Evangelical and affirming: developments beyond Scripture?

Andrew Goddard writes: As set out in my shorter summary, I believe the three articles entitled “Same Sex Marriage & Scripture: Affirming Evangelical Response” which were commissioned by Jayne Ozanne for her Via Media blog are significant and helpful responses to the Oct 2018 letter from the Bishop of Blackburn and ten other evangelical Church of England bishops.  In the previous posts I firstly responded to David Gillett’s proposal for re-reading Genesis 2, then David Atkinson’s proposal of covenanted friendship as a pastoral accommodation. I now turn to the third article of the three.

David Runcorn – Development and the Spirit, Going Beyond Scripture & Diversity in Discernment

Spirit-led development & going beyond Scripture

The third response, by David Runcorn opens up a number of other important areas within the sexuality debates that are not addressed in the earlier pieces.  In particular it raises the question of development in church teaching and the role in this of the Spirit, Scripture and culture.  It helpfully does so on the basis of agreement with the bishops when they write:

The church must always be reformed according to the Word of God, and God has “more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word”. But neither can we simply abandon what we have received in order to appear relevant and avoid feeling uncomfortable. As God’s people carefully re-read Scripture together, allowing it to teach us, we may be challenged where we are wrong and be led into deep learning, serious intellectual persuasion, and heart-felt repentance for past errors.

David Runcorn appears surprised or confused that this understanding has not led the bishops to share his conclusions or at least to accept his conclusions as legitimate: “But the letter remains insistent there can be no change in the ‘traditional’ understanding of marriage. I want to ask – on the basis of the letter’s own understanding of the re-forming Word – why not?”.

This is a crucial question to ask but the bishops’ stance is neither incoherent nor inconsistent. Nor is it hard to see their rationale.  They are not ruling out absolutely any “change in the ‘traditional’ understanding of marriage”. They are saying that they cannot see how the changes they have seen proposed in relation to same-sex unions and same-sex marriage are “according to the Word of God”.  And, in fact, the article’s own approach provides evidence of why they are right and that this is the deeper difference between its author and the writers of the letter.

The only substantive appeal to Scripture made by David Runcorn in relation to the specific question of same-sex unions and marriage is his claim that the traditional texts have been misread. He holds that “these Bible texts condemn abusive sexual behaviour of any kind. They are not for applying to what is loving, faithful and committed”.  That argument is an increasingly common one but it is one which is highly contested and not simply by those who are “traditionalists”.  Luke Timothy Johnson for example writes:

The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says?  I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good

Even if one is persuaded that the classic prohibitive texts do not apply, this simply leaves us having to say something like “Scripture does not directly address our questions about ‘loving, faithful and committed’ same-sex unions”.  The question then becomes – if we grant that silence – on what biblical basis we might answer those questions.

One response is, like David Gillett, to go back and re-read Genesis and find there a new, supposedly biblical, doctrine of God’s purposes in creation that helps us redefine marriage and the nature and significance of being made male and female.  Another is, like David Atkinson, to ask how Scripture might help us discern “the best way of making optimum moral sense of a less than ideal situation”.  David Runcorn, however, takes a different path.  He appeals to being led by the Spirit in going beyond the Bible by means of “an unfolding revelation” so that we go “beyond the received revelation as long understood”.

There are a number of places here where his exact argument is unclear.  As noted above, he appears to base this method and his acceptance of same-sex sexual unions on the fact the biblical prohibitions “are not for applying” to our concern as they only deal with abusive sex.  However, prior to that he defended a model of unfolding revelation by appealing to the view of Karl Allen Kuhn that “To insist, as some do, that all of the specific injunctions of the New Testament concerning particular behaviours must stand for all time is to assign to biblical instruction a role that it has never before performed” (Runcorn’s emphasis).  It would appear, therefore, that he is ultimately saying (like Luke Timothy Johnson quoted above) that even if the “specific injunctions” of Scripture were prohibitive of all same-sex sexual behaviour, including in “loving, faithful and committed” relationships, then that would not be conclusive.  Here, one suspects, is one of the reasons why he and the bishops end up in different places.  Is he, unlike them, open not just to more truth breaking forth out of Scripture but to “new revelation” which is apart from Scripture and overturns biblical revelation due to “the dynamic nature of God’s instruction” (Allen quote)?

Appealing to Gentile inclusion

But David Runcorn’s argument is that his position has the support not just of tradition (though the appeal to slavery is weak as it could be argued that where Christians have supported this it reflects conformity to their cultural norms in the same way that some see this conformity happening in acceptance of same-sex marriage) but of Scripture itself – “an unfolding revelation is evident within the scriptures”.  Here appeal is made, as is increasingly common, to Acts 15 and the inclusion of the Gentiles.  There are many much larger and more complex issues raised by this than Runcorn’s brief discussion can even acknowledge, let alone address and  I explored some of these over a decade ago in a Grove booklet, “God, Gentiles and Gay Christians: Acts 15 and Change in the Church”.  A few, however, merit highlighting in order to illustrate the limits and dangers of too simplistic an appeal to this in arguments for same-sex marriage.

The first challenge is of course that the existence of this “unfolding revelation” within Scripture does not necessarily mean it continues in the same way down through the centuries.  The existence of progressive revelation in Scripture is not in dispute.  There is though the question of how such a claim of unfolding revelation – not just to private guidance but to normative, universal truth – relates to the ultimate significance, even finality, of divine revelation in Christ and the apostolic witness to him.  At the very least, the novelty and significance of what is happening in our time is noteworthy.  God is apparently now revealing something new he is doing in including gay unions within the life of his people which is equivalent to when he revealed something new by including Gentiles within the life of his people after the Incarnation and Pentecost.  Then there is the fact that in Acts 15 the development of welcoming uncircumcised Gentiles into the people of God is one which is based not simply on dreams but on the gathered community reaching a common mind.  In this process the consistency of the development with Scripture, cited as the authority in James’ speech, is crucial.

The challenges are not just in relation to process but also substance.  Although circumcision is not required in Acts 15, rejection of sexual immorality (porneia) is required.  This is at the heart of the current debates: what counts as forbidden porneia?  It seems clear that those gathered in Jerusalem would have accepted the standard Jewish view that this included all forms of homosexual behaviour and in fact many scholars see the Council’s prohibitions as based on the chapters in Leviticus that include rejection of homosexual practice—and it is striking that we find in Paul’s letters just this kind of continuity on sexual ethics with the Levitical commands.  We therefore either treat their conclusion as normative or we go beyond it through appeal to the ongoing work of the Spirit as we discover that “cultural and social pressure play an important part in raising awareness and awakening conscience in a way that has forced a revisiting of how we have been reading and interpreting the bible for today”.

