by Rowan Williams in his essay in ‘The way forward?’ and fleshed out much more by Sarah Coakley and Eugene Rogers for example, that a committed relationship may be a place of ascetical ‘training’ of (in this instance, same-sex) desire and growth into love? That would resonate with “the holiness ethic” you refer to.

          As I was trying to say above, i don’t think MP has made a good case that “the real ground of legitimacy for same sex relationships is freedom”. But I think there are other questions about your use of his article – such as why you are placing such weight on the voice of an atheist, rather than on fellow Christians, for example; and also why you think it helpful given that he is quite openly writing about men only.

          in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair

            I assumed you meant why is its argument helpful assuming it succeeds. It’s a separate question whether it succeeds or not. Obviously a bad argument is unhelpful. But I don’t think it is a bad argument.

            I don’t mind receiving truth from atheists.

            He was talking about men presumably because that’s what he knows about. Female same sex attraction is anyway known to be more fluid than male.

            Biblical arguments for SSR (same sex relationships) rely on orientation because that is how they argue that biblical prohibitions on same sex sex do not apply to modern relationships which, they claim, are a new phenomenon premised on orientation. The training in love argument tacitly assumes that same sex sex is legitimate, which is the very point at issue.

            I think the argument ultimately boils down to whether you think orientation is a creation category created and sanctioned by God (like sex) or whether you think it is a shorthand for a complex cluster of human psychological conditions with various causes. If you take the former then you can start building arguments about needing to recognise and sanction relationships based on this orientation, whereas the latter will struggle to provide persuasive grounds for overturning biblical prohibitions in favour of new kinds of relationship.

          • Hello Will,

            sorry for taking days to respond.

            “Obviously a bad argument is unhelpful” – well, quite, although like you I don’t think it’s a bad argument; just a flawed one that doesn’t properly make its case, as I tried to sketch before, hence my feeling that its applicability is more limited than you do. I accept that there is truth to be received from what atheists say (as there may be from what anybody says) although partly underlying my comment, was a sense that perhaps you’re turning to a writer like MP because you don’t feel that fellow believers who disagree with you on this matter, are trustably summarising what’s happening… correct me if that is unfair/inaccurate.

            & yes, fair point that MP is writing about men because that’s what he knows about. As a slight aside here, I note that you and Ian have both made distinctions between gay men and gay women in recent comments: how does that link up with your reading(s) of Romans 1 given that, if the text there is read as a reference to sex between women, there doesn’t appear to be a distinction made?

            I think it would be more accurate to say *some* biblical arguments for SSR “rely on orientation”; I suggest not all do. Also, I don’t think it’s fair to say that, “The training in love argument tacitly assumes that same sex sex is legitimate”. I think it would be better seen as a retrospective discernment or learning that same-sex desire can be healed and ordered as a thing with potential in itself, like other-sex desire. Moreover, if that is so then it seems to me that many conservative positions on this do not ‘cash out’ because the clear implication of such positions is that same-sex desire is intrinsically unable to be healed / ordered in that way.

            In a way I’m much more with you in your last paragraph, because it sounds to me very close to saying that this argument boils down to a question of truth about how same-sex desire is rightly / truly characterised (again correct me if I’m not reading rightly). I’m not sure if I would use the language that you do – perhaps unsurprisingly. & couldn’t “complex cluster of human psychological conditions with various causes” apply to anybody’s sexuality to some degree?

            in friendship, Blair

  19. Q: What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a Bishop Bayes?

    A: Someone who knocks on your door and tells you what you want to hear.

  20. I hestiate to add to this already long discussion, and to add another David!

    However, may I point people to Alastair Roberts’ recent post:

    It has helped me to understand that the real issue is not so much how we see the ‘six texts’ etc. but how we think. Just as the goldfish is unware of the water in which it swims, we are often unaware of our fundamental assumptions and ways of thinking. The article draws out how the structures of modern thinking are at odds with the biblical world-view. One specific instance is how the language of equality is actually unhelpful and unbiblical.

    There seems to be a profound malaise in our Western society. David R in his article does refer to community and other relationships, but our society seems to have lost all real value of committed relationships other than sexual ones. This is a problem even for marriages between a man and a woman. The whole weight of intimacy is assumed to be concentrated in a sexual relationship with one other person. If we deny the goodness of same-sex sexual activity, then we are seen to deny people who are same sex attracted the one source of intimacy.

    However, this concentration is also very unhelpful to those who are opposite-sex attracted, but cannot find a suitable spouse. What is needed is a broader structure of close relationships, which provide the support and love which we need. That is what a truly ‘inclusive’ church would be like, and is the kind of place where David B can flourish.

    Serious thinking needs to be done, for the area touches on deep issues. For instance, the transgender area relates to what we actually are as human beings. It is alarming to me that General Synod does not seem to want to engage in this hard work of teasing out what are the fundamentals of who we are and how we (all) should relate.

    • David Wilson ‘The whole weight of intimacy is assumed to be concentrated in a sexual relationship with one other person.’ I agree. This is a real problem. Both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships in our society have areas of deep damage and distortion. My gay christian friends – single and partnered – are as concerned about this as I am. So I am not completely clear what conclusion you are drawing from this. I don’t think same-sex folk are any more of a problem than opposite sex folk at this point. In fact they may be helping us to ask the questions more carefully. Sorry if i have misunderstood you.

      • I also need to be careful now, but would you not acknowledge that while these issues are indeed shared by same-sex and opposite-sex couples, they are not shared equally in proportion? It does seem undeniable that there is a greater propensity for certain types of ‘damaging/distorting’ behavior/activity (for example unfaithfulness, or spread of sexual transmitted diseases) among homosexuals than heterosexuals.

        Crucially, I am not saying that this is causative connection, that somehow homosexual relationships are unable to be PCF (evidently untrue) but I cannot see how this can be equal in importance, or of less importance than for heterosexuals…

        • Hi Matt, I always find this argument something of a red herring. Even if were true that gay men were more inherently promiscuous than straight men (for example), would this vitiate the hope of a transforming, mutual, faithful partnership? For which we all strive if we are called to marriage.

          • It makes it proportionately less likely, i.e. it vitiates the hope to a significant degree (since, obviously, this is not an all or nothing matter, like most things in life).

          • You are right of course Penelope, but that isn’t what I meant. My contention is that the higher degree of these instances among the homosexual community (a statistically observable fact) makes it more of an issue for that community, in more need of attention, than in comparison to the the heterosexual community. I was careful to use the word propensity rather than predisposition for that reason. It is not that is only a problem for one, but that is not an evenly-shared problem, as David R sought to suggest.

            It was categorically not a comment on the legitimacy or potential of such relationships.

            Sorry for being unclear, but I hope that answer frames the question i was asking a little better?

          • Thanks Mat. I am always a little uneasy talking about communities. I have certainly read that promiscuity is more common in the gay (male) ‘community’, though whether that is due to propensity or other cultural factors I have no idea.
            But I have seen no research on whether infidelity is more common in the gay, Christian ‘community’, or, indeed, whether infidelity is more common in straight Christians than in ‘nones’.

          • Campaigners for gay rights who self-identify as Christian:
            (1) campaign for ‘rights’ for people whether or not they are Christian,
            (2) never seem to mention the several elephants in the room – STI rates, promiscuity rates, unsafe and less-natural sexual practices, life expectancy, huge annual subsidy (equivalent to annual wage) for HIV/AIDS patients, no expectation that even adults will be normally responsible (rather than expecting their propensities and instinctual indulgences to be publicly funded) even among those who think the word ‘responsible’ applies here.

          • People who believe in the gospel:

            1) campaign for rights for people whether they are Christian or not, because that is a gospel imperative, Matt. 5.40ff.

            2) know that there is a difference between cause and correlation and that quoting STD rates and statistics about promiscuity (without examining the reasons for the instability of relationships) is a red herring. Marriage, not celibacy, is the biblical remedy for lust.

          • Rights (as presently understood in the secular world – law-based rights, which are at the whim of the lawmaker rather than having 3D existence) is not precisely a biblical concept at all – nor one that fits into the biblical worldview.

            As for cause and correlation, that is a very old chestnut, and one can list a large number of considerations that are ignored by mere trotting out of the old chestnut:

            (a) Statistics that show the rise of large numbers of harmful things coterminous with the period of the sexual revolution cannot be said to be correlations-not-causes. Rather, they constitute part of what secularism consists in. The changes happened because secularists pressed for law-changes.

            (b) Anyway, secularists must admit that practically everything in life is not A-Causes-B. Rather, all simultaneous circumstances in our environment affect us somehow (‘chaos theory’) in an extremely complex causative web. Most of all, obviously, the immediate factors:
            -norms promulgated by authority figures (celebs, leaders, law) or those with a wide reach (media);
            -norms adopted by those in our closest ambit – families, peer-groups.

            Yet if we discern causation within suspiciously constant correlation, is that the same as saying that ice-cream (being constantly correlated with the instance of rape) causes rape – or vice-versa? No.
            First, obviously ice cream and rape are part of a fully *causative* pattern: hot weather’s the parent, and ice-cream and rape are offspring.
            Second, there’s no conceptual link between ice-cream and rape, whereas between no-connection-with-human-biological-family-patterns and no-propensity-to-bond-for-life there is a clear conceptual link.
            Third, if (for example) homosexuality and nonmarital ties do not help to cause promiscuity, that fact (if so it be) is no help to anyone if the two are unfailingly connected, correlated. If something is unfailingly correlated with bad things (and also conceptually linked to those bad things) one would have to be absolutely crazy to have anything to do with that thing just on the pretext that full causation had not actually been proven. Think of the way people said ‘It has not been proven that cigarettes cause kungcancer’. True: because proof is a one-hundred percent thing by definition. 99.9999999% is not proof. But one would have to be totally mad, and a mere excuse-maker, to wait for the 99.9999999% to become 100% before acting.

            One finds the same thing with breast cancer and abortion. The mechanics (artificial interruption of an incredibly delicate process) do not bode well. The fact that 75% of studies find a positive correlation **even after adjustment** does not bode well. The fact that studies from India of all places (where the other possible causes are absent) point so strongly this way is suggestive. The fact that the precipitate rise is coterminous with the sexual revolution – likewise. But the lack of proof (proof being a 100% matter – and very few things can actually be proven) is held to be significant. No – if we are talking about unpleasant subject matter, where there is strong correlation, and in addition conceptual overlap between the 2 correlated things, one should flee.

          • Penelope, I find your question quite odd. Don’t you spend any time with the non-Christian gay community? I think it is a commonplace that gay relationships are categorically different from straight ones, and the public narrative was quite clear about that until very recently. For many gay spokesmen, it is actually important that this is the case: SSM is a sham imitation of the failed institution of heterosexual marriage.

            And the stats all support that. See this survey information in a gay online magazine: https://www.queerty.com/just-how-many-gay-men-are-in-open-relationships-these-new-stats-may-surprise-you-or-not-20160204

            ‘Roughly 1,000 gay men were surveyed. Of that number, 41 percent reported that they were either in, or have previously been in, an open relationship. Now let’s dig into the data, shall we?

            When it comes to the politics of open relationships, here’s what FS learned:

            74 percent of men who are currently in an open relationship said opening was a mutual decision between both partners.
            12 percent of them said they have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
            75 percent of them said they have rules in place with their relationship, but…
            21 percent admitted to breaking those rules at least once. (Tisk, tisk!)’

            This correlates with academic studies which have explored the same issue.

            ‘What about when you double up this heightened male interest for greater sexual variety in a same-sex relationship? Scholars have examined this, finding that only a third of committed homosexual male couples had agreements on strict monogamy and truly honored them. The other two-thirds had mutually established ground rules for extra-curriculars or regularly failed to adhere to their commitment to monogamy. In fact, in the openly non-monogamous relationships, the frequency of sex outside the relationship in the last year ranged from zero to an extreme of 350 occurrences, with a median of eight hook-ups over a twelve month period. Even the couples who pledged true monogamy, the range was from one to sixty-three “slip-ups” with a median of five. The corresponding numbers for men in heterosexual marriages are microscopic in comparison. Women settle men down. Other men do not.’ https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2015/09/why-ms-madison-had-to-create-female-customers

            This practical reality is rooted in the biological differences between men and women in marriage, and the loss of such difference in same-sex relationships. I am surprised when those arguing for ‘same sex marriage’ in the church do so without knowing about the pretty fundamental differences between the two kinds of relationship.

          • Ian I think ‘women settle men down’ is a fairly misogynistic statement! No doubt some women do. And no doubt some men settle some women down, and men men, and women women.
            As I said, the promiscuity charge is a red herring. Firstly, as a David Runcorn comments elsewhere on this thread, we don’t know whether gay relationships are less stable because men, or gay people, are mor promiscuous, or because society has never (until very recently) given PFS gay relationships any recognition or support.
            Anyway, it seems rather odd to argue, as some do here, that homosexuality has no ‘biological’ cause and then conclude that gay people are inherently promiscuous.
            But the main reason this argument is such a red herring is, that even if gay people were more promiscuous, wouldn’t this be a powerful argument for the discipline of marriage, as the BCP marriage service suggests? It is thoroughly biblical to observe that it is marriage which is the remedy for lust, not celibacy.

          • Hi Penelope

            There is no sign of any reduction in promiscuity as same-sex relationships become accepted.

            Calling relationships with this general character marriage lowers the standard of marital norms.