Diverse Discernment: What is the Spirit now saying?  – Gentile inclusion & the argument of Dale B. Martin

The question, then, becomes one as to what exactly it is that the Spirit is now saying, in part through such cultural pressure. This is far from clear among advocates of change.  As already noted, David Gillett is clearly a supporter of same-sex marriage while David Atkinson is in favour of a form of same-sex union not incompatible with church teaching on marriage.  David Runcorn’s position is not explicitly stated but probably involves one of these two stances.  There are, however, other gay Christian views which are often ignored or consciously excluded even when there is an emphasis on the need for inclusion and listening to gay Christian voices.

One of the most radical of these, though not without support from others, is that offered by the New Testament scholar Professor Dale B. Martin.  His book Sex and the Single Saviour is often cited in debates about Scripture and homosexuality, particularly his questioning of the meaning of the two key words used by Paul and seen as rejecting all homosexual practice. In the Inaugural John E. Boswell Lecture in 2008 entitled “A Gay, Male, Christian, Sexual Ethic” (it can be watched on Vimeo), Martin looks how the meaning of sex in our culture is very different from that in the biblical texts and the ancient world and argues that “An ethics of sex must address what sex is. For us. Now. In all its varieties”. He then proceeds to talk specifically about “gay male sex” on the basis that although “I actually have, rarely, had sex with a woman…I have known lots of gay men—and I mean that in the biblical as well as nonbiblical sense. I’ve had lots of sex with lots of men, gay, straight, and bi”.  So what Professor Martin offers is very precisely defined:

“A” sexual ethic because I don’t propose my ideas as being the ethic for anyone, much less everyone. “A gay” ethic because I’m not addressing the meaning or ethics of sex for anyone but homosexuals. “A gay male” ethic because I believe lesbians may need a di?erent approach to sexual ethics if they experience sex di?erently, about which I know nothing. “A gay male Christian” sexual ethic because this thinking and reasoning is being done selfconsciously in the context of Christian faith, informed by Christian scripture, tradition, doctrine, and community. So that’s my topic, a sexual ethic designed for gay Christian men, and quite possibly suitable only for them, and quite probably not for all of them by any stretch of the imagination. But it does seem to work for me, and has for many years.

Having set out his method he then delivers his ethic for this particular group: “Sex is good and Christian when it is done in a way that embodies love appropriate for the relationship in which it occurs”.

This ethic leads to his support for same-sex marriage though it is important that this is not because it is necessary for holy living but simply a matter of justice because “although I would prefer that the state and the church get out of the marriage business, as long as they are in the marriage business it is simply unjust to deny gay people the opportunity to marry”.  He is himself not seeking marriage:

Some male couples I know both want to be married. I am personally, as perhaps a bit more radical Christian, not very interested in pursuing gay marriage. I’m not convinced that marriage is the answer for us gay men, certainly not for myself.

Here we see that reasons for supporting same-sex marriage among gay Christians can take a number of significantly different forms.

According to Martin, single gay men who are dating and considering cohabitation or marriage

…ought to have sex with one another, in many di?erent ways and circumstances…I regularly counsel young men not to fall too much for another guy and certainly not to make him their “boyfriend” until they have had quite a few rolls with him in various piles of hay. Try it out first.

Other single gay men may meet their need for sex in other ways – “Many men, for instance, have regular pals they get together with. “Friends with benefits” some call it. I won’t here use the vulgar term that is actually more popular among men. You probably know what I mean. I believe such relationships are perfectly fine”.  And this may be more open still –

What about sex among friends? That is, sex that involves more than two people? I must admit, I have not often pursued group sex, and have turned down o?ers of it, because I’ve tried it and found that it is too distracting and in some cases even disturbing for me. I usually feel a bit guilty if I’m completely drawn to one guy in the party and turned o? by another. I get distracted feeling that I have to give “equal time” and energy to everyone. That’s my problem, so I seldom have had group sex. But I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with it. Again, as long as everyone is honest, on enough of the same page, and treats everyone involved fairly, I believe group sex can be fine for some people and completely healthy.

There is also no need for a relational context – “with the proper precautions, even merely playful sex with a man you have just met, or whose name you may not even want to know, can be Christian”.

This ethic is then basically extended beyond single gay men to gay couples.  Here the agreement between partners as to the basic rule for their sexual behaviour (exclusive or open?, informed or ignorant?, acting alone or together?) is the main limit – “I have friends who have been together for five or ten or twenty or thirty years and for whom sexual exclusivity has never been important to them…they’ve decided that though they cherish a certain emotional exclusivity between themselves, mere sexual exclusivity is not important for them”. There will thus be a variety of such non-exclusive relationships. Martin is clear that no form of them can be stated to be wrong except “if it is not done in love and if it ends up harming them”. He concludes:

But I know too many cases in which such relationships have gone on for years, and for the life of me, I can’t see anyone being hurt by it. In fact, the sexual openness of the relationship, many men will tell you, is precisely what has helped keep their relationships permanent, solid, and loving. This may sound incredible to other people, especially straight people, and perhaps especially women. But I know it to be a fact.

I am not suggesting any of the three writers here would agree with Dale Martin. Why then cite his views, especially as I have always tried (perhaps not always successfully) to critique the “best case” of those pressing for change and not to set up extreme cases in order to dismiss more careful ones?  We cannot ignore his views.  His is an important voice in biblical scholarship on the subject (as evident from publications and being invited as inaugural John Boswell lecturer) and at least some of his views, although rarely set out as fully and clearly, have been supported by other gay Christian writers.  In addition, many of the lines of argument – the focus on love, the need to consider personal lived experience of individuals and the LGBT community, the difference of our world from the ancient world as crucial in appealing to Scripture etc – are common elements in many arguments for less radical arguments for change.  His views were also what lay behind the very broad ethics in the statement of conviction established when the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement was founded in 1976:

It is the conviction of the members of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement that human sexuality in all its richness is a gift of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured as a way of both expressing and growing in love, in accordance with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Therefore it is their conviction that it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship.

When LGCM recently changed its name to OneBodyOneFaith it made changes to the statement but, despite the existence by then of both civil partnership and civil same-sex marriage, it did not change this ethical vision to set the vision of “a personal sexual relationship” in a more specific, morally normative description or category:

It is the conviction of the members of OneBodyOneFaith that human sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity in all their richness are gifts of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured as a way of both expressing and growing in love, in accordance with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Therefore it is their conviction that it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex, but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship;  We believe that expressing our gender and sexuality with integrity is important as a way to grow in love and discipleship;  we long for the day when Christians fully accept, welcome, affirm and offer equality to everyone in their diversity.