            The argument from promiscuity is a supporting argument illustrating what it means to call same-sex relationships disordered; it is not the primary argument. If we argue from first principles that they are disordered we are challenged to provide evidence of negative consequences (harm). If we then do that we are told that the negative consequences aren’t relevant to whether people should be encouraged towards the norms. But that misses the point: the harms are being provided to support the argument for it being less intrinsically desirable and not the equivalent of natural marriage, not as an argument in itself.

          • Penelope, it’s not misogynistic to say women settle men down. It is the opposite: complimentary.

            However (the second point) this is not an empty compliment but statistically true.

            You were presented with a statistically massive disparity between homosexual and heterosexual behaviour. Your response was to equalise: men/men, women/women, men/women, women/men. This looks like a dogmatic stance that would not be affected by anything so awkward as evidence – even very clear cut evidence involving massive disparities.

            Where’s the connect to reality here? How can you convince people you are not trying to remake reality in your preferred image?

          • Yes, Will, that works if you start out with the assumption that same-sex relationships are disordered. You then have to find evidence. I don’t begin with that assumption. So, I can conclude that there may be many factors why ss relationships are, or have been, more unstable.
            And, as I said, if they are, maybe we should be directing them towards the discipline of holiness and fidelity as we do with recalcitrant straight sexuality, cf. BCP marriage service.

          • Penelope, the comment ‘women settle men down’ was not an ideological statement; it was a summary of the research evidence—but you do not seem to want to look at the evidence. As Will notes, this evidence persists in contexts where there is no stigma.

            It is not a question of ‘deciding that same sex relationships are disordered, then looking for the evidence’. The evidence comes from the gay community itself—but again you appear to be unwilling to note this.

            It’s a bit facetious to quote the BCP on the function of marriage, since the BCP and its authors were not making a comment about all sexual relationships but about male-female sexual relationships and marriage.

            The question at hand is whether same-sex sexual partnerships actual look like other-sex sexual partnerships and therefore, when seeking some covenant form, the word ‘marriage’ might be appropriate. All the evidence suggests not, and (knowing this evidence) much of the gay community thinks not.

            Your response is, I think, pretty characteristic of church arguments to the contrary—depending as it does on simply ignoring or denying the established reality.

          • Ian

            Since it is mainly women who sue for divorce, I should like to see the ‘evidence’ for this claim. And, it is a culturally contingent observation?

            It was Will who said that he believed ss relationships are disordered and was challenged to find evidence.

            Again, I would need to see evidence of a society where being homosexual and being in a ss relationship attracts no stigma. You may think we are living in a rainbow-coloured secular utopia, but that is far from being the case, even in the liberal west. Only today, a newspaper reported attacks on a gay couple, which included throwing bricks through their window. Such attacks are not uncommon.

            Yes, some gay people regard marriage as a bourgeois, patriarchal, outdated institution which stifles freedom and self expression. They regard equal marriage as a corrupted imitation of a heterosexist convention. So do some straight people. They are not our constituency. They are not the people who honour (Christian) marriage and want to embrace it both as a discipline and as a source of joyous and sacrificial love.

            That is why the words of the BCP are entirely appropriate. It matters not whether Cranmer or Augustine or Paul had same-sex couples in mind. Of course they didn’t. But they also didn’t have in mind 21st C companionate marriage in which the spouses are equal (and equally protected by the law).. There are may things that biblical writers did not envisage (as you pointed out credit cards), that does not vitiate their teachings, nor mean that they cannot be applied to situations which they could not imagine. If this were so, there would be no ethical deliberations on transhumanism or in vitro fertilisation, for example.

            Most of the same-sex partnerships I know look pretty much like mixed-sex partnerships. Couples shop, eat, go to the theatre, go on holiday, spend time with their families, go to church and pray, if they are Christians. Bit middle-class, I admit, but those are the type of people I tend to know.

            And, you didn’t answer my observation that it’s odd to deny a biological aetiology for homosexuality and then argue that homosexual men and women are ‘inherently’ more promiscuous.

          • The evidence that ‘women settle men down’ is in the stats in the paragraph that this concludes. I am not sure what the difficulty is here.

            There appears to be no particular stigma in Denmark, hence this was the place for research which demonstrated developmental factors in causation. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-006-9062-2 I think it would also be the case in places like San Francisco, which have long-established gay communities…which are also highly promiscuous.

            The reason why the view of those outside the church is important is that they have no agenda that leads them to ignore the reality—as people in the church advocating for change appear to have repeatedly.

            I’m sorry, it is nonsense to extend the language of the BCP to ‘same sex marriage’ (or that of Paul), since the use begs the very question in the first place: is the term ‘marriage’ applicable to this in the first place.

            If ‘most same-sex partnerships I know look pretty much like mixed-sex partnerships’ then you are being very selective about aspects of either relationship, or the relatships you are looking at, or both. The research evidence says that they are in fact quite different. Your bias-sampled anecdote doesn’t really offer a counter-argument to the research.

            I don’t think I understand your final question.

          • Christopher

            How many times do I have to say that the evidence for promiscuity in gay people (whatever its cause) is a red herring? We are discussing the Christian gospel. We are not affirming our weak and corrupted flesh – whether straight or gay. We are advocating a life of chastity and holiness, or at least, like all good marriages, orientated towards those ends.

            Christianity teaches us that Christ dos not leave us where we are. It is not enough to diagnose one group of people as sinful and to leave it at that. I am advocating for gay people, the self sacrifice and discipline of PFS marriage, just as I would advocate it for straight people. It is not easy for anyone, gay or straight. But it is the Biblical remedy for lust.

          • ‘How many times do I have to say that the evidence for promiscuity in gay people (whatever its cause) is a red herring?’ Repeating this claim doesn’t make it true. As I have commented, it really is germane to the discussion about whether ‘marriage’ can be redefined to include reference to same-sex partnerships. The evidence of promiscuity is a well-research reality which supports the theological contention that this is not possible.

            If you want to repeat your claim, you need to answer this evidence.

          • I don’t think anyone is denying a biological influence on SSA – but biology is so pervasive that there will be biological influence in almost everything. The point is that biological influence does not of itself 1) mean something is determined by biology 2) mean expressing it is morally acceptable or it is healthy.

            But in any case, the inherent features of same-sex relationships mostly proceed from the inherent features of male and female and what happens when a couple is constituted of two men or two women rather than anything about same sex sexuality as such (hence why it is so different in men and women).

          • Sorry Ian, I can only read the abstract which says nothing about promiscuity or instability.
            Long established gay communities, wherever they are, are still outside the norms of society and have to contend with both prejudice and violence. That is one of the reasons for gay ‘ghettos’.
            But, as I keep saying, this is not germane. We do not say that man [sic] is inherently promiscuous, so why inhibit this impulse, or let us limitl and control these desires in polygyny. We acknowledge that man is not naturally mongamous, but we believe that the discipline of Christian marriage might be a good.
            Why is it so difficult to accept same-sex marriage is an analogy? Is it nonsense to extend the languor the BCP? I do think so. Cranmer’s and Paul’s ideas of marriage have already been extended to admit contemporary definitions.
            I cited the similarities between the same-sex and mixed-sex relationships I know because you asked the question. Of course, it is anecdotal.
            My final question was this:
            Many commentators on this blog (including you I think) deny that homosexuality has a ‘biological’ aetiology. But many commentators (including you) speak of the inherent promiscuity of homosexual people. Is this not inconsistent?

          • The article abstract is about environment and development in sexual orientation; the point about women settling men down comes from the other article which I cited and linked.

            Those engaged in social scientific research do not believe that there is a shame factor in e.g. Denmark which affects their results. For you do argue this is very special pleading, and another way of avoiding something that is widely attested.

            Why is it difficult to accept same-sex marriage as analogous to historic marriage? Because of the many things Christians believe about marriage (other sex, leading to procreation, involving a unitive sexual act, biological and psychological complementarity) only some of these carry over to SSM. There has been no comparative extension—as we can see by the close correspondence between modern marriage liturgy and the BCP. It just hasn’t needed the major rewriting that would be required for this change. I confess continuing surprise that this is still a question for you given the dialogue…

            I don’t think that homosexuality (i.e. a pattern of consistent same-sex attraction) has no biological elements, at least in men. (Lesbianism is a quite distinct social, psychological and sexual phenomenon.) But it has clearly established environmental/developmental elements. I find Thomas Schmidts multi-causal model persuasive (‘Straight and Narrow?’ IVP). Both aspects of this could easily seen to lead to high levels of promiscuity, and this is seen by most people to highlight quite a clear difference from other-sex sexual attraction.

          • Hi Penelope

            I gave a response above to your question about aetiology. I said:

            I don’t think anyone is denying a biological influence on SSA – but biology is so pervasive that there will be biological influence in almost everything. The point is that biological influence does not of itself 1) mean something is determined by biology 2) mean expressing it is morally acceptable or is healthy.

            But in any case, the inherent features of same-sex relationships mostly proceed from the inherent features of being male and female and what happens when a couple is constituted of two men or two women rather than anything about same sex sexuality as such (hence why it is so different in men and women).

            It’s interesting you say ‘mainly women’ sue for divorce (can you put any figures on this?) as I’m also aware that female-female marriages have much higher divorce rates than the other two types. But they are also much more faithful (exclusive) than male-male marriages, and even more than male-female. This suggests men may be better at permanence than women (I wonder if women are emboldened in seeking divorces knowing that they will be favoured in custody battles over children?) but women may be better at exclusivity (and a number of studies and commentators have argued that non-exclusivity is the key to making most long-term male-male relationships work). I would observe if men are better are permanence (and worse at exclusivity) and women are better at exclusivity (and worse at permanence) then this shows how male-female marriages can benefit from the mixing of the male and female strengths to counter the weaknesses in the other and produce marriages which are more likely to be both permanent and exclusive. (In male-female marriage this is of course also greatly aided by the massive fact of joint biological offspring, which is a key telos of marriage properly understood.)

          • Thanks Ian

            Sorry, I must have picked up the wrong abstract. Interesting that the research does not show shame in that context.

            It will be interesting to see a long-term study on the relative stability of CPs and SSM relative to mixed-sex marriages in due course. Not, of course, that this would affect the morality of such institutions. If mixed-sex marriage was found to be unstable (which it probably is in western countries), we would not abandon it as a Christian institution.

            As for the goods of marriage, to switch from BCP to CW, the goods are reordered, so that family (offspring) come second and children can be dropped from the rubric. In this case, apart from the production of offspring I see little difference in the purposes of marriage for (Christian) ss and ms couples:

            the delight and tenderness of sexual union.
            nurture of family

            CW does not mention that strangely modern notion of complementarity.
            Surely couples are united both in the way in which they complement each other and in their sameness (flesh of my flesh, i.e. human not animal).

            Anyway, we’re not going to agree. Thank you, as ever, for engaging. I’m off to write some more on the anti-marriage, anti-family NT and acsesis!

          • Hello folks,

            Butting in late again here: it seems to me that you’re right to say that the promiscuity thing is something of a red herring, Penelope, but for different reasons. If it’s Ian’s and Will’s position that same-sex sex is intrinsically wrong, then the logic of that is that it matters not how promiscuous or faithful relationships are; if it’s wrong in itself, always and everywhere, then promiscuity is indeed irrelevant.

            Secondly, i think Will was right to concede that the argument about promiscuity isn’t the main one – and it does rather have the feel of something brought in to reinforce a conclusion largely reached on other grounds. Or put another way: for argument’s sake, if research were ever to show that same-sex and other-sex relationships had equal rates of infidelity, I doubt very much that you would change your mind about recognising same-sex relationships in some way (personally i don’t think I would use the term marriage but that’s maybe for another time).

            Thirdly, a little niggle – Ian, you said Penelope used a ‘bias-sampled anecdote’ but is the queerty.com survey you link to free of any bias…?

            in friendship, Blair

        • Mat Thanks you for the question. We both share a sense of the sensitivities of exploring this at all. I hop my response will not be felt clumsy by any.
          I am with Penelope with this one but I would offer one comment.
          I think the use of research that appears to reflect negativity on the quality and durability of same-sex relationships is too easily used without regard for historic social context. In British society homosexuality was, until relatively recently, illegal and brutally punished by law. Gay communities continue to suffer mocking, shaming, violence and exclusion. Churches have colluded with this and still struggle to offer any real honouring and welcome. This has meant that relationships have had to be lived out in secret, without the social supports, financial security, good will and on going care familiar to heterosexuals couples. No marriage or equivalent, or legal structure (until CPs) has been available to formalise a commitment. Couples still cannot receive God’s blessing in Anglican churches. This has meant living with huge levels of fear, isolation and secrecy. Committed/marriage relationships are quite challenging enough without all that to cope with. I have little doubt patterns of heterosexual relating would reflect similar levels of struggle and damage if faced with the same sustained loveless hostility. There is more to admire than criticise in these stories. But I also think that conservative commentators seriously understate the levels of damage and mess that is present in a great deal of heterosexual relating in our society too. Specks and beams?

          • Thank you David. This was what I had in mind when I suggested that ‘cultural factors’ might have affected the stability of relationships between gay people.

          • Dear Mat

            You say “….Gay communities continue to suffer mocking, shaming, violence and exclusion. Churches have colluded with this….” but where is the evidence for any of this?
            When you then ask for God’s blessing in Churches, why are you asking God to bless something in which Scripture tells us clearly is not what God intends for us?

          • “but where is the evidence for any of this?”

            Ah, this debate again Clive….

            You ask for evidence of churches behaving badly towards LBGT people and there are many examples of such things, just as there are many of the reverse. Only a fool would think the church has a clean record on this subject…

            I refer you to our exchange on the Nashville Statement, in the comments right at the top:


          • Dear Mat and David

            The quotation was “….Gay communities continue to suffer mocking, shaming, violence and exclusion. Churches have colluded with this….”

            – which you then said “….You ask for evidence of churches behaving badly towards LBGT people….” showing that you went for Churches

            – but the unproven quotation actually only says the Churches have colluded with it …. it doesn’t say that the Churches perpetrate the violence
            – and still you avoided giving any evidence anyway because the evidence needed is that of the alleged perpetrators of the alleged violence.

          • So, to be absolutely clear, you are asking simply for evidence that the church colludes, if not quite participates, in;

            Mocking, Shaming, Violence and Exclusion?

            Let’s just go with a single example that covers all four, and passes beyond merely collusion, so that there might be no doubt. Last time I gave you an example from the USA and outside the WAC, but this time you can have one from within it.

            In Nigeria and Uganda there have been many reports over the last decade or so not just of a powerful current of homophobia in those nations (and by no means unique to those nations), but of Christians actively seeking out and killing other Christians, solely on account of their sexual orientation and primarily out of fear and misinformed prejudice that somehow being gay is ‘contagious’.

            Are these murderers from the African CofE? It’s unclear, but most probably not.

            But, critically, what has the African communion done in response?

            Well, in the case of Uganda, many clergy supported the signing into law of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2013/14. One or two Bishops were reported as being in favour of it at a time when the act didn’t just include life imprisonment for homosexuals, but the death penalty.

            The Anglican Archbishop of Uganda said, in August 2014, “I appeal to all God-fearing people and all Ugandans to remain committed to the support against homosexuality,” and urged support for another vote.

          • Dear Mat

            Uganda does NOT have the death penalty at all for homosexuality and Nigeria has the death penalty for homosexuality in the Northern SHARIA LAW states.

            See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Nigeria

            As it says: “The maximum punishment in the twelve northern states that have adopted Shari’a law is death by stoning. ”

            I am disturbed by how often what actually happens due to others is falsely conflated with “The Church” must do it …. Sharia Law is, of course, Islam.

      • David R, pologies for taking time to respond – life is busy!

        The testimony of David Bennet which we have here, and others like him, is very important in considering this profound issue. On the one hand, it is clear that he does not see same-sex attraction in itself as sinful. On the other, he does retain the historic, and many would say, biblical view that same-sex sexual activity is not good. Therefore he “lives a life of joyful celibacy”. Because of the disfunction in our modern Western society, celibacy is seen at best as incomprehensible, and at worst a diminution of being human, and a denial of the possibility of intimate relationships – because intimacy is sexual.

        But celibacy should not be regarded in this way. The only person who has led a truely human life was celibate. Do those who Christians who support SSM deny that those heterosexually oriented who are not married should be celibate? There are many today, especially in the Church, who are celibate not particularly by choice – consider older single women, those divorced or widowed. So, we have to consider how we as communities can provide the kind of relationships which provide the intimacy we all need to those who are celibate.

        I myself understand something of this. I married two and half years ago, aged 61. My wedding night was the first time I engaged in sexual intercourse. So, I had many years of being celibate. There were those I would like to have married, and one or two who would have liked to have married me, but to marry simply to find sexual intimacy is a recipe for problems. I was always aware of how the Church seems to privilege the married. Single people are useful because they are thought to have time, but otherwise shunted off into groups in the hope that they might get married.

        I know of people, both straight and gay, who have been supported very well by being taken in to become part of a family. I like the sound of the “missional communities” which David B refers to. But there really needs to be significant thinking across the church about how we need to be counter-cultural in our relationships. “By this will everyone know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.

  21. If my might add a comment. I went looking for my copy of “A Conversation Waiting to happen”. On the back cover, John Milbank comments:

    “In tones of characteristically elusive profundity, Oliver O’Donovan forces the reader of his new book to realize that contemporary ‘gayness’ represents an enigma which demands a long period of sustained cultural, ethical and theological reflection before the Church can hope to reach any well-grounded consensus on this issue.”


    • Quotes a straight man (Milbank), whose life won’t be affected by a long period of sustained cultural, ethical and theological reflection….

      • The idea that the only people affected by the revolution in our understanding of homosexuality are people who don’t currently identify as straight is manifestly false. Many people can experience SSA and its temptations. We all have children who grow up in the milieu and are affected by it. We are all subjected to popular culture and its fashions and obsessions. Increasingly we are required to assent to the legitimacy of same-sex marriage and adoption and confess their benefits and are not permitted to raise any objections or criticisms (with various forms of coercion employed). Changing church teaching and practice affects the whole church (especially the clergy) and its belief structure and its relationship to historic orthodoxy and the Bible. This is a matter that affects us all, not only those who currently identify as ‘gay’, and the frequent attempt to close down and delegitimise the contributions and voices of those who are not ‘gay’ is frankly shocking, anti-intellectual and illiberal. It’s akin (and of a piece) with attempts to delegitimise the voices of men in discussions about the ethics of abortion. All reasoned and informed contributions are welcome in a rational debate, not only those from particular identity groups (even if they do have some claim to be more strongly affected).

        • Very true. Except that I don’t think that the call for the recognition of SSM or covenanted SS relationships is a consequence of popular culture and its fashions and obsessions. I think that gay people who have campaigned for recognition and equality would be rather insulted by that implication.

          Changing law and changing church practice affect all of this. But with regard to this ‘issue’, first and foremost it affects those men and women whose lives are being reduced by people like Milbank and O’Donovan saying, from their position of immense privilege, that the church needs a sustained period of theological reflection. If you ask some older gay men and women they will affirm that the church has already had at least 40 or 50 years of sustained theological reflection (as the various Reports attest). And a reflection which has been carried out with very little involvement of gay (or trans, or intersex) people. This is no innovation or revolution.

      • But half the population of the earth (50% plus or minus – give or take) are what you call straight men.

        Hillary Clinton wrote off half the humans in existence; are you now doing the same?

        • Christopher

          Why does equality legislation for the few undermine the privilege of the many?

          I would argue that recognition of the human value of people who form minorities, enhances the position of the majorities, not writes it off.

          For me, it’s a gospel imperative that gay people,black people, disabled people, trans people, intersex people, non binary people, queer people, people of other religions, atheists, pagans, have the same rights that I enjoy.

          • I thought we were, most of us, including those in authority, *already* wanting and seeking to achieve the best (maximal flourishing) for all.

            There is absolutely no way that that flourishing will always be the same thing as short-term wishes. That misunderstanding is a symptom of an infantilised culture.

          • Christopher

            I didn’t say anything about short term wishes. We do not live in a limited goods society. Making life better for minorities won’t destroy your privilege.

    • I doubt if anyone is interested, but just in case…John Milbank himself offers the kind of reflection he mentions in the quotation in David W’s comment above, in this article from a few years ago:
      I think he makes a compelling case and urge folks to read it (in brief he is arguing against gay marriage but for recognition of committed same-sex relationships… though there is a lot of substance that that summary might not convey). There is one factual error – it’s not true that civil partnerships can be “instantly dissolved on a whim”. I pointed this out in the comments but all comments have now been removed (seems to be a blanket policy for articles on the ABC site).
      in friendship, Blair

  22. Hello Penelope,
    Thanks for your response. What you avoid answering, I find it interesting even within the limits of this blog which isn’t ours, such as the weighty matters of God’s covenants and God’s holiness. Thank you for being clear on morals and ethics in relation to values . But which parts of scripture do you leave out in determining morals and ethics, and why use scripture at all if you seem to follow CS Lewis’ adage of contemporary, “chronological, snobbery”.
    As far as PSA is concerned why does it fill you with horror, when it fills me, makes me lost in wonder, love and praise and thankfulness and brings me into deep union with Christ, with his love poured into my heart, as experienced by David B. It is a union for which we were created. What do you do with John 17? And with Jesus enduring the cross for the joy set before him in bringing many “sons” to glory. What do you do with Hebrews and it teaching on Moses – the Pentateuch? And the book of Revelation?
    There seems to be a risk that you are conflating explanation with interpretation, and moving straight to what is meant before looking at what is said. How do you teach Genesis? Just as I was taught law – largely through explanation. It is pleasing that you teach theory of Genesis. Do you teach any biblical theology of Genesis? For example, Greg Beale looks at the motif of temple in Eden through the book of Revelation. (Sorry Ian, I don’t know what you’ve written on Revelation.0
    There is also the development of blessing and curses, the anticipatory development of the seed (Christ) that would bruise the serpents head? There is also the motif of God’s people in God’s Kingdom, under God’s loving rule and protection. And there are others. Separation, belief from unbelief the beginnings of the rescue, exodus theme, decreation, a saved family from through, judgment.
    By the way, you mention wheat and tares, sheep and goats. Do you really believe there will be God’s judgment? If so, on what basis will he judge?
    It was my privilege to hear a weeks teaching on Genesis, at the Keswick Convention some little years ago on the book of Genesis by polymath John Lennox.
    What Chalke is doing is not setting out the table with all courses on it, but to serve his own diet, serve his own purpose.
    My difficulty is knowing which God you worship, as you have set out in part what you don’t believe. You’ve not really set out your “curate’s egg” beliefs, and I’m unsure whether we worship the same God, and just as oil is immiscible with water are our beliefs immiscible? I don’t know in the space of this blog whether you believe in the supernatural incarnation, the supernatural resurrection and ascension and Christ’s future return. I don’t know know whether you believe that the Jesus of history, in space and time, is the same as the Jesus of faith , along the lines of Albert Schweitzer.
    I don’t know whether you subscribe to the belief that God is omniscient, or to open theology?
    Then again you are not answerable, accountable, to me. But most of us advocate for a position from a position, It seems that your advocacy emits from your theology, your beliefs.

    Sorry, this is really not a point you’ve raised, but someone here has -, about having a consensus over SSM. I can’t see that Jesus practised consensus management. Nor am I sure that there is any evidence for the effectiveness of consensus management in business, but there may be. There is for Servant Leadership. And for a common view business vision.

    Apologies, this is far, far too much, and wanders from David B’s original post, which I fully support, which you widened. To sighs of relief all round, I sign off here.

    • Hi Geoff

      Forgive me if my answer is rather brief. This blog is taking up far too much of my time, fascinating though it is.
      I don’t really understand your reference to God’s covenants and God’s holiness. Are you saying that same-sex couples are not included in God’s covenants or are incapable of attaining holiness?

      PSA horrifies me because it is, to quote, ‘cosmic child abuse’. It doesn’t work for me; it doesn’t bring me into union with Christ. What does bring me into union with Christ is his incarnation and suffering which brings us unimaginably close to God. And as Richard Rohr said: Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about us, but to change our minds about God.

      I do believe in the incarnation and the resurrection and can say the creed without crossing my fingers! That is my test of orthodoxy, if you like. Not that I believe we need one. I think that positing ‘correct belief’ as a means to salvation is works righteousness in all its fullness! I think we worship the same God. I hope I worship the same God as al who comment on here, even those with whom I strongly disagree. I worry that our concerns about being right and always believing the right things is making us sects of those who believe that they are ‘pure’ and untainted’. This is not what I believe the national church should look like, nor does it seem to echo the spirit of the gospel.

      • The point is, as ever, that God is in no way bound to be or act as we would wish (being an independent being). The chances of God being exactly as we would wish are not just small but infinitesimally small. Saying creed without crossing fingers – I have the simpler view that things are either true or false: anyone can say creed (or any other promise) if they redefine words. Not to say that you are doing that. Some people are.

          • “PSA horrifies me because it is, to quote, ‘cosmic child abuse’. It doesn’t work for me; it doesn’t bring me into union with Christ”. Historically, evangelicals have believed it’s the only thing that works to bring us into union with Christ. You deeply insult those who treasure this as a faithful and clear understanding of atonement and you mock what we deem sacred revelation of Jesus’ volitional self sacrifice in love for us. As I said further up the thread, Liberals make their experience and their preference the canon of authority – and eventually they themselves become their Bible. Your experience and your preference (over PSA) is given greater weight than numerous scriptures (I wont prooftext here) and the logic of salvation – as you put it ‘what works for you’ has become the procrustean bed of belief and you lop off whatever in the bible you dont like.

          • Simon. I had no intention of insulting evangelicals or you specifically. That’s why I said PSA doesn’t work ‘for me’, not because I was being individualistic. Nevertheless, there are quite a number of Christians who don’t believe in substitutionary atonement, and who, without wishing to mock you or the belief, find it violent and unloving (I quoted a Richard Rohr above). I am not putting my preferences above scripture. For you ‘it’s the only thing that works’; for me it’s not.
            This is what I mean about correct belief. If we are using that as a shibboleth, we are in danger of substituting works righteousness for grace. And thar wouldn’t be very evangelical at all.

          • Penelope – what’s your understanding of 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10 (hilasmos) and Romans 3:25 (hilasterion)? And of the citation of Isaiah 53 (e.g. 1 Peter 2:24)? Also 2 Cor 5:21 – Christ being made sin?

            Surely the NT is clear that Christ’s death is to be understood as an atoning sacrifice to remove God’s anger from those who stand condemned under it? Is that not one of the primary ways in which the NT makes sense of Christ’s death?

          • Penelope, surely you can see that ‘does it work for me?’ (a) is at least relatively individualistic, (b) has nothing to do with ‘is it true?’, which is after all the most important consideration.