The reaction of many Christians to Martin’s proposed “gay, male, Christian sexual ethic” will I suspect be similar to that which Runcorn cites from a conservative opponent of any form of same-sex relationship: ‘I feel as if my face is being pushed into vomit.’  However, as Runcorn rightly points out this cannot be our guide: “On his Joppa rooftop Peter would have understood that feeling very well. But he learned that revulsion is not a reliable guide to good theology, divine will and purpose”.

Here is why Martin’s work is particularly important in relation to David Runcorn.  Runcorn is puzzled as to why, especially given their apparent agreement that our relationship with Scripture is “always unfolding, never exhausted and where understandings may need to change and evolve over time”, the bishops cannot follow him to his conclusion or at least recognise its validity.  It is therefore important to work out why the bishops do not reach his conclusion and whether their stance is coherent.  It is also important to work out why Runcorn, given his method, cannot follow Martin or at least recognise that his conclusions are legitimate and an acceptable application of the same method.  Is such a stance consistent and coherent?

One line of response would be related to the specific biblical texts.  David Runcorn’s reading (which he is not able to defend here) is that “those texts traditionally presumed to be teaching against homosexual relationships in every case describe subjugation, rape or violence, excessive lustful activity, patterns of coercive male dominance and a total disregard of acceptable norms of social, religious and sexual behaviour”.  Martin’s ethic can I think avoid the majority of these descriptors although it faces challenges with “excessive lustful activity” and “a total disregard of acceptable norms of social, religious and sexual behaviour”. But what counts as “acceptable norms” as these are clearly very variable and rapidly changing in our culture and many churches?  In addition, “excessive” needs definition and Martin would I’m sure argue that his ethic is not “lustful” but focussed on love.  In any case, Martin may accept Runcorn’s list as to what the New Testament prohibits but simply respond, given his emphasis on cultural difference between the biblical world and ours, that “to insist, as some do, that all of the specific injunctions of the New Testament concerning particular behaviours must stand for all timeis to assign to biblical instruction a role that it has never before performed”.

Runcorn’s main argument, though, is not about how to read the classic, specific texts but to do with development and the model set out in Acts 15.  Turning to the appeal the Gentile analogy it is clear that Martin can appeal to this for his conclusions just as Runcorn can.  In fact he may even have a stronger case.  The passage is often read in such a way that the Jews represent the heterosexual majority.  Gentiles are then the excluded LGBT minority (the relative sizes showing one of many dis-analogies) who now need to be included, whether in the church or in the institution of marriage.  But no conservative is wishing to exclude people because of their sexuality.  Their concern is to exclude behaviour which they believe God in Scripture condemns and warns can exclude people from the kingdom of God.  The question therefore is, as noted earlier, what counts as porneia.  Here the appeal by analogy to Acts 15 on its own cannot rule out Martin’s argument and indeed could support it.  Runcorn notes that the real struggle was whether Gentiles were to be welcomed “on Jewish terms. That is why so much of the argument centred around how Jewish Gentile believers needed to become”.  Martin, one suspects, might argue along the following lines.  In defining porneia to permit same-sex sexual activity but to then require adherence to sexual exclusivity or marriage on the part of gay men(as Runcorn does) is, by analogy, to welcome gay men only on heterosexual terms and in fact we need to consider much more seriously ‘how straight queer believers need to become’.  Runcorn and his followers, in imposing heterosexual norms on gay men are, in fact, remarkably similar to the conservative Jews who wanted to impose Jewish norms on Gentiles.

Scriptural authority, development, and an unchangeable Christian standard in sexual ethics?

Underlying all this is also the question as to whether there is in any sense a single, universal, sexual ethic or “unchangeable Christian standard” which the church has received as God’s will for us as human beings.  It appears that Martin does not think there is (although it is not clear what ethic other than “Sex is good and Christian when it is done in a way that embodies love appropriate for the relationship in which it occurs” he would think right for groups other than gay, Christian men).  In contrast, the bishops’ letter argues that there is such an ethic.  It speaks of “the need for the church to offer a coherent, single ethic for all of us as people whose fundamental identity is not something we define for ourselves: rather that we are made in God’s image, have fallen captive to sin, are redeemed by Christ, and are being sanctified by the Spirit”.  It sums this up by reference to two Lambeth resolutions – “faithfulness and chastity both within and outside marriage” (1978) and “a pure and chaste life before and after marriage” (1920).

David Runcorn critiques this latter reference.  He writes that it “is unfortunate in being lifted from a highly reactionary and conservative debate opposing contraception. In its original context the quote is supporting a view of marriage and family the church, and these signatories do not hold”.  But the bishops are not claiming to agree with all the 1920 resolutions. They are highlighting that Anglicans have consistently held to this standard and then articulated it more fully.  The question they are asking is whether those pressing for change are also rejecting this broader standard. If so, for example, also allowing sex before marriage or consensual open marriages then there needs to be honesty about this and justification of its more radical stance and implications (something I explored some time ago). If not, there is a need to show convincingly how and why this broader standard remains a constant in the midst of change and development.  Are their proposed changes in relation to same-sex unions consistent with this standard?  As noted in relation to David Atkinson’s article this might mean redefining traditional understandings of chastity and purity (eg to embrace within it exclusive, lifelong sexual same-sex covenantal unions). Furthermore, can they persuade the church that the new articulation of this standard so as to accept within it behaviour which was previously prohibited does not undermine what the traditional teaching sought to protect?  This is what has been done by Anglicans since 1930 in relation to the use of contraception within marriage and what needs to be done now in relation to same-sex unions if appeals to that earlier development within Anglicanism are to carry any weight.

Here again we also return to the recurring, underlying and crucial question of the place of Scripture in arguments for change.  The first reason that the 1930 Lambeth committee gave for revising the earlier resolutions on contraception were that that although its proposed revision rejected ‘a very strong tradition that the use of preventive methods is in all cases unlawful for a Christian’, this tradition ‘is not founded on any direction given in the New Testament’.  As we have seen there remains ambiguity as to what Runcorn, and many others advocating change (especially those identifying as evangelicals), are saying in relation to development led by the Spirit and the place of Scripture.

Is it that the Spirit is showing us we have misread Scripture and that a very strong tradition that homosexual behaviour is in all cases unlawful for the Christian is in fact “not founded on any direction given in the New Testament” and so, learning from a combination of Acts 15 and our culture, we need to be led by the Spirit?  If so, then, in response to Scripture’s silence on the specifics, we need to work out how we read Scripture as a whole in relation to sexuality and how we do justice to both tradition’s negative stance (even if not authorised by Scripture) and the arguments for a more positive stance in our current context.

Or is it that the Spirit is now showing us God is doing or revealing something new just as he did to Peter at Joppa and that “to insist that….the specific injunctions of the New Testament concerning particular behaviours must stand for all time is to assign to biblical instruction a role that it has never before performed”?  If this is the case then there is an important distinction between whether God is simply revealing what Scripture kept hidden or even contradicted or whether God is (as in Acts) doing something new in human history which makes acceptable within God’s people what previously was unacceptable.