          • Dear Penelope – yes, of course, I know you had no intention of insulting evangelicals – you are being straight and true to what you believe and I respect that as i’ve said before. But I dont think how you know heavily you tread by calling PSA ‘cosmic child abuse’ and a ‘shibboleth’. I was just expressing my own pain at how you could so lightly dismiss a doctrine that I treasure and which I see plainly across Scripture and which reveals more clearly than anything the God I love and who loves me .
            I genuinely try to understand your position and, under God, be open to changing mine if I can be shown i’m wrong on Scripture, but for me PSA is a line in the sand.

          • Will,
            I would say metaphors which worked well for 1st C Jewish and pagan cultures, along with the ambiguity of the term hilasterion – a making right, a mercy seat, as well as an atoning sacrifice.
            As for Christ becoming sin for us. Well, he did, in the Pauline sense that he died accursed on a tree. And also that humanity (in the form of some callous Roman officials in a dusty Roman province) killed him who was sinless. But he overcame our sin, in that, by rising again and promising us eternal life.
            I don’t believe that this mechanism averted God’s’ wrath from us.

          • Thank you, Simon. I wasn’t intending to lightly dismiss. If I sounded flip, it might be because it’s something about which I feel deeply too. As I said, I hope there’s room for all who try to work out their own salvation in fear and trembling.

          • Penelope – then what did avert God’s wrath from us? Do you believe we are by nature objects of wrath? The NT is pretty clear on that. And it says we are no longer objects of wrath because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. To deny that is to deny a central strand of NT theology, about which it could not be clearer.

          • Regardless it is a major theme of the NT and dealing with it is one of the principal explanations for the meaning of Christ’s death and why it saves us (and what it saves us from). I don’t see what it can be a metaphor for which doesn’t reduce down to saying the same thing in different words.

          • Penelope, is it best if you say your theory of the atonement, so we can see if it works better than competing theories? Of course, it is a huge, rich and multi-dimensional topic.

      • Penelope: Jesus Christ, at the age of 33, went to the cross willingly after his night of anguish in Gethsemane. He knew he would be crucified before anyone else knew – he prophesied his death to his disciples and prepared them for the coming of the Holy Spirit.I have a limited understanding of atonement, but no – the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was not ‘cosmic child abuse’.

        • I agree, Christine – the term child abuse is chosen to be emotive and smear evangelical (biblical) theology, but since Jesus was a full grown man the allegation is obviously misplaced and should cease to be made. Whatever criticism can be made of PSA, this is manifestly not a fair one.

        • Thanks Christine,

          John 10:14-18 is also germane, I think, specifically verse 18. Anyone who implies the atonement is an example of “cosmic child abuse”, I believe misrepresents or misunderstands either Christ’s divinity or God’s nature and desire toward humankind and/or the relationship between the Father and Son. Scripture defends itself quite ably.

  23. I sought to post this from my phone, but it doesn’t seem to have made it through cyberspace.
    Once again Penelope, thank you for your response. Although brief, through time constraints, it is indeed full.

  24. Simon,
    Forgive me for bursting in, but, in my curiosity, are you the Simon who trained for ordination with Mandy Oliver, who I don’t really know, but is a daughter of friends? You may have spoken at an event she organised some years ago? Just wondering, nothing more.

  25. Simon and Penelope. Now we are making progress.
    Thanks, Simon. Maybe not. The event, conference, if I recall, correctly, was in a (boarding) school and grounds, during holidays, and some attending camped. I’ll leave it at that.
    You’ll be more than well aware of the excellent books, at a popular level, from Anglicans, Mike Reeves ( The Good God and Our Life in Christ both of which move me from theology to doxology and which embrace substitionary salvation only by Christ and overcoming NT Wrights comments through the reality of our union with Christ in the whole of that “process”) and co-author Mike Ovey in “Pierced for our Transgression” delving into many scriptual referrences.
    Through the seeming links Chalke has in the gender, agenda in the CoE. The adoption by Penelope of his phrase “Cosmic Child abuse”, makes me wonder about the outside theological influence, and allegiences. It is a phrase gleeflully used by the new aggresive, mocking athesists, whose motto seems to be a paradox: there is no. God and I hate Him. I see it as dihonouring the nature and character of God, and is “another gospel-that is no gospel at all.
    It may be a phrase that is passed off as of little significance, I’d say that while many see it as of a minor singnificance, as a small misstep, it is a misstep that covers a lot of ground – all the way from Genesis to Revelation. Others, recently, have entered into a good and right proper push back with Chalke and have descibed the theology as anti Christ, though, it is highly unlikely that Chalke would enter into a public debate. I have listen to Andrew Wilson of NFI churches debate Chalke and or Rob Bell (can’t recall which) on their theology and has graciously demonstrated the thinness and error of their theology.
    To me this is so intrisic to who God is who the God we worship is. To ponder on the idea that God is really a Cosmic Child Abuser, is a hiddeous lie flowing from the beginning of time that doubts the the Triune God is not Good. Again, see Mike Reeves and his delicious and delightful desription of the pre creation Holy love within the Trinity .
    I’ve much to be greatful for the CoE, through, “Through Faith Missions” (Daniel Cousins – a Canterbury Six preacher, Peter Adam, John Hibbert), Stott, contributions in Keswick Convention, the Alpha Course, a former Parish, where I was supernatural “born from above” marvellous UCCF and Word Alive teaching by Mike Reeves, preaching by Dick Lucas, and one of Simon’s earlier books, a weekend’s teaching from NT Wright, but I could not come under the authority of someone whose warp and weft was not founded on the atonement. It affects all that God is and what we are. I’d go so far as to say that without it there is no unity in Christ, no unity in the Holy Spirit (supplanted by the Spirit of the age) no transformative power of the Spirit poured out.
    Would that we all could sing How deep the Father’s Love and In Christ Alone together in deep humility, and joy and thankfulness.

    • Hello Geoff
      That I ‘borrowed’ the phrase from Chalke doesn’t make me an uncritical supporter of his theology. In fact I borrowed it from someone else before I learned that it was Chalke’s. That it is used with glee by atheists who hate God, I have no doubt, but there is enough ammunition for them in scripture.
      My understanding of atonement does not rely on Chalke or Bell or any other ‘evangelicals’ whom I would not naturally turn to, but to Richard Rohr and to Franciscan theology.
      I believe some theologians from Anselm, and before have misunderstood the ‘mechanism of atonement and, far from affirming the goodness of the triune God, have made the Father into something of a monster.
      Which is why I can never sing the 2nd verse of ‘In Christ Alone’

          • He cannot be a typical Franciscan:

            1. Most Franciscans do not have new and different ideas.

            2. Most Franciscans do not have an audience that includes such large numbers of nonchristians.

            3. Most Franciscans do not get investigated with regard to their teachings.

            I expect I am totally biased, because he sits at the opposite end of thought to mine (spiritual and speculative – and therefore unverifiable and unfalsifiable – compared to historical-critical).

          • Christopher
            Historically, most Franciscans did have new and different ideas. That is what made them suspect.
            It would surely be much, much better if all Christian leaders had a massive audience which included non Christians, rather than preaching to the converted.
            Many theologians in the RC church get investigated. Usually very good theologians. One reason I’m an Anglican.

          • Having new ideas is neutral and often positive.

            Having new ideas that are so regularly correlated with the Zeitgeist may mean that one cannot think for oneself as well as the norm.

            Or may alternatively have a low cultural-deviance thresh(h)old.

  26. SSM and the inequality of the law:

    I don’t think this aspect has been broached as the comments have frequently been off point – the main point of David B’s opening post.

    I studied and practised family law for a number of years, but haven’t done so for a .good while.

    A legally constituted ceremony of marriage, even with covenants in a church service, could be anulled, voided, if it were not subsequently consumated through a physical act, that is full penetration. I may be wrong, but no SSM marriage could, therefore, be annulled.
    To legally terminate a marriage in divorce, it had to be shown that the marriage had irretievably broken down proved by one or more facts, one of which was adultery. Again that involved a male and female genital act.
    The difficulty and complexity in legal redrafting of the law following SSM statutory authorisation meant that no change was made. Hence, inequality.

    • Geoff
      I agree. In fact, I think it would be better if consummation could either be dropped entirely or extended to mean something more that piv penetration.

      • There are legal differences, and consequences between divorce and annulment. Once again, with seeming deliberance, you miss the point or invert it. The main point is this; there is no consumation and without consumation – a oneness of male and female flesh, with all the full biblical echoes here- even with covenants, no true marriage. And no true adultery. You are making an error of category and categorically seeking to expunge categories divergence and difference unless they are your own.

        But you are admirably consisently inconsistent with your liberal, moving target, credentials and your “Grauniad” cultural marxism, masquerading as liberating equality and at the same time jettisoning or replacing the historical roots of equity with equality.

        At civil law a case is made out in detailed points and by the other side each point has to be either agreed or denied , or put to proof (not admitted). If any point is not address it is deemed to be admitted. There are many admissions in your non answers which admit an a priori lack of understanding of the full sweep of scripture, or deliberate avoidance , of biblical theology, of who Jesus really is, what he has achieved and addressed with suffient scriptural comprehensiveness by Ovey and many others. It seems that like those who encounterd Jesus in John, particularly the pharisees, Jesus is “hidden in full view” to you.
        Legalists and liberals (antinomianist) come from a common stock – a wrong view of the Goodness of God, in his grace in Christ Jesus.
        There is a hint of Marcion in your suggestion that scripture provides enough ammunition for atheist and there is no hint of an smidgeon of apologetic ability or an inclination to make an effort to do so. So give us a reason for your faith,what it is based on and in whom you believe.
        You say your theology is not based on Chalke, on others (not scriptutre) but you are willing to adopt his pejorative, viperous, verbal ejaculation, and support his endorsement of others in the CoE who are LBGT activists.
        We repeatedly come back to scripture as the base line, not the shifting sands of time or old time liberalism, but on the rock of Christ Jesus.
        You have not given any reason in all your comments here, to worship God, nothing draws me in to worship with joy God’s Son, Saviour, who saves us from and for. They impress as arid and sterile devoid of fecundity.

        You may enjoy this,
        Consider who the Lord Jesus is, whom you are invited to espouse yourselves unto; he is the best husband; there is none comparable to Jesus Christ.

        Do you desire one that is great? He is of the highest dignity, he is the glory of heaven, the darling of eternity, admired by angels, dreaded by devils, and adored by saints. For you to be espoused to so great a king, what honor will you have by this espousal?

        Do you desire one that is rich? None is comparable to Christ, the fullness of the earth belongs to him. If you be espoused to Christ, you shall share in his unsearchable riches; you shall receive of his fullness, even grace for grace here, and you shall hereafter be admitted to glory, and shall live with this Jesus to all eternity.

        Do you desire one that is wise? There is none comparable to Christ for wisdom. His knowledge is infinite, and his wisdom is correspondent thereto. And if you are espoused to Christ, he will guide and counsel you, and make you wise unto salvation.

        Do you desire one that is potent, who may defend you against your enemies, and all the insults and reproaches of the Pharisees of this generation? There is none that can equal Christ in power; for the Lord Jesus Christ hath all power.

        Do you desire one that is good? There is none like unto Christ in this regard; others may have some goodness, but it is imperfect; Christ’s goodness is complete and perfect, he is full of goodness and in him dwelleth no evil.

        Do you desire one that is beautiful? His eyes are most sparkling, his looks and glances of love are ravishing, his smiles are most delightful and refreshing unto the soul: Christ is the most lovely person of all others in the world.

        Do you desire one that can love you? None can love you like Christ: His love, my dear sisters, is incomprehensible; his love passeth all other loves: The love of the Lord Jesus is first, without beginning; his love is free without any motive; his love is great without any measure; his love is constant without any change, and his love is everlasting.”

        From “Christ the Best Husband,” preached to a Society of Young Women, in Fetter-Lane. (HT Jared Wilson) George Whitefield. Thanks to Andrew Wilson’s blog

        It is also pertinent to me, a male, as part of the Bride of Christ.
        May come to know Jesus more and more.
        Yours in Christ.

        • Geoff

          I take exception to most of what you say here, not least to being called a cultural Marxist. Some of my language may be a little robust (cosmic child abuse, for example), but I do try not to insult or caricature my interlocutors.

          You are wrong, I think, to see consummation as ‘making’ a marriage, it is consent which does that. Further I do think it unwise to define piv penetration as ‘consummation’; it demeans those mixed-sex couples who cannot have sexual intimacy in this way, and it provides a ‘get out of jail free’ card for the likes of Bill Clinton: ‘I did not have sex with that woman’.

          I do not wish to continue this conversation.

          • Penelope…Im genuinely puzzled by “You are wrong, I think, to see consummation as ‘making’ a marriage, it is consent which does that. ”

            As I understand it that is the legal position. The ceremony assumes consummation will follow and where it dies not then nullify can be sought. ie…a declaration that this was not a true marriage.

          • Hello Ian H.

            Consent is the theological ‘making’ of a marriage, though it may not be the one in civil law.
            In the Middle Ages it was defined thus, probably because in the Church then, Mary and Joseph’s marriage would not have been valid!

    • Geoff Strange comment and patronising. Of course it is Penelope’s opinion and she is completely entitled to it. She does not agree with the law on this. Nor do I. If this was not so closely tied to conservative concerns about same-sex relationships we might even be willing to discuss why consummation rather than consent was ever considered more appropriate – legally and socially – as an understanding of what ‘makes’ marriage.

      • Consent, David? Consent is an inchoherent idea, and even where it is not incoherent it is amoral. See list below. Can the points I make be answered?

        See what has happened when consent has been the criterion. Multiple, often simultaneous, consensual partnerships. Breaking of family ties with no care for children or for the souls doing the chaotic multiple/simultaneous coupling. The exact reverse of what was normal in a Christian culture. This is why people use the word ‘anti-Christian’.

        1 In order to consent, you must know what the options are, otherwise it is uninformed consent, which is a contradiction in terms.

        2 It is also centrally relevangt to know the likely consequences of the different options. But how many do know these?

        3 By definition, the younger you are, the less knowledge you will have of available options.

        4 If 2 teenagers consent to sleep together, ‘well, they would wouldn’t they?’ This is not a surprising nor an admirable choice. It is just following animal instincts. You want to base morality on that?

        5 That consent can legitimise behaviour is a strange idea. A man and a woman consenting to sleep together (and how is consenting to something initially intensely pleasurable either remarkable or admirable?) will not stop their spouses objecting intensely. Whose side are you on here? – because we are speaking of extremely ugly things.

        6 Is the non-consent of parents to their children sleeping with a given person irrelevant? This can be tested. How do societies where parental authority reaches this level compare in success with those where it does not?

        7 The notion of consent becomes incoherent in the light of the possible conflict between a person’s rational and short-term-pleasure-seeking natures. Think: little angel on one shoulder, little devil on the other. What if a person looks at the previous drunken night’s partner and finds that their whole precious story of the only one life they will ever have has been irrevocably rewritten for the sake of someone who in the cold light of day they will not look at twice? They undoubtedly did consent to satisfy short-term urges, and went ahead and did so because of a society that does not say any clear No to that. Did this person really consent? (Their better nature never did.) This confusion is inevitable and widespread (think present day rape cases, in a society with no agreed ground rules, which there can never be once the split between sex and marriage has made everything so complicated). The carrot of marriage was able to civilise (very necessary) men who have something to aim for only if they cannot have their cake and eat it. It helps in the character formation and proper maturation of both sexes.

      • Consent remains a sine-qua-non, because lack of consent is so bad. But it is just one part of a much larger picture. Truth lies in comprehensiveness. One cannot screen out most of the picture.

      • Now, supposing that you recommended consent as a basis for marriage as opposed to being a basis for sex. (I am inclined to associated marriage and sex closely, as does the NT, and as does the concept ‘consummation’):

        Consent cannot be the sole, or even an adequate, basis for marriage.

        (1) If a man looks at his kind wife who has borne four children and run left, right and centre, and tells her: ‘You’re fat, I’m going to go with the flow with Betsy Bow down the road’ – he consents to do that (well – yeah!). She does not consent to this. Which of the 2 does the ”law” support re ultimate outcome? His behaviour is reprehensible. But not ”illegal”. How then ought we to regard the ”law”?

        (2) If mum and dad both consent to part, their own parents and also their own children may consider such a course of action to be hell. It may also be hell in reality.

        (3) The idea is that something as transient and changeable as consent is a foundation. Obviously, if it is that transient and changeable it is unfit to be a *foundation* for anything. How about commitment, promise, vow, covenant, even blood covenant of marriage union? These latter things are character-building and consequently achieve the desired result. The former, consent, is more immature, and consequently achieves the normal fruits of immaturity.

        • Christopher
          Whatever you think of consent as a basis for marriage, it is what makes a marriage in the RC church: the consent of the couple before the minister.
          If the couple continue to live together consummation is assumed.

          • As I said, consent is a good thing in many circumstances. As I said too, it needs other things to bolster it.

          • 🙂 I didn’t say that I agreed that consent should be what makes a marriage. Though, actually, I think it is a good principle. Not perhaps, carried far enough in RC Canon Law, because’ although, they permit Josephite marriages, impotent couples may not marry. And all sex acts which don’t end in PIV intercourse are sinful. That seems to me to be cruel (and unbiblical).

  27. I do want to draw attention to something I have been pressing for people to understand for over 10 years. You can cite the most massive statistical discrepancy, and the liberal voice will somehow try to make equality out of it, sometimes without ever acknowledging the discrepancy.

    This is the extent of the liberal inaccuracy: in a word, massive. It calls 3 ”4,000”. It calls 6,200 ”74”. Wishful thinking, dominantly imposed on others in indifference to truth, everywhere. Reality nowhere.

    • ‘Wishful thinking’ – this struck a chord with me. In the media I have seen some weddings (both heterosexual and same-sex) described as ‘Fairy Tale’ weddings. ‘Make-believe’ seems to be quite popular! It reminds me of when we were kids and stories we wrote ended with; ‘ and they all lived happily ever after.’
      Just a thought.

  28. David, Geoff Strange is telling Penelope what is the law precisely because Penelope is asserting her mere opinions as if they were fact. It would be better to act as if they were just personal opinions. You are entitled to disagree with the law and to say so but the law is much more than personal opinion and the honest action would be to say you disagree with law “in my opinion”.

      • You make a worrying misrespresentation of RC canon law. Consumation is required in RC conan law because RC canon law does not really accept rape as a de-facto marriage, but now you are projecting consent as being essential where consumation is actually essential.

        • Clive
          Consummation is not essential in RC Canon Law to make a valid marriage. Consent is. Ratum tantum and ratum et consummatum. The latter is very specific, but is assumed after a time. Canon1061. An unconsummated marriage is voidable, but not void.

          So, neither worrying, nor misrepresentative.

          • Clive
            Consummation may be required in England and Wales (interesting point about Scotland). But it is not the sine qua non of RC Canon Law, which I cited. So, as I wrote neither worrying, nor misrepresentative.

        • Hi Clive,

          surely the example you gave proves Penelope’s point…? In a case of rape there is obviously no consent but there could be an act of vaginal intercourse… if that (surely rightly) was not recognised as de facto marriage surely that points to consent being needed? Penelope referred above to Mary and Joseph’s marriage – in a similar vein, Andrew Goddard in reviewing Robert Song’s book made the point that there was a tradition that Mary was “ever virgin”, so there were held to be such things as Josephite marriages, ie made by consent but not consummation in the sense in which we’ve been using it on here. Hoping that wasn’t too garbled…

          in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Clive,

            …but required by whom? Have said already on here that consummation is part of marriage law in England and Wales, but not Scotland – and presumably the Scots manage alright… – so it’s not a case of “the law” full stop. Penelope has mentioned Catholic canon law already. Am not sure if Andrew Goddard’s review which I referred to is available online but could link to it if so.

            In friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair

            V. interesting point about Scottish Law. Have you a ref. for the Goddard? I am writing about Song’s book at the moment.

          • Hi Penelope,

            sorry for not replying til now. I’m not sure if Andrew Goddard’s engagement with ‘Covenant and Calling’ was published online – a cursory check didn’t bring it up. If Ian can arrange an e-mail address swap between us, I could ask Andrew G’s permission to send his review (or at least an excerpt) to you.

            Out of interest, could you say more about your writing on Song’s book?

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair

            I’ve put my email on this blog before, so here it is [email protected].
            I’m currently doing a PhD on Pilling. One of the chapters is in conversation with Song’s book and his theory that living in the eschatological age, after the coming of Christ, changes the nature of covenant partnerships/marriage.

  29. Something about the tone Clive. Geoff is ‘telling’ Penelope. So she needs telling does she?
    Penelope, by contrast, is ‘asserting mere opinions as fact’. ‘Mere?’ – hardly important then. ‘Just’ – only her opinion. Geoff’s views and yours and not just ‘mere’ though. You are telling her.
    But what is wrong with ‘asserting’ a ‘mere’ personal view anyway? You are here. So am I. This thread is full of people doing just that. This is how discussion works. I am always grateful to Penelope for her voice on these threads – she enriches the discussion enormously. But here mere opinions here have been caricatured, patronised and then blessed.

    • David, you are speaking as though all opinions are of equal value. Let’s knock down the universities then.

      Opinions are of very varying value depending on the amount of evidence, logic etc. they are based on.

      • Christopher ‘You are speaking as though all opinions are of equal value’. I have no idea where you get that from in what I have said. I am not quite that deluded. But others here are speaking as if to have a personal opinion at all is in some way to presume to make the place of God. We consecrate our minds to Christ – we do not abandon them.

        • I’m sorry if the nature of my point was not clear. It was that the phrase ‘personal opinion’ is quite useless (as are ‘view’, ‘position’, ‘stance’) unless we investigate whether the said opinion is research-based or wishful-thinking based. The massive problem is that these 2 possibilities are absolutely miles from each other, but (unbelievably) are being treated as though they were the same sort of thing, namely ‘personal opinion’. If the phrase ‘personal opinion’ does not deal with that problem, we should never use the phrase ‘personal opinion’.

          If I have not researched something and know little about it, I always say I have no opinion, have not yet got to the stage of being able to have an opinion.

          • Thanks Christopher – but I don’t know where these two extremes are being treated as the same thing. Can you give an actual example? Your approach to this sounds rather ‘academic’ to me. Often people’s understanding can be a bit of both. I still think personal opinion is a perfectly valid offering here, shaped around and based upon as much knowledge and understanding as I can as I can cobble together, making no claims to being the full story or infallibly gasped – this is the basis for honest and courteous discussion here and elsewhere. And when that is allowed I am grateful and I learn.

          • The phrase ‘personal opinion’ itself treats them as the same thing. That is why I question the phrase itself.

            Everyone would agree that a provisional research conclusion after years of study counts as a ‘personal opinion’.

            Everyone would also agree that an uninformed wishful-thinking stance that someone might hold forth on after a few drinks also counts as a ‘personal opinion’.

            If one can use the same phrase to describe 2 such totally different things, that shows that the phrase is so inexact and vague as not to be fit for purpose. If we want to be clear thinkers, therefore, we should use a clearer phrase.

    • That’s why I dropped out of this conversation way back.
      David talks a lot about ‘the trajectory’ of New Testament teaching – as if we didn’t have a catholic church that followed the New Testament. Such a view is highly Protestant – but not at all evangelical.

      Penelope’s views are little other than subjective liberalism, abstracting a few selective principles from the New Testament about ‘God’s love’ but leaving other principles behind (mortification, judgment, holiness) or etiolated. But then she never claimed to be an evangelical but one who makes her selection (Gk. ‘hairesis’) from the Great Tradition what she finds acceptable. Every man or woman a Pope.

      Is her selection ‘cultural Marxism’? I can’t say for sure but it has a lot of overlap with late 60s ‘liberationism’ and all that buzz from Brazil we were told (in theological college in the 1980s) was ‘the way ahead’. Of course it died with the Soviet Union – but still gusts around in ‘the windmills of the mind’.

      But back to “trajectories” and “opinions”. A true Christian sits light to his or her “opinions” and wants every thought to be captive to Christ. “Opinions” are to do with your support for (or in my case, complete lack of interest in) football or your choice of wallpaper; not to do with worshipping God rightly and living the resurrected life of the Kingdom. Years ago I would follow – with growing alarm – the ruminations of Richard Holloway. He was by his own lights (and I believe it) a thoroughly orthodox Anglo-Catholic – but over the years, as he embraced the ‘gay liberationist’ message and muted and then excised the call to repentance and to dying to oneself (Anglo-Catholics once had a strong ascetic discipline), he not only exited orthodox belief itself but Christianity itself.

      This is my closing word her to Penelope and to David. How do you know that your “trajectory” – so free of the exegetical tradition of the Church Catholic – is not taking you to the same destination as Richard Holloway? Or the ‘pilgrimage’ that Steve Chalke and Rob Bell are on?

      The Body of Christian Divinity – like the human body – is systemic: if you inject falsehood into the body, sooner or later it will infect every part, just as poison in the bloodstream will reach all the body. Do not think that false teaching about marriage (which is also false teaching about maleness and femaleness) can be safely contained. Christology and the content of Christian hope will be corrupted as well.
      Remember “Bishop” Richard Holloway.

      • Brian Welcome back. I join in the discussion threads as part of my discipline of testing and exploring my on-going understanding of theology and faith. I am grateful for where responses push me back to re-examining convictions and I seek to honour the beliefs of others in my responses to them. I am not inclined to respond when the overall tone is dismissive, rude, sweeping and scornful. I doubt I am unusual in that respect. That is how you come across.
        When you add issue dire warnings – if you believe that you will end up like’ ‘them’. you have stopped arguing from theology altogether. This is a kind of taint by association. No one can honestly test faith and belief when they are afraid of looking liberal, or ending up like ‘x’ (add name of your choice). Faith cannot be based on fear.
        But when you talk about the theology of others as an infection and poison in the bloodstream in the church you really are crossing a line. Are you really not aware of the way the language of ‘infection’, ‘virus’, ‘cancer’ has been used to deadly effect in racial, ethnic and religious divisions around the world in our lifetime?. I find this language completely unacceptable in Christian discussion.

        • Hello, David – I am sorry if I am perceived by you as ‘dismissive, rude, sweeping and scornful’ – as opposed to ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘robust’ in what I aver. I thought I tried to critique arguments rather than a person’s character, and I do not think I have criticised your character. I try to play the ball, not the man (or woman). But no doubt I fail at times.