In both cases – whether Scripture is silent or superseded – it remains unclear how appeal to the inclusion of the Gentiles or indeed any other criteria will, on its own, guide us as the church to choose between the varying options on offer – same-sex marriage (Gillett and probably Runcorn), same-sex unions compatible with teaching on marriage (Atkinson), or some other more radical proposal such as that advocated by Dale Martin.


The summary introduction can be found here. The first response, to David Gillett, is here. The second response, to David Atkinson, is here.


Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Associate Director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics (KLICE), Cambridge and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Anglican Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.


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377 thoughts on “Evangelical and affirming: developments beyond Scripture?”

  1. “An unfolding revelation is evident within the scriptures”. Here appeal is made, as is increasingly common, to Acts 15 and the inclusion of the Gentiles.”

    While I’m in general agreement with that statement, we should be clear that this unfolding revelation comprises numerous Old Testament references to Gentile inclusion (despite there being precious few OT verses which contrasts the keeping of Moses’ law as provisional to grace in Christ, e.g. Deut. 30:6).

    If Any appeal which echoes the decision on Gentile inclusion in Acts 15 should be similarly and explicitly endorsed by OT prophecy:
    Hosea 2:23: “And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’” (Rom. 9:25)
    Deut 32:10: “So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” (Rom. 10:19)
    Isaiah 65:1: “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here am I, here am I,” to a nation that was not called by my name.” (Rom. 10:20)
    Isaiah 11:10: “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” (Rom. 15:12)

    Yes, God does declare: “Behold, I do a new thing” (Is. 43:19), but He does so beforehand “declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” (Is. 46:10)

    Where is there any evidence of God similarly declaring His affirmation of same-sex sexual relationship as an “end from the beginning, and from ancient times”?

    T

    • David Shepherd Greetings. A quick response to yours. I did offer a comment on the issue of OT prophecy and Gentile inclusion in my original Via Media piece.
      ‘When we try to pull out Old Testament verses that talk about the inclusion of Gentiles we are still missing the challenge faced by the first Christians. Those prophecies saw Gentiles welcomed into the Jewish world and religion on Jewish terms. That is why so much of the argument centred around how Jewish Gentile believers needed to become – food, circumcision, behaviour etc. What they could not even receive yet – except as a nightmare – was that God was creating a community based on radically new belonging and identity in Christ, one that is yet to be fully revealed – neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. What begins at Joppa goes beyond the received revelation as long understood.’

      • I very much agree with this David. What is important is not merely matters of detail, for which some at least seem to need express biblical mandate in unambiguous black and white, but the direction of travel.

        I cannot but once again stop thinking about the parable of the feast and its scandalous suggestion.

      • Hi David,

        I did speak to that point by writing: “despite there being precious few OT verses which contrasts the keeping of Moses’ law as provisional to grace in Christ, e.g. Deut. 30:6.”

        I can add to this Deut. 10:16; Lev. 26:41; Jer. 4:4: all of which prioritise circumcision of the interior life above OT ritual externalisms.

        Again, Paul argues that, for God’s redemptive love to sustain the Jews through exile (when the prescribed rituals of Moses’ Law had to cease) to their return, revealed that reconciliation with God was effected through reliance upon His promise of forgiveness (faith), rather than keeping the law.

        In contrast with Gentile inclusion, the affirmation of same-sex sexual relationships can neither clear the bar of even an explicit OT reference or far less a subtle intimation of its future divine approbation.

        • Strange, David, that you “prioritise circumcision of the interior life above OT ritual externalisms” which, in my view, entirely misses the point of the Torah practice you claim to understand in making use of it, and then seem to require “an explicit OT reference” for approval of pretty much anything would seem contradictory in the face these same “externalisms” which the Torah flat out commands. Yet even here, of course, we know that Judaism has managed to overcome the absence of a sacrificial system that was destroyed millennia ago by rabbinic acts of reinterpretation. This is not something you are foreign to yourself, of course, if you imagine that any of your quoted verses actually mean what you think they mean.

          PS why would the Tanakh contain references to ” the affirmation of same-sex sexual relationships” when such a concept was alien to the times? Don’t you find your requirement wholly anachronistic? It contains no reference to their exclusion either for the very same reason.

          • Andrew,

            Given that Moses’ law required the physical circumcision of all males, perhaps, you could clarify, in the light of what you’ve discerned to be “the point of Torah practice” (which, to you, I seem to have missed), why there’s any declaration in Deuteronomy that: “the Lord God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring” (Deut. 30:6) – or Leviticus or Jeremiah.

            Why would it have any significance?

            PS: For the Tanakh, while the actual phrase “same-sex sexual relationship” might be an anachronism, that doesn’t make the case for asserting that evidence of it as a phenomenon is also as such.

            Nevertheless, I’m happy to discuss your argument that, as an smachronism, no such relationships of this kind ever existed in antiquity.

          • Andrew,

            I cited specific verses which “prioritise circumcision of the interior life”. If, in your view, by doing so, I’ve “entirely misses the point of the Torah practice “, then it would be useful for you to explain why circumcision of heart is mentioned at all in the Tanakh.

            PS: Since the apostolic tradition considered the doctrine of future resurrection and the virgin birth to be prophetically endorsed and affirmed in the Tanakh, why must prophetic affirmation must refer only to phenomena which must have existed in ancient times?

            The point is that, while it may be described in terms that might be either anachronistic or beggar belief, e.g. “a virgin (or young woman?) shall conceive”, or “neither will you allow your Holy One to see corruption”, the apostolic precedent is that the future “new thing” should be intimated prophetically.

  2. I look forward to the continuing discussion here but first wish to publicly thank Andrew Goddard, as I already have privately, for his considerable time and trouble in responding to the three via media pieces. I always read him with care and profit and will take time to do so here. As always, Andrew models informed and gracious engagement across significant differences. With typical courtesy he informed the three of us these would be posted, sent us copies in advance and invited our response. Over 4000 words to engage with my brief contribution is more than generous – including an extended engagement with another book and author entirely. I am in his debt.

  3. Just because the more we study documents the better we understand them, it obviously does not follow that our understanding of them will proceed in one hand-picked direction out of the thousands of possible directions that there are!!

    • Christopher, I wish it were indeed true that “the more we study documents the better we understand them” but a few decades of interest in such matters have not convinced me of this. Even where progress might have been said to be made those of faith act as an anchor on its recognition.

      • What? So you consider it to be progress only on the vanishingly few or zero occasions when against the odds a first century document turns out to have been speaking 21st century values all along? Otherwise it’s not progress?