          But let’s get some perspective. Politeness is certainly a Christian virtue – but it is not the apex or the source of virtue and it takes many different cultural and subjective forms. Australians, Americans and Englishmen (to name only three brands in the Anglosphere) have different perceptions of what it means. In any case, Christian history – beginning with our Lord and the Pharisees and Paul and his churches – has many, many examples of robust speech. Athanasius and Augustine would make us blush today, to say nothing of Luther and Calvin. And since I’ll never be in their company (except in glory), I’m not inclined to put this relative cultural concern first. I hope you would not ignore what they had to say in their controversies because they were not 21st century middle class Anglicans. Indeed, sometimes things can be so understated one can seem to miss the point. See how Justin Welby has managed to ignore the most salient points of the Carlile Report.

          If you find references to Richard Holloway and his apostasy from the faith disturbing, so you should. Didn’t Paul make such warnings in 1 Corinthians 10? Do you think he offended some of his readers? The point is not to ‘taint by association’ but to warn where a line of argument logically leads. If my thinking is wrong, show it. We are not so foolish or ignorant that we do not know how that man made a shipwreck of his faith (and perhaps of others), nor what has become of the Anglican churches in North America and Scotland – or the rebellion underway now the Diocese of Aberdeen.

          And if you find the ancient metaphor of sickness for spiritual error ‘completely unacceptable’, you will have a very hard job coping with the original use of this metaphor by the Great Physician and his Apostle.

          • Brian

            People often defend ad hominin attacks by claiming that the Church Fathers, Paul, Luther etc. were robust to the point of being rude. They were. Sometimes, with reason; at other times tragically. They were addressing what they saw as heresy. Since your *opinion* is that I am a cultural Marxist and ‘that my views are little other than subjective liberalism’, no doubt you believe that my views are heretical.
            The difference is that I would not put myself on the same level as the Fathers, Paul, and Luther, so I shall refrain from caricaturing your *opinions*. I will ‘merely’ observe that Richard Holloway seems to me to embody more Christian virtue and humility than some who comment here; and, yes, although I disagree with him strongly, I would much prefer to have him as a mode and as a conversation partner.
            And if you are only going to reply I order to insult me and my views again, I would much rather you didn’t. If you want to enter into reasonable debate about different ecclesiologies, fine.

          • Brian We are talking at some distance from ourselves and you appear to have misunderstood most of what I last wrote to you. Penelope say a lot of what I think.
            It is not relevant whether Jesus or Paul were rude at times. This is a Christian discussion thread. We meet here to share, to test out opinions, to inform or to challenge. If my contributions are simply rubbished and I feel lectured on my theological faults I will tend to switch off or just go elsewhere. You won’t change my opinion. So what is the point?

          • I made no criticism at all of Penelope’s character, only her views. If she doesn’t know the meaning of ad hominem (criticism of a persons character instead of her ideas) then discussion will not get very far. I said her ideas overlap with cultural Marxism, not that they were identical. I cannot for the life of me see how that is ad hominem.
            Do I believe her views are ‘heretical’? Why does that matter? Heresy is only meaningful if you have a Catholic view of truth and revelation. For the liberal Protestant, truth is always “out there” because human reason can and does always advance upon itself, leaving behind illusions as we advance ‘further into the light’. That is the trajectory that Richard Holloway traced out for you, if you have the courage to follow.

          • David R writes: “It is not relevant whether Jesus or Paul were rude at times. This is a Christian discussion thread.”
            But you were the one to fault me for perceived rudeness – which I disputed, saying I criticised views, not characters. I have *not indulged in ad hominem attacks – and no amount of repeating that charge without any substance will change things. In any case, why do you reverse yourself here? (And actually, how our Lord acted *is relevant.)
            “We meet here to share, to test out opinions, to inform or to challenge. If my contributions are simply rubbished and I feel lectured on my theological faults I will tend to switch off or just go elsewhere.”
            And I have challenged you, as you have challenged traditional evangelical belief as mistaken. I have cited many scholars who would reject your exegesis of the texts, as well as dogmatic or systematic theologians who have integrated those texts into a larger historical-doctrinal matrix. You can certainly endeavour to show that Luke T. Johnson is wrong, but I’m not aware that you have.
            “You won’t change my opinion. So what is the point?”
            Partly to ensure that the word “evangelical” does not become a wax nose.

          • Brian With all respect if more than one person here says they find your tone and words in response to them attacking, judgmental and personally dismissive then no amount of you denying it will change anything. If you want them to engage with the substance of what you are saying then, however much you privately think they are over sensitive and lacking the robustness of Jesus and Paul etc, you will need to change your tone or they simply won’t bother. I for one have these discussions in a number of others places where my same views are heard and respected even as they are being robustly challenged. So I would prefer to continued the threads of this discussion elsewhere – and will do so because I am as concerned as you are about them. It has felt a frustrating exchange but I thank you for your persistence.

          • His words are better ascertained than his tone in a print-medium.

            Speaking about tone can be a way of avoiding the words. Not always, but in my experience not infrequently.

  30. I’d like to think it was otherwise (and it usually is ‘today’ ) but has the consent required always been that of the woman? If her father made the decision the marriage was still valid. The consent of the woman being secondary., unnecessary or even irrelevant.

    For the men…..Jacob didn’t realise he was getting the ‘wrong woman’ so his consent was absolutely not given….and the marriage was still valid surely?

    Consummation…. Surely the clue is in the name. That’s not a mere legal or theological nicety but, again, it’s the fundamental assumption of the point of marriage throughout the history of mankind. It has no track record of mere friendship. Exceptions/rules?

    • Hi Ian H,

      on consummation – you could see my little note beneath Geoff’s comment below about consummation and Scottish law…

      in friendship, blair

  31. David R,
    1. For the avoidance of doubt, strange though I may be, it is not my name but I do accept confusion may have occurred due to a missing comma as Christine notes. I do hope that anyone named Geoff Strange has not been tarred with the same brush.
    2 The comments I made on law were matters of law, the distinction between “is” and “ought”. I would have been a poor lawyer, neither would I have qualified if I didn’t know what the law was. Anyone coming to me or any other lawyer would have been poorly, negligently served if I “told”, gave the wrong advice to them In my opinion your first rejoinder seems to be disingenuous of you (anyone who would fail to make the distinction between is as and ought.)
    3 I could, mostly, have depersonalised the response to Penelope, and that may have been my error, such as adding “it seems like”. My answer may have seemed robust, but brought together much of Penelope’s rejoinders here and revealed theology/beliefs, which, if I may opine, were robust. The dismissal of the views of one theologian, sirname beginning with M comes to mind. (I don’t know who it is) But it came across to me as a high handed dismissive “telling”, of the ad hom sort.
    4 There is an error of category: 1 The inception of marriage, 2 The termination of marriage. Both have different legal consequences.
    5 Consummation of a heterosexual marriage remains the law. If it does not apply to SSM, there is no equality at law. There remain distinctions and difference.
    6 You are able to trace how the law came into being. It certainly wasn’t by any contemporary “conservative” Christian. I may take umbrage at your classification of me as a conservative as much as some liberals seem to. But I don’t,as it seems to be a way of avoiding answering the points, regardless of “tone.”
    7 The legal requirement for consummation has ramifications. The Roman Church accepts the annulment of marriage of F to M as permission to partake of mass, and for F to then marry M2. Not so divorce. I stand to be corrected. Similarly, it wouldn’t amount to bigamy.
    8 You will be more than aware of all the references to the adultery of people of God a reference which they would clearly have understood in physical terms and not along the lines that Penelope is seeking (or seems) to imply by reference Clinton.
    9 While I’ve poorly skimmed the responses to what I said. I don’t think you have addressed the substantive points, again which do not appear to have been previously made in this particular blog post, particularly the oneness of flesh of full penetration consummation of heterosexual marriage.
    10 From all that had gone before it was reasonably foreseeable that Penelope would have a rejoinder a long the lines she did.
    11 All I said I stick by, and it would not have been disallowed in Court.
    12 High Court judges, particularly in difficult children’s case have stated that it not their role to get into social engineering. My opinion is that all of this is social engineering, with little or no evidence base.
    13 Research: Sir Muir Grey was instrumental in the development of the Cochrane library in the health field as he was so concerned over the lack of, or poor, peer review of quantitative and qualitative research and lack of transparency in citing interest and conflicts of interest. It may be a novel idea to cite theological beliefs of authors in the church.
    14 I have been trained to advocate, put a case, without fear or favour in courts and tribunals. That is what I sought to do here, first by asking question about motives. While this post does not have the formal constitution of a tribunal, it is a one of sorts. If you are really interested my view of the conduct of advocacy, a marvellous example was the televised last day closing speeches in last year’s Supreme Courts’ Constitutional Law case
    15 I recall hearing RT Kendal in the UK, who could say this by virtue of his academic qualifications: you can always tell an Oxbridge graduate, but you can’t tell them much. I do hope that this is not telling. I have much to learn.
    16 If I’m asked to leave this site, I’ll do so and Ian Paul can easily block me
    17 It would be interesting if all these discussions on SSM could take place at Church Council level.

    • Geoff

      I’m not sure I follow what you are saying about a theologian beginning with M. These threads get very long!
      However, I agreed with you about the inequality in equal marriage in law. It should be addressed. My solution would be to change the definition of consummation (and of adultery) or to drop it altogether. Leaving aside same-sex relationships there are many mixed-sex couples who cannot or will not ‘consummate’ their partnerships by piv intercourse. I learned only this morning that RCs have a ruler. Do we really want to subscribe to this absurdity?

      • Dear Penelope

        Your proposal viz-a-viz “My solution would be to change the definition of consummation (and of adultery) or to drop it altogether” is not actually a solution at all but it is a means for you to carry on distorting what actually exists.

        • No Clive
          It’s a questioning of what constitutes consummation, asking if this is simply a one off act, interrogating these heteronormative assumptions about penetration and receptivity, asking what the telos of sexual intimacy is, and proposing that we have a pastoral concern for those who cannot or will not consummate their marriage in what is deemed the ‘natural’ way: intersex people, some trans people, impotent people etc.
          Piv sex is not the only sort of sex that ‘actually exists’.


          • Penelope..

            Surely ‘consummation ‘ is one off act, is penetrative, is an initialising marriage action?

            ‘Continuing consummation ‘ is a twist in the language. One might have sex every day but to suggest that this is consummating the marriage everyday is an oxymoron.

          • Yes, Ian

            I find it faintly absurd that a one-off penetrative act which need never be repeated is what constitutes or consummates marriage. It is oddly heteronormative and biased against those who cannot or will not indulge in penetrative sex – intersex people, some trans people, some disabled people, impotent people, some menopausal women. Why d0es the law continue to construe consummation as penetrative sex? Is this the only version of sex which is real or licit?

            The idea of consummation being a process is not a twist. It takes us back to older meanings of betrothal and marriage which were often prolonged and not always celebrated in church.(Cf. Adrian Thatcher) If there was a marriage ceremony, sexual activity had often commenced much earlier, though not always PIV sex. Consummation could said to be a slow growing of the relationship in love and intimacy. Perhaps, this was healthier.

          • No Penelope, once again not everyone has sex before marriage.
            My wife and I did not have sex before marriage and we are not the only people. The difference we do not criticise others for having sex before marriage but we are now strangely attacked for our chastity. Why is that?

          • Penelope – because it is so sacred and special. It is quite painful to see people trivialise something intensely special.

          • Anyway, if it was healthier why are break-up rates among those who previously cohabited so utterly cataclysmic?

          • Clive
            The question I am asking is when does the marriage happen. We seem fairly sure nowadays that this is before the minister in the church (or other venue). It was nor always so. And need not be, since the couple are themselves ministers of the marriage. When we speak of traditional Christian marriage, it is all to easy to forget that it is not 2000 years of accepted practice. Even marriage in Church is only about 500 years old.

          • Christopher
            What is so ‘sacred and special’?

            If you mean PIV sex, no it’s not. Not for many couples, and these include the ones I listed: intersex people, impotent people, some trans people, some disabled people etc. Why do we privilege a phallocentric, heteronormative sexual practice?

            Before the 19thC couples usually cohabited or had sex before marriage. No steep break up rates then.

          • Please don’t speak that way of things that people hold sacred. That is to try (and wish?!) to turn gold to brass.

            Sex pretty much equals marriage (the marrying or unification of bodies, selves, persons) in the Christian worldview. So the people in former centuries of whom you speak were still married whether or not they had a church ceremony. Just like you can become a Christian before being baptised.

            Further, permanence is part of the core meaning of the word ‘marriage’.

            Cohabitation (post-1963-style) does indeed have a dire harvest, on average, and nothing you say has countered that.

          • Christopher, believe me, I have no intention of disparaging what you hold to be sacred. That is your point of view. I am, however, pointing out that one act, which could be brief, unpleasant and unrepeatable is not intrinsically sacred. And it is certainly not sacred for those couples for whom it is not possible, nor desirable.
            The church has presumably privileged this one act because it is open to conception. Though here both the RC church and the CofE are inconsistent since the former allows infertile and post menopausal couple to marry and the latter allows both that and contracepted sex. In the RC church all other sexual activity in marriage is sinful if it does not end in piv sex with ejaculation in the vagina. Fortunately, not the case in the CoE.

            I see no difference between couples in earlier centuries and couples in contemporary western society living together without a marriage ceremony, except that, as you say, the rate of break up is higher. So, it’s not simply cohabitation; there must be other factors.

          • I mentioned 2 key other-factors already:

            (1) Permanence being understood to be centrally contained within the word ‘marriage’.

            (2) Sexual union being understood to be, or bring about, marriage.

            Both are present in a Christian culture, and absent in a nonchristian one.