        • Not at all, as I’m sure you must realise. But, to go wildly off topic, what, for example, might the impact of Q or Gospel of Thomas scholarship be for our contemporary understanding of Jesus and particularly his earliest followers? Don’t ask anyone with any faith interest in the received story as presented by the New Testament because they will spend their time relativising such sources, denying their existence unless we have copies to hand, and making every weasel-worded argument possible to deny such things might even be relevant. We have about the last 250 years of New Testament study in Europe and America has evidence for that. That is what I was talking about. But, as with my response below, this is not the time or place for such things. Yet I hope my point is clear: current interests very certainly guide, and close off, debate. This current topic is another such example as those who believe people live in history, which is subject to change, battle against those who insist the truth is ahistorical. Count me with the historicists.

          • There was no Q. Gospel of Thomas dates well into the 2nd century. Both of these positions (only the former is my area) are the way that scholarly opinion is presently headed. Stick to logical (and historical) considerations alone and I am happy to debate you at length on either. I would suggest reading Goodacre (but also many others) on both topics.

          • I had no idea you were a New Testament specialist, but what would be your arguments for Q having existed or Thomas being first century? You surely cannot be one of those who ‘thinks’ that the less traditionally Christian a position is the more likely it is to be true – it will be readily seen that such a position is at the extremes of illogic. The 2 graphs ‘Christian’ and ‘evidenced’ are *logically* unrelated. From my observation there are very few so averse to ideology as I am or whose provisional conclusions are so eclectic (viewing research as an initially open-ended adventure, as I do). So do debate me on any of this if you wish. Thankfully the world is not by *any* means entirely composed of Christian ideologues and secularist ideologues.

      • Progress typically consists in coming closer to the original writer’s intentions, and the more study takes place, the more that will happen in aggregate (if not on average!). It is not reet often that those intentions will have anything to do with folks who live 20 centuries later. Do our intentions (when we are putting pen to paper) have anything specifically to do with 41st century folks? I could hardly think of anything they have less to do with – as you’d agree.

        • Christopher, I confess to being completely baffled by your suggestion that “the more study takes place, the more that will happen in aggregate”. Mind you, I find the notion of “the original writer’s intentions” equally dubious. But perhaps this is not the time or place for such a discussion and in neither case do I think they bind persons in the 21st or 41st centuries.

          • All things being equal, the more study takes place, the more knowledge will be gleaned.

            The idea that writerly intention is dubious is obviously wrong. It is refuted by every author who has intentions. I have intentions whenever I write, but so does every author who wants to communicate something in particular. Which is 99% of authors, otherwise why are they devoting time to writing at all?

  4. Luke Timothy Johnson is not a traditionalist Ian? This a scholar who feels it is his task to represent authoritative Roman Catholic doctrine in his scholarship. So “traditionalist” is he that he even thinks the idea of “the historical Jesus” is ill-founded because we should instead be interested in the Church’s Christ. If you imagine him not be traditional then I wonder how reliable I can take the rest of your commentary to be.

    • Andrew,
      By the same taken, why would anyone, Christian, take an iota of heed to what you say in relation to scripture in the light of the comments you made here, though you may identify some fallacies of logic in both positions (presumably not, given your comment above). I make no apologies for repeating them, though Ian Paul may disallow) :
      “Andrew,
      1 I’d suggest the dichotomy you propose is an erroneous one : categories in relation to scripture are God and Mankind.
      2 Ah yes, deconstruction. Is that what you are seeking to do with scripture? I’d suggest it is far more than that – it is reconstruction. Atheist seek to deconstruct the bible,to pull it apart. Others in the church do not leave it there, but seek to remove our replace scripture.
      3 I’m sure you could readily find about canons of construction, but a How to book is Ian Paul’s and even John Stotts early edition of Basic Christianity covers it.
      4 But it is even more significant, than that.
      4.1 Deconstruction can not even take place until there is an understanding of what is said, written.
      4.2 An example is Psalm 2 you cited as a comment in the earlier blog post, “Is the Gospel funny?”
      4.2.1 Remember, you said this,
      ““We know from Psalm 2:4 that God laughs.”
      One of the most staggeringly anthropomorphic comments I’ve ever read! Cue laughter.”
      4.2.2 I responded with this:
      “Andrew,
      It is God’s derisive laughter here.
      I take it that you approve of God’s derisive laughter, and speaking in his wrath to those opposed to him, and terrify them in his fury, Psalm 2: 4,5

      I’d suggest context is crucial, the whole of Psalm 2.
      You need to read the rest of the Psalm and God’s dealings with those who oppose his son, Jesus. Fear, trembling, breaking with a rod of iron, kiss his feet, anger, quick wrath, perish
      Not so funny.
      And the way out of all this is to “take refuge in him.”- the way of happiness v 11.”
      4.3 I’d suggest that you’ve not carefully read the scripture to show an understanding of it. and hence an understanding of the nature, attributes of God and His relation to humankind. You don’t even
      reach the deconstruction stage.
      5 As you picked up on a point I made relation to Gillet’s (vain?) imaginings on scripture, I’d ask the same rhetorical questions of you about scripture with which I’d seek to probe David Gillett’s stated belief on fundamental and authoritative place of scripture.
      6 In particular are you really seeking to deconstruct , God’s word, revelation . Can and does your God contradict you?”

      • Ian, let me short circuit the debate for the time being with the following answer. As far as I am concerned reading itself is “reconstruction”. So if reconstruction is a sin then I know of no one who is not guilty of it.

          • Andrew,
            Thanks for the laugh. There’s no need to insult Ian Paul!
            I’m not sure you are aware of how self contradictory your answers to me are. How do you communicate your thoughts effectively so they can be understood correctly by the reader who may indeed decide that you mean the opposite of what you have said/written?
            Have you ever said something that someone has understood to be the complete opposite to what you’ve said and meant?
            Your apology is evidence that it is writing, not reading. Of course I “just knew” you meant me. Are you really saying, that it is only thought that stays in the mind or the spoken word that is is not reconstructed? Telepathy anyone?
            You’ll enjoy this from polymath John C. Lennox
            “Nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists.”
            Why do you even attempt to make yourself understood and come on here to make any comment at all, which can consequently be dismissed out of hand.

          • Geoff, I come here to say what I have to say. Whether you understand it or not is not in my gift. Yet I assure you that I maintain the hope that even one so dismissive as yourself may have something to teach me.

            PS I always find it interesting that if we had lived each others’ lives we would likely now be parroting back our opponents points to ourselves. There is some wisdom in there somewhere.

    • If LT Johnson is ‘a traditionalist’ then what is the point of his doing scholarship at all, conclusions being foregone? But in fact he has published widely and (as is scholars’ wont) not always predictably.

  5. 1 Spirit of the Age v Holy Spirit
    With in Charismatic Circles spiritual discernment is needed, to discern the spirits, darkness v light. It is not by mere intellectual argumentation, nor feeling, but by whether it corresponds with scripture.
    Where have we heard, “did God really say”?
    2 With apologies to CS Lewis and Screwtape. What is/are doctrine of demons?
    3 A throwback. Reading some of the Andrew Goddard response above was like being taken back to the runaway sexual ethics of sexual progressives of the 1960’s and 70’s which have evolved into dominant Pragmatic Ethics, sweeping western culture, pervading the church through osmotic processes. Admittedly, this section was not from the pen of David Runcorn.
    4 We’ve been there, done that, got the tee shirt as far as David Runcorn’s contribution is concerned, from his many comments on Ian Paul’s Blog. Old hat. Thrice HOLY Trinity David? Where does that even get a glimpse in your systematic theology, David? In your biblical theology? In your Christology? Your Holy Spirit theology?

    • Geoff Please note I never have or would respond to you or your contributions in these tones. But as you have me and my views down as demonic I am assuming you are not interested in further discussion either.

      • Thanks David, for your holier than thou response. There is evidence in the comments sections to me in the past that you have responded in “tones.”
        The points are serious and significant, whether you have taken them personally or not. And I certainly don’t put you down as demonic. I am not demonising you.
        You’ve not responded so far in all the posts, so nothing has changed.
        You need not respond to me personally, but others may be interested in the answers to the questions, but maybe not.
        You are still welcome to a hug, but doubt it would be welcome.

          • OK Ian. From all her contributions here my view is that she is beyond persuasion and the techniques employed are those of activists, as highlighted in books such as Melvin Tinker’s recent, and the “Coddling of the American Mind” rather than theologians. And end in twitter-like tweets, rather than point by point consideration, as I’ve been trained to do, but have fallen away from in comments.

            By the way, are Keller and Motyer wrong? Do you subscribe to a bilical theology way of reading scripture, which I first came across through Goldsworthy, years ago. And how about , Roberts and Wilson with their Echoes of Exodus, built on the foundation of the teaching of others, as you well know.
            Due to my age, not that old, training, career, conversion at 47, iffy health, this whole thing wearies me. Your stamina and perseverence are needed.
            It goes without saying, that the questions are asked without any expectation of a reply, as I’ve already taken up too much of your time.
            Yours in Christ,
            Geoff
            Ps though I’m not on twitter I’ve seen posts from the Gospel Coalition, from a much earlier one from Tim Challies, about future of blogging. TGC has changed for the worse, in my view. And I could say more about ChristianToday, but won’tThinktheology has from the early day when there were numerous comments allowed, and engaged with.
            Yours seems to be, if not unique, rare. Why on earth you’d permit any of my comments is sometimes baffling, knowing your target readership, particularly, as not all voices carry the same weight. What seems to get missed is what are the obstinate beliefs of congregants, even as there is a gathering around the creeds, sometimes mouthed in unblief. Without a unity of core belief, there suely is not a unity in Christ, nor in Holy Spirit, no matter how much spin is put on good disagreement, which seems to exclude robust and irreconcilable difference on core belief, which as you are more than well aware were wrangled over in the formulation of the creeds.
            While the Putians may get cartoon-like bad press, someone like John Owen knew our God in a way few of us (including me) today seem to, in our chronological snobbery.
            Thank You

    • Geoff
      As I have remarked before on Ian’s blog, the serpent was the better exegete. What the woman reported God as saying was not true; what the serpent said would happen, was true.
      Secondly, do you really believe that Psalm 2 is about Jesus?

  6. David Runcorn wrote “This does begin to offer us a faithful way to address the question of how to read the scriptures for guidance about issues or people it…. or c) possibly does not even know exists”

    If I’ve understood correctly isn’t this the nub of many differences? Many of us see a rather bigger and a direct personal connection between God and the Bible. Something not authored by God could, obviously, have this huge shortsighted flaw in any “truth” it seeks to proclaim. But to suggest the bible didn’t see something coming which would render its teaching wrong implies that God is shortsighted himself.

    “God breathed” has got to have something bigger within it.

    • Ian H – aren’t we all “God breathed”? Isn’t that what 139 is all about?
      So why would God allow us to be flawed but not scripture?

      • Oh the weight that one casual metaphor is asked to bear. As if God even had any breath or was “a person”, something which would seem to me to be entirely blasphemous in its limitation of God. Some people will hang onto their entirely unbiblical dogmas about the Bible at any cost though. Its how they justify the rest.

          • No one. Its a metaphor. You need to extrapolate the consequences of thinking that anyone did! No actual breath was breathed.

          • ‘No actual breath was breathed’ – I think ‘actual breath’ was breathed by Adam! So where did it come from, if not from God, the Creator? And God Incarnate certainly had breath, did He not? John 20:22

      • Andrew G….. Did God “allow us to be flawed?” Or does perfection have that as a choice? I dont see that scripture has choices.

        “God breathed” us different in each context. I wasn’t quoting 139 – (psalms I presume…) rather Paul to Timothy on, err, scripture
        .

        • Yes Ian. I realise that. My point is quite simple. Why would scripture be without error, when human beings clearly do err? Or did human beings have no part in the transmission of scripture? Or were they able to transcend any error when they were involved with scripture?

          I’m afraid you can’t talk about the inspiration of scripture (-and note Andrew Lloyds comments about metaphor above) without talking of the inspiration of human beings as well. Unless of course no humans were involved with scripture.

  7. Thanks David, for your holier than thou response. There is evidence in the comments sections to me in the past that you have responded in “tones.”
    The points are serious and significant, whether you have taken them personally or not. And I certainly don’t put you down as demonic. I am not demonising you.
    You’ve not responded so far in all the posts, so nothing has changed.
    You need not respond to me personally, but others may be interested in the answers to the questions, but maybe not.
    You are still welcome to a hug, but doubt it would be welcome.

  8. Reading the responses that had been made earlier today, I went for a walk this afternoon and, as I did, my thoughts became filled with the notion of scripture and, indeed, “going beyond scripture” as David Runcorn had addressed himself in what he said that is discussed by Ian Paul here. You will see that I replied to David directly above and spoke of “direction of travel” in my answer and on my walk this was very much what occupied my mind. This is because I find much of this debate conducted on entirely false terms. No writer in any book of the Bible understood sexuality or gender as we do today. These areas of human knowledge are as changing as the times (because, for better or worse, that is just what human knowledge is) and this affects every single one of us. Its why, for example, the Bible never once discusses female homosexuality. This simply was not a concept in biblical times (which thought of sex as penetration with a penis) so how could have they conceived of it? And yet there are many contemporary readers who imagine to pretend that as it is today so it always was and this affects and, it must be said, skews their biblical reading.