            So it illustrates what I mentioned once before: the rotten fruits of the sexual revolution are many, various, and inevitably interrelated in a domino-like way; but the worst association of the sexual revolution is its correlation with the abandonment of Christianity, which is what binds the good regime together.

          • Christopher

            1) But what if the cohabiting (or, indeed, married) couples today intend permanence? What is different in their relationships from those of their forebears?

            2) Consent is the sine qua non of a valid marriage (at least in RC Canon Law). So, I ask you: what is sexual union? What does it look like for those for whom PIV intercourse is not possible? Are these people not validly married in your view?

          • 1) The elephant-in-the-room difference is, of course, that they in most cases don’t achieve permanence within the present culture. Would you agree or disagree that that is a colossally important point?

            What is different? The thing I mentioned: assuming Christian norms versus having a peer-group and media and culture that abandons those norms, with resultant havoc.

            2) Biology, reproduction, the promulgation of the species (is that correct English?…). The shape of these fundamentals is well known. For most cultures and ages the answer could not be more obvious. It is no coincidence that you are speaking from your present culture in your present time of history. Had you lived in another culture and time you would have gone along with that culture and time instead – at least, most people would have.

            Marriage would not exist at all unless human families came into being in a certain way. Your view (if such it be…) that marriage is something more fundamental than the uniform shape of human families is incorrect: in fact, *could* not be correct. The uniform shape of human families was what brought about the institution of marriage.

          • Will

            perhaps the confusion is between the terms cohabiting and married. And I think I said until the 19thC.

            In earlier centuries, couples often lived together (or, at least, slept together) before marriage. Partly to ensure that the woman was fertile and could bring a child to term. There were other ‘marriages’ which, although licit, we might regard as irregular (certainly they would be irregular in modern law). Clergy weren’t necessary and often only elite couples married in church or the church porch.

            Cf. Lawrence Stone, Adrian Thatcher, John Witte Jr, Charl0tte Methuen.,

          • Penelope – that article is about earlier centuries too. Your confidence in stating what people did does not appear to be backed up by the available evidence, which is very scarce.

            Besides even by your definition they were not cohabiting by any modern definition.

          • Will,

            Have you read the references?

            Also, if couples were not ‘cohabiting’ in the past have you considered that couples today are not cohabiting? The couple are ministers of their own marriage and marriage is not ‘made’ in the wedding ceremony; it may be the work of months or years. cf. Thatcher.

          • ‘Overall, sources providing information on the lives of cohabiting couples are rare, disparate, and suffering in differing degrees from selection bias.’

            You seem awfully sure that you know how most people lived in the past.

    • I wonder if I could just point out that consummation of (male-female) marriage is indeed the law… but only in England and Wales. It is not so in Scotland. I’m not claiming this makes a great difference, but just to add context…
      in friendship, blair

  32. Any discussion about ‘consent’ and ‘consummation’ needs a strong pastoral perspective. When our search for love, belonging and intimacy is happening in a society without moral compass, and where familiar boundaries for human relating have all but collapsed, it will often be a place of great wounding, hurt and bewilderment. For many the journey towards intimacy of any kind is a very difficult one. Jim Cotter’s reflections on human and sexual intimacy flowed out of long pastoral experience in such wounded places. The affirmation in the final sentence of this quote has always moved me deeply. ‘When it comes to the place of our wounded sexuality, healing cannot start from the place of passion. The search must be for other moments … assured of another’s steady love …. And where the wounding is too deep, we have to be loyal to these other ways, and when we are, just as much love is made.’

    • Hi David,
      Yes we do have a loving, healing God, and Jesus healed many people. I love these words in Mark’s gospel about people flocking to Jesus because they wanted to be healed: ‘At evening, when the sun had set , they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered at the door.Then He healed many who were sick with many diseases, and cast out many demons…’ ()Mark 1:32<)'The whole city…' 🙂
      I don't know much about Jim Cotter, but I have no doubt that he was an amiable person. However, this gave me considerable pause for thought ; "Hugh Dawes, a friend of Jim's wrote '…he told me he was looking forward to heaven because the sex would be wonderful there…'
      My own readings of Scripture and the spirit within me give me no reason to believe that onet of God's promises to us is that sex will be wonderful in Heaven. As we know, Jesus said there is no marriage Heaven …

    • Hello David,

      No, sadly, I didn’t. Only through reading.
      But even subjective liberals can pay close attention to what the text is actually ‘saying’!

  33. Hello Penelope,
    Agreed, the internet and threads like this are poor frameworks for thorough discussion.

    The M was/is someone like Millbank and mentioned in the same context as Oliver O’Donovan.

    Sex in heaven. Are you (is this not an addition- so as not to upset you) not adding to the word of God as did the woman originally and making an idol of sex as a replacement, a poor substitute for our consummated union, oneness with Christ. On that I’d reiterate Whitefield’s talk here. Any human relationship is a poor substitute. (Again, for the avoidance of doubt, I am not at all suggesting that adding to the word of God is a gender issue.)

    I am certain that my completion and satisfaction will be in my consummated Union with Christ, as part of His bride, one with Him in union, as the trinity are in Union – John 17. Such wonderful Good News. Christ is more than enough for me. How could he not be?

    As for measurement, a ruler, if that happens today or even if it is true (source, please) which I doubt, I’d suggest could be seen as a parody of pedantry in application, to replace principal of consummation and oneness of male and female flesh. The RC church doesn’t get a say in Court’s ruling over what is or isn’t full penetration or consummation and they will accept the Court’s ruling. Are you suggesting, mocking even, the RC Church here and at one fell swoop seeking to deny their theology in practice in the name of equality? Again it is a movement away from the principal for the need for consummation, a oneness of flesh that scripture speaks about.

    The inception of the law in England and Wales relating to consummation, I doubt, was instigated by the RC Church or Evangelical Church. Mainstream Christianity across all denominations, perhaps, a common understanding, before acts of sex became the be all and end all, an idol to replace, and above God.

    I am certain that my completion and satisfaction will be in my consummated Union with Christ, as part of His bride, one with Him in union, as the trinity are in Union – John 17 and so to share His pre- creation and resurrection glory. Such wonderful Good News. Christ is more than enough for me. How could he not be?

    • Geoff – the resurrection body will not be androgynous, we are not gnostics, but the very real perfection of bodily creation. So what of our bodily, physical drives and functions? What will our eyes be doing? I expect to see perfectly. What will our ears do? I expect to hear perfectly? What wi our sexual function be doing??????? I dont know what to expect…. I have never read anything nor heard any speaker on – but I doubt i’m the only one who wonders.

      • Well, Jesus when he appeared to the disciples after his death had a resurrection body that presumably looked like the one he had before. My guess is that the resurrection body will be like our current one but not subject to decay and old age

        As for no sex in heaven -well that would be a shame…

      • Simon, I am very happy to put you out of your misery. I have published an article on this in the IVP book on marriage and relationships.


        There is a summary of aspects of it here


        You are asking the right questions but need to keep going. If we have eyes, will we see? If we have a stomach will we eat? If we are immortal, why do we need to eat? If we do not die, why do we need to procreate? If we have complete intimacy with God, why will we need sex?

        A final note of caution on all this is offered by C S Lewis, in On Miracles:

        I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No’, he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.

    • Hello Geoff
      The statement often made that there will no no sex in heaven is not what the text ‘says’, which is: there will be no marriage in the resurrection life. Our interpretation of this must therefore be based on what we think the tilos of sex is and what we can deduce from other texts about the resurrection life. If one believes that the tilos of sexual intimacy is piv sex leading to procreation the. There will be no need for sex post resurrection. I do not believe this is the tilos of sexuality, so let’s say I am agnostic on the matter. There may be no need for procreation, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other kinds of sexual delight. On the other hand, as Ian has pointed out below, the beatific vision may preclude all other earthly delights.
      As for RC Canon Law, consent ‘makes’ a marriage. A consummated marriage must involve penetration of
      one third or one half of the penis into the vagina together with the ejaculation of semen into the vagina. Canon 1061. Since the length of penises vary, I imagine that what might constitute consummation for one couple might not for another.

  34. Sex and Gender – Peter J Williams, Principal Tyndale House, Cambridge

    Slavery and the Bible and Sex Gender

    There are two separate talks here, from a series of 5 : 1 Slavery 2 Sex Gender, but they are linked as the category of slavery is frequently used to undermine scripture on gender and marriage.

    Some (one) may find the notes of value from the talk by Peter Williams, Principal, Tyndale House from his series of talks at Keswick Convention 2017. They are mostly from the hand-out, with some of my scribbled notes. It is realised that this doesn’t fit into the category of comments, and is lengthy.

    PART 1
    1 The problem formally laid out Intro: The contention is that just as the Bible got it wrong about slavery and Christians and the Bible are getting it wrong today about sex(uality) and gender. Atheist Sam Harris and many in the church use this argument to support cultural sexual and gender mores of today. Harris quotes Leviticus 26 from the RSV, which uses words, buy, property, slaves, possession. That is, he sets up the bible as against morality . • Bible translations talk of slaves • In the OT no objection is made to having slaves • In the NT Christians are not commanded to free their slaves and slaves are told to submit • Therefore biblical texts approve of slavery • We know that slavery is wrong • Therefore biblical texts approve of something that is wrong BUT The use of the word “slave” has increased in translations: KJV used x2 NKJV used x46 NIV used x130 German Luther Bibel used x 0; revised Luther Bibel 1984 used x70 Spanish 1909 used x4; 1960 used x25; 1995 used x65
    After World War 2 society became less hierarchical and terms Master and Servant became archaic so the word slave was substituted (Comment by Geoff – in my study of a law degree the law relating to employment was known as law of Master and Servant)
    The Hebrew word “eved” can be translated “servant” or “slave”. It is not inherently negative. It is related to work, subservient.
    Israelites are “servants of the King. Everyone is a servant of the King. There is no class of “free” people. Importantly, all of this was before the North Atlantic Slave Trade
    OT culture , institutions based on debt servitude/slavery . Person B pledged future work to person C for food now and food in the future , or sell themselves , a future leasing of work.
    BUT this was a system of sub- ownership where EVERYTHING and EVERYONE BELONGED TO GOD. So the “Sub-Owner” was accountable to God and to treat as God would.
    JOB 31 Pre – Mosaic LAW appeals to unity of the human race UNDER GOD.
    In the OT patriarchal system: • work as herdsmen, domestic servants • However servants. could inherit (Genesis 15:3 – Eliezer of Damascus) children of Bilhah and Zilpah • Were trusted to travel with valuables (Genesis 24) and weapons Genesis 14:14 • No approved “selling” of people have to look after runaways (Deuteronomy 23:15-16
    The LAW Given to Moses was because of the HARDNESS Of HEART of the people, to regulate (Matthew 19:8.) Some things were allowed but not approved Have to go back to the beginning for the ideal . There was no servitude until Genesis 9. The Law of Moses is to be read in that light. The whole OT system is in contrast to all other empire systems throughout that period .
    2 New Testament does not endorse slavery • Christians could not change the legal systems • Slaves who rebelled would be executed under those systems • Under Rome there were limits emancipation of slaves and could rarely become a citizen • command to love others as Christ loved us • brotherhood, family of all believes. Kissing, holy kiss – you only kiss family, Jew and Gentile, master with servant and no hierarchy of believers (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1; Philemon15 • Jesus is LORD, Master, we are His servants slaves, with all gospel freedom and inheritance from Him. There IS only ONE worthy to own you.
    All of this is set against the backdrop, the underlying truth that GOD OWNS EVERYBODY,is Sovereign.
    There are 2 main classes of humanity 1 Those who gladly come under God’s ownership 2 Those who contest, rebel, ignore God’s ownership

    PART 2
    Sex Gender Sexuality Peter J Williams , Principal, Tyndale House Cambridge

    Some Notes posted on Alastair Robert’s site last year. Not sure whether any of the points have been considered in this post.

    You say (Alastair Roberts “…God’s intimate claim on each of . our bodies, manifested in the assurance of future resurrection”.

    Geoff :This is key. It is orthodoxy. It is thinking biblically. It is “sola scriptura” . It is beyond expansion, scripturally irrefutable.

    1 It was a pivotal point around which Peter J Williams, Principal, Tyndale House, Cambridge, built his talks at this months Keswick Convention 2017, under the overall heading “Answering Moral Objections to the Scriptures.”

    2 “Isn’t the bible sexist and Homophobic” was one talk.
    In it he set out
    2.1 two different views of men and women (mostly from his handout and my scribbled notes}
    a) Secular materialist view: mere chemicals; value is socially relative, is assigned to you; different only in reproduction
    b) Christian view: equal and of infinite value (in God’s image)divinely created variety
    Then he considered
    2.2“Inventing Sex”
    He displayed slides constructed from a search of Google Books using the Ngram viewer.
    The word “sex is rare
    “Gender “, use of as a category rockets from 1970’s
    “homophobia” – there is revealed a huge recent change in language
    a)Sex is a recently socially constructed category, grouping diverse physical actions and separating these actions from relational and social contexts in order to create a commodity,. The sex experience is the key thing. It stands alone, separate and apart from covenant and consequences. It become a self fulfilling function.
    b) Once “sex” (as an activity is invented you can invent sexual identity (according to activity) c)Once “gender” and “sex” (identity) are distinguished you can invent , make-up, imagine, gender identity
    d) Once “sexual identity” and “gender identity” are imagined you can make others recognise them
    The word gender has replaced the grammar male and female.
    The word transgender has replaced the word transexual (Ngram slide)

    3 Gender studies is a recent social construct. It imposes a lot. “Heteronormative” is being indoctrinated, imposed on other people. no binary male and female
    THEREFORE, THERE IS A NEED TO THINK BIBLICALLY, as there are no agreed neutral categories . To have a proper dialogue with the secular We NEED TO START FROM A SET OF Christian categories, which contradict secularism.