    But it seems that in the replies to date one thing is abundantly clear: what you think of God (and the Bible) is very much determinative of how you approach the subject of this blog. I want to get confessional for a moment, if you will bear with me, because, since it comes down to this, I want to say how I see the God revealed in the Bible. A few threads come to mind but I will try to be as brief as possible.

    1. Jesus spoke in parables, as pretty much everyone agrees. But this has consequences. What does it say about a religious leader if his characteristic way of answering queries is to tell you a story and leave you to work out its meaning AND ITS CONSEQUENCES?
    2. One such story is the parable of the feast in which the person giving the dinner, as the climax to the parable, seems to compel all to come to the dinner both good and bad alike without distinction. “Compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled” as Luke 14:23 has it or “both good and bad” as Matthew 22:10 has it. What does this mean bringing in people to what is understood by many readers to be God’s eschatological banquet without matter of moral distinction or, indeed, any distinction at all?
    3. Another parable Jesus tells is that of the Good Samaritan. This parable answers a question right at the heart of Judaism: who is my neighbour? The answer that Jesus gives is that even your blood enemy is your neighbour and that any enmity you have is put aside if you are in a position to help such a person.
    4. Jesus’ answer in the the Good Samaritan of Luke 10 is distinctively Jewish. At the heart of the Torah, literally if you take the Torah as arranged chiastically, we find Leviticus 19:18b, “love your neighbour as yourself”. This is part of the Holinesss Code of Leviticus 17-26 where apparent prohibitions on homosexuality are imagined by some to be found. A few verses later we find “you shall love the alien as yourself” at Leviticus 19:34. Indeed, “loving the alien” is the most frequent command of the Torah as a whole.
    5. Last year I wrote an essay on “the ethics of the Torah” as part of a book I was writing. As preparation for this I read all 187 chapters of the Torah which, let me tell you, was not the work of half an hour! What I learnt from that exercise preeminently was that, yes, God has rules and God is a judge, but, much, much more than that, God is a god of compassion and mercy in the Torah. His major character trait, as I seem to recall once being taught as a child, is that great Hebrew word ?????, chesed or loving kindness, compassion. Many times in the Torah, if you actually read all of it, God is less harsh in his dealings with people than he actually could have been.
    6. I think the Jesus of the New Testament would agree with that. In Luke 6 we have a complex of sayings about “loving your enemies”. “If you only love those who love you then what credit is that to you?”, says Jesus, before pointing out that God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked (Luke 6:27-35). “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” he commands at Luke 6:36.

    I could go on but I am hoping that by now you take my point. This is the character of my God, the God that I see in the Bible as I read it. I have not gotten this appreciation of God by aligning myself with some branch of Christianity. I do not wear it as a badge of honour as some seem to with their confessional or denominational labels. I, as I concede many others too, have done the hard work of reading the texts and asking myself what the character of this God in the Bible, and Jesus in and behind the Gospels, is and was. The texts that I read tell me, first and foremost, that God is compassion and God is mercy. They tell me of a God who invites all and sometimes, scandalously, without accounting for petty human shibboleths in the process. I believe that the nature of this God must be the standard for us humans to aspire to and I put that standard above any notional “biblical standard” that anyone else would try to impose in between. These, indeed, are human interpretational schemes, nothing more, nothing less. Jesus, in his parables, asked us to go beyond the letter and to imagine what his parables meant and to imagine where that takes us. I think this was actually a vital part of what he was doing for his entire “ministry” was a matter of reconfiguring the conventional and making it new. He was deconstructing the old and reconstructing a new. The kingdom of God is not the kingdom of us with our conventional thinking. It is the kingdom OF GOD. And what is God like? God is compassion.

    You will perhaps say that none of this addresses the intricacies of this and that in the specific issues of this debate. I think it does and I think it does because, in the end, the character of your God is determinative. To me, it asks you to ask yourself what the kingdom of that God would be like. If it is judgmental before it is compassionate then it is not the kingdom of any God I recognise from 30 years of biblical study and it is not the kingdom of God I see Jesus as historically presenting in history 2000 years ago. You are, of course, free to see something else. But, make no mistake, the issue really at stake here is twofold: what is your God like and what is his kingdom like that we should be modelling today?

    • Andrew, I think my main comment on this is that there is a distinction between welcoming and accepting all, and affirming and approving of what people do. The Levitical “love the foreigner” becomes Jesus’ “love your enemy”. This must show us that the love is not approval of the one who is loved, but a love for the unlovely.

      Jesus was rebuked for the company he kept. His response was not to say “these are all wonderful people” but to tell stories of loss and finding. Two of them are suffixed with rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents. The Gospel is about the rescue of wrongdoers. The compassion of God is about retrieving and transforming people.

      It seems very hard given the overall Biblical witness to think that God says “anything goes.”

      • You may think that but Jesus tells us the parable of the feast. Explain that to me without introducing any distinction as that parable does not. All, both good and bad alike, and it doesn’t dispute that some are bad, are invited in to feast. Where people begin by judging and rejecting they are not reflecting the character of the God I have tried to demonstrate in my earlier post at all. I would also say that the Levitical “love of foreigner” becomes Jesus’ “love of your enemy”. That is the starting point and that is the point. Now, where is that mirrored in the actions and behaviours of those who imagine that a person’s sexuality makes them “sinners” or beyond the pail or regards them as outcasts or in need of a condescending “pastoral accommodation”? Is that the activity of those who mirror God or his nature? No sir!

        PS the gospel is not, to my mind, about the “rescue of wrongdoers” at all. That seems to me to be far more descriptive of your apparent interpretive take and theology. It is, instead, about the transformation of the world itself, all existence. It is, in that well used phrase, a matter of reversal of values from human ones to heavenly ones. I would hesitate to suggest it is about a recreation of creation, a creation in which all humanity was seen in Genesis 1 as being represented by the primordial human, Adam, an androgynous being without gender at all. What that says about sexuality is mysterious but I’ll wager its got little to do with a theology which is merely concerned with doing wrong or doing right.

        • Are you primarily focusing on Matthew’s or Luke’s feast parable? Matthew used Rev and Luke used Matt (and Deuteronomy); the feast is highly prominent in Rev and (like other Rev themes) enters Matt in no small way despite having been absent from Mark. Matt 22 feast parable is one of 4 in Matt that are built for the purpose of illustrating precisely either a pre-existing Markan aphorism: Mt 20.16, 25.13, 25.29; or in this case, apparently a pre-existing contrast from Rev 17.14 that needs explaining. As you are using 2 of the later gospels here, it is hazardous to build your central understanding of Jesus on that. Though plenty of others do, of course.