    That is we NEED TO THINK BIBLICALLY. (Geoff- Is this not “sola scriptura” in application ,that is , Orthodoxy??
    3.1 God’s Good Character and OWNERSHIP OF US.
    Two main categories of humans
    a) Those who contest or ignore it
    b) Those who want and welcome God’s ownership

    God owns all of us, so it not merely a disagreement on sexual activity, or what our bodies are. He decides how we should use them.
    God the Owner may give an identity (male or female) which it is wrong to change
    Some activities are forbidden by the Owner.
    Attraction and visual appreciation of own sex does not create identity. It may lead to temptation to activity forbidden by owner.
    Marriage involves giving sub-ownership, under God to someone else.
    There is only ONE worthy to own, to posses us. He who gave up everything for us Jesus Christ.

    • Geoff. Thanks but I find these notes too lengthy and bulleted to be able to respond to. I do hope the other side of the arguments was presented to those listening. I do not see much sign of that here. The notion of marriage as ownership in any shape or form I find bewildering – though Ruth came along with a piece of land I suppose.

      Can I offers few comments on slavery:

      One argument at a time. It is not true that people are using slavery to ‘undermine traditional biblical teaching on marriage’. Slavery has been an ethical and biblical challenge to evangelical Christians long before same sex relationships became an ‘issue’. In some quarters of the evangelical tradition it still is. But it is surely true that in term of the challenges of setting the plain text in a wider context and meaning there are genuine parallels.

      History. Slavery is an example of how something can be believed for long periods of history, and even blessed and supported, by a biblically concerned tradition that now firmly believes it is evil and wrong – on the basis of the same biblical witness. The historical longevity of a belief is to be respected but it is no guarantee. Just because something is believed for a long time does not make it right.

      ‘The bible says’. Slavery is an example of where the plain reading of the biblical text only supports slavery. There are no explicit biblical texts that condemn it and no examples of any community in the NT renouncing slavery in favour of a new expression of society. Rather slaves are taught to obey and if they run away they are sent back. To oppose slavery from scripture as we do today you have to argue from something beyond the actual plain meaning text on the page – as we do.

      I am not interested in what atheists are saying about the bible at this point. I think that is scaremongering at worst. We Christians need to be talking to each other about what scripture teaches. That is what evangelicals do at their best.

      I do not assume for a minute that because we now think slavery is wrong and evil from scripture we should think the same about same-sex relationships. Each needs its own biblical hard work. But I understand how the comparisons are made and I think they are valid.

  35. Thanks Ian,
    Couldn’t agree more Simon. I’m not Gnostic either. Christ and his glory will still be more than sufficient. Wouldn’t mind a new resurrected body now.
    What will be the resurrected trans body be like?
    I’ve heard one talk on new heaven and earth by someone, I could dig it out
    It was based on scripture with some extrapolated speculation. It may still be on Christianity Institute site, Autumn lectures, First and Last Things
    Rupert Bentley-? Is his part name.

    • Imagining sexual bodies in heaven? – well we are not very clear about them on earth. I notice how the hymns and prayers that routinely use parts of our bodies to express positive self offering and consecration – ‘Take my life and let it be’, ‘God has no body on earth but yours’ – hands, feet, eyes, minds, lips, ears, heart are all there but genitals or any posiitve expression of the gift of sexual energies? Nothing. But when it comes to confession of sin, the list is long.
      In his paraphrase of the ancient prayer ‘God be in my head’ Jim Cotter added, ‘God be in my loins and in my swiving’ (an old English word for love-making).
      Here’s a challenge – anyone want to write the (missing) verse to ‘Take my life and let it be’? It must start with ‘Take my loins …..’

      • David,
        ‘God be in my loins and in my swiving ‘ as part of a communal hymn or prayer? That would not be *inclusivie* given that several members of church congregations, notably children, do not engage in ‘swiving’!

      • Easy as it’s essentially no different for any body part…. 😉

        Take my loins and let them be
        All you purposed, Lord, for me.
        Take my drive and let it run
        Ever, only, in Godly fun.

  36. Hullo Christine Yes, you make an important point – though I would have thought single and older people are the more likely to feel excluded. I would not expect a prayer like to be use in messy church! But I prayed those lines for years as a single, celibate man without feeling excluded. In fact Jim Cotter always used ‘love-making’ in a wider sense. He once wrote, ‘we are called to be makers of love – whether focussed genitally or more diffused’. His alternative Trinitarian formula addresses God as – Life giver, Pain bearer and Love maker’. I like that.

    • An interesting quotation, and an even more interesting ”either/or”. Many wise monkeys will ponder it and make the mature decision to take the first of the 2 apparently equal ”options”, the genital one. Forget any other kinds of love (the diffused ones).

        • I think you misunderstood my remark. I was just finding it amusing that Mr Cotter said that people should either copulate or spread the agape-love around but not both; and speculating that a lot of people would then choose the first option with a thoughtful expression on their faces.

          • Christopher

            I don’t think Jim Cotter mentioned agape love. I take his diffuse love to be a more inclusive ‘eroticism’ based not on penetrative sex alone, but on the other and many delights of sexual and sensory intimacy.

          • Well, if you’re right, then David R was wrong when he spoke of a wider (i.e. not merely physical/sexual) sense. You can’t both be right about his meaning.

            David, I was being mischievous, since your quotation of him as saying ‘whether’/’or’ suggested multiple choice options.

    • Hi David,
      It is clear that Jim Cotter was referring to eros when he thought up, ‘God be in my loins and in my swiving’ . We usually think of agape as coming from the heart, not from the loins, and the OE word ‘swiving’ means ‘having sexual intercourse with’. Of course in current language usage, ‘love-making’ is popularly used as a euphemism for sexual intercourse,so many people understand ‘love-making’ to refer to eros, rather than to storge, philia or agape, as Christopher indicated.I have never thought of love as something that we ‘make’. God loved us first, and the love given by Him to us flows through us to each other.

      • Christine Thanks. I did give a further quote from Cotter that made it clear he used love-making in a wider, not just dictionary, sense. If the words do not work for you as expressing sexual intimacy or as prayer then please just don’t use them.
        The division between eros and agape is often made and is assumed to be biblical. But the word eros (best translated ‘passionate human yearning’) does not appear in the NT. There is only one Hebrew word for ‘love’ – which as a verb is translated ‘to know’ and also means ‘to have intercourse with’.
        I think it is unhelpful to assume the agape is a kind sexless, heart centred way of loving – the NT does not suggest that either. Rather the word sums up the human vocation to love in all its many forms – which includes faithful sexual intimacy – though Christian worship and prayer chooses to try and by pass that side of it.

        • My point about ‘love-making’ is that many people use it colloquially to mean sexual activity, so whatever areas of meaning it may have had for Jim and his friends, many people will understand it as having sexual connotations.

          • I get that Christine – but it may then be very helpful to use it a way that opens up the understanding of what love involves from a too narrow focus.

        • Hi David,
          Since I last posted here I have received a phonecall from a Jewish friend – we have been friends since schooldays. She will be unexpectedly in this area today and tomorrow with her husband and they will visit.me. We usually spend much of our time talking about the Bible and she is a great lover of OT Hebrew, so I will ask her about the language of love in the OT.
          She just signed off a text with ‘B’zrat HaShem’.

          • Thank you, David – we had a good reunion. My friend said there are at least four OT Hebrew words for love, including God’s love for us. and the finest love we have for each other. Interestingly conjugal relations in the OT are often described as ‘;.;and he went in unto her…’ and sometimes ‘…and he went in unto her, and she conceived’ I don’t have the means to type the Hebrew here.

  37. David,

    There is a punines and paucity in the alternative view of the Trinity, which is far from the supernatural greatness and uniqueness of the triune God of Christianity. A man made god indeed. More and more you are revealing your views, beliefs, foundations of your theology, your fundamentals, and to me, it is not surprising where the legs of those beliefs are taking you.
    Your likes and following of Jim Cotter are of little concern. So what do you believe about the Trinity? It’s it really surprising that my conversion had nothing to do with Jim Cotter’s trinity, nor my ignorance of Cotter. I certainly couldn’t worship his trinity. And yes, you may respond that knowing Cotter, he may mean more, but that is not the point you were making using the quotation, in your liking of it.

    This thread, to me, is moving from being tenaciously tendentious, to tedious and threadbare and your theology seems to unravel when moving to a resurrection body and heaven on earth. Ian’s answer to Simon, above, is (sorry, seems to be) studiously avoided.

    Heaven on earth and resurrection bodies. Holiness, holiness, holiness. There will be nothing but holiness as God will be there, manifest. But this is not a lemon sucking view of holines that many caricature and dishonour God with, but the beauty of holiness. Unless, as Jehovah Witnesses believe, God will not be there.

    Do you believe that there will be resurrection bodies? A new heaven on/and earth?

    Even in the present God is to be Lord over our sexuality, sexual activity in the goodness of his Holiness. But this will be resisted and resisted and resisted and resisted, no surrender, no submission to his ownership over our bodies. No inviting him to be Lord over our sexuality, Lord over our desires, longings, over all areas of our lives.
    Unless, of course, our sexuality and activity mean more to us than God, idols to worship, place above God.

    • Geoff I am clueless as to what a ‘punine’ and your contempt for my beliefs is undisguised.

      ‘I certainly couldn’t worship his trinity.’
      That is trinitarian God who creates and gives us life?
      who takes flesh and bears our pain and griefs on the cross?
      who fills us with life and power and calls us into fellowship and unites us in divine love?

      Really? That sounds fairly orthodox to me.

      But please Geoff if you really want discussion be polite. This honours no one.

    • Geoff

      Your ‘mere’ opinions are showing again. I find nothing tendentious or theologically threadbare in anything David has written, or others on this post.

      I have said that I haven’t a clue whether there will be sexuality in the resurrection life, but what appears, to me, to be your horror at that idea is, for me, somewhat troubling.

      Holiness is not incompatible with sexuality. Neither the Jew Jesus, nor the Jew Paul, would have had such an idea. True, both advocated asceticism, but that is not because they believed sexuality to be fallen.

      I don’t believe that either David or I believe that Christ isn’t Lord of us, including our sexuality. A more inclusive or affirming attitude toward sexuality is neither antinomian nor permissive. To portray it as such is a caricature.

      • Penelope I would add that at least some of Paul’s asceticism finds its context, I think, from the belief in the immanence of the coming Kingdom and the utter priority of being ready for it. The only discussion about celibacy in the epistles, in 1Cor7, certainly has that as a backdrop. And yes. Jesus is Lord!

        • Indeed, David. I would also argue that the eunuch saying in Matt. 19 isn’t only about asceticism, but about establishing the eschatological kingdom of the ambiguous and the liminal – eunuchs, children, barren women, people who aren’t blood kin.

      • Actually Penelope I think Geoff is right. It is you that argue that there might be sex in heaven based upon the words said. However when Jesus was given the example of the wife to multiple husbands it is Jesus who points out that there is no marriage in heaven but in your version one can expect the wife to have sex with all her husbands – but then that reveals that it is all simply rubbish and we don’t actually know if there is any sex in heaven at all because it is all actually completely irrelevant.

        • Actually, Clive, it is probably irrelevant, unless you’re heavily invested in having/not having sex in the resurrection life. The wife with multiple husbands might have eschewed them all and found herself a nice girlfriend.
          I was ‘merely’ pointing out that the text doesn’t say there will be no sex in heaven.

          • …which is one thing that has nothing whatever to do with what the Bible says about the heavenly life. It’s not right to be flippant about that.

  38. David,
    My error. Was meant to be puny. It was your description Cotter’s view of the trinity, as quoted by you, that I was referring to.
    Certainly, it is far from Alistair Roberts writings on the Trinity.
    What you have written in response with your view of the Trinity, I was unable to glean from your Cotter quote. But maybe I’m being dim.

  39. What I dislike about ‘Side B’ Christianity is its passive acceptance that the rules weigh far more heavily on gays than on straights.

    Straight Christians can live in hope of marriage, and hope is a powerful motivator even when there may appear to be very little of it.

    Gay Christians however are supposed to abandon all hope while living surrounded by those to whom every hope is given. To my way of thinking that is so profoundly unfair and cruel that it cannot be the dictate of a benevolent god.

    Unfortunately the ‘Side A’ solution to this dilemma, which is to change the Christian religion so that it does accord gays some hope, is also profoundly unsatisfying. What they’re saying is that if a religion doesn’t suit you, tweak it until it does. The whole idea of objective truth is thereby blown to pieces. And if a religion doesn’t supply you with objective truth, what use is it?

    So, either I worship a cruel and implacable god whose plan for my life is one of hopelessness and despair, or I come to the conclusion that such a petty, cruel and heartless sprite must be the figment of the human imagination. I think you can guess which conclusion I have reached.

    As for ‘Side B’ Christians and their doleful chant of “abandon hope all ye who enter here”, I can only regard them with pity and horror as I would ‘pro-ana’ anorexics who try to persuade others not to eat. ‘Side A’ Christians don’t fare much better in my estimation because of the sheer intellectual dishonesty of their position. No kind of Christian earns my respect. They worship cruelty. How can I respect that?


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