          • Is this you talking now or Mark Goodacre? I’m using the version in Q, as reconstructed by the International Q Project, and Thomas 64 which, as April DeConick notes, “has no editorial relationship with Matthew 22.2-10. Also Thomas does not have the only Lukan editorial trace in the parable, the reference to the Gentile mission… [it] shows no Lukan or Matthean redactional peculiarities or changes including the allegorical and secondary features found in the Synoptic versions. The parable appears to me to display the characteristics of orally transmitted materials and offers us an early alternative version of this famous parable.” Not bad for a text “well into the 2nd century” which, if I may say so, is a woefully outdated view of Thomas as a whole.

            None of which makes a blind bit of difference in any case to the theological point I made by referencing this parable. Whether in Matthew, Luke, Thomas or non-existent, reconstructed Q all are invited in without differentiation. Get back to me when Mark Goodacre has told you what to think.

          • It is funny that you think I am having my strings pulled from across the pond, as I probably or certainly differ from Mark on a few very substantial points; namely, the central issue in the Synoptic Problem (which I see as OT templates); the sources of Matthew’s new material (which I see as James, 1 Peter, John, Revelation etc as well as Aesop; folk-legend, Matthew’s own redactional interests, some OT); and the entire question of John and the Synoptics where we take opposing views. But on the main family tree (Matt used Mark and Luke used both) I not merely agree but think the evidence is even stronger than he makes out. This has been for some while the fastest growing perspective so it is not just me.

            As for Thomas not having those details, Thomas is not consulting his sources but writing rather freely and loosely out of his memory of the stories he is familiar with. This being the case, he will not parallel the majority of details.

          • For ‘stories’ read ‘stories and sayings’. For ‘opposing views’ read ‘opposing positions’.

        • “PS the gospel is not, to my mind, about the “rescue of wrongdoers” at all.” At all??

          So “repent and believe” doesn’t suggest wrongdoing and rescue?
          “All have sinned and fall short…” needs no graceful lifeline from God?
          “Guilt” has no real meaning and carries no implications?
          “Fear him who can cast….into hell” is a plain lie about God?

          I don’t recognise the Gospel in what you say.

          • Ian – quite!

            Col1:13 “For he has ‘rescued’ us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”
            Gk Rhyomai = ‘Rescue’ (BDAG)

          • Ian H and Simon, you give a standard apocalyptic reading of “the gospel” a la Paul which is fine but its not my reading of Jesus which is what I am interested in.

          • Andrew – Paul claims his gospel was given to him directly by revelation of Jesus – Gal1- the church has always believed this -and that his gospel is the gospel – do you think Paul was mistaken? And the church for all these years? Are you driving a wedge between Paul and Jesus where others have failed for 100yrs?

          • Simon, it is my view, in print in public on the Internet, that Paul never met Jesus. I consider his Damascus road experience to be a vision. I do not envisage that Jesus at any point ever taught him what his message was. Paul simply learnt of Jesus as an apocalyptic risen Lord and Christ and preached him accordingly. This was not, as a matter of history in my view, the only option but it was that which Paul chose. The authentic Pauline letters are replete with titles and salvific schemes ascribed to “Christ”, something Paul calls Jesus a lot more than his actual name, but are startlingly free of either the teachings of Jesus or the phraseology of Jesus that even the gospels record. Accordingly, I probe diversity there as well as imagined similarity as I would expect any open-minded observer so to do.

        • Andrew, how does the fate of the man not wearing the wedding clothes fit into your narrative? That does not seem to be very compassionate of the king giving the feast, rather it is a judgement.

          • David, it doesn’t fit into the narrative of what I reconstruct the historical parable Jesus told to be. In simple terms, its Matthean redaction and addition. You my feel you have a duty to adhere to that Matthean redaction but I do not.

          • How can it be ‘simple’ terms when the idea that Matt’s version is secondary to Luke’s is anything but easy to argue? Why would Matt omit precisely the bit that Luke looks to have got form Deut? If the parable perfectly illustrates the difference between called and chosen (which Matt confirms it does) then the question of being chosen naturally comes after the question of being called within the story. But the called/chosen bifurcation predates Matt, in the same way that all Matt’s other end-of-parable morals predate Matt. How then is this Matthean redaction?

          • Christopher, since you already know I accept the Q hypothesis as the solution to the Synoptic problem, it must surely not be beyond your capabilities to ascertain why I regard it as Matthean redaction. What this has to do with being secondary to Luke is a matter for you since I don’t think Luke used Matthew or Matthew used Luke.

            None of which, for the umpteenth time, was my point anyway so I will bow out gracefully at this point by reiterating that, for me, the point of the core parable is that Jesus tells a story of any who can be found being invited into the eschatological banquet. Without distinction.

          • So is your adherence to Q unchallengeable despite all the question marks it raises? (Naughtily I remind you that to fail to debate is to concede…though of course we are off-topic on this.)

          • Christopher, of course it is not “unchallengeable”! What about the study of the historical Jesus or the gospels is? It is, in my view, and that of several hundred salaried academics, the best solution. It certainly convinces more far more than Goodacre’s arguments, with which I am familiar, which are, to my eyes, far less popular in the academy worldwide and especially outside seminaries and other institutions premised on “defending the faith”.

            Perhaps we need another arena if you wish to pursue this further.

          • It is certainly odd that you think of Goodacre’s theory as suitable for the defence of the faith. One could say the precise opposite. The 2source theory allows the vast majority of the gospels material to be early and primary: Mark and Q. Whereas without Q, if one follows Goulder there is a lot of creativity by Matt and Luke.

            Secondly, if you list the followers of the Farrer hypothesis there’s a lot of liberals among them – probably a majority. Goulder, Fenton, Eve, HB Green, EP Sanders, Franklin, Muddiman, Morgan. The salaried of whom you speak will not be experts in every sub-field. One always has primarily to look at the writings of those who have looked into a topic most deeply.

          • (In haste, as not inappropriately, I am off to a wedding!)

            Andrew (L), you may choose to prefer Luke to Matthew. However, one would be wise to read the parable properly. In this there is no invitation to those in the streets, alleys, roads and lanes. They are compelled to come in. (Might a Calvinist suggest that this speaks of Irresistable Grace?) The main point of the parable comes in the last verse: “not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” Those compelled to come in are there to replace those who had accepted their invitations, but when the feast was prepared found they had more important things to do. So, there is at least one disqualification in this parable, which is putting one’s own concerns before that of the feast giver.

            I would also add that, if you prefer Luke’s Gospel, then a reading of it as a whole cannot escape the theme of repentance and forgiveness. I have already commented on Luke 15. The powerful incident at the meal of Simon the Pharisee is another good example, with the parable of the two debtors. How much do I love Jesus? Does this reflect the extent to which I know I have been forgiven?

            Luke records a key manifesto of Jesus in 5:31, ‘it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

            The themes of repentance and forgiveness pervade the Gospels. But these words do imply sinfulness and the need for change. Grace is offered to all, without distinction, but that Grace calls us to leave our life of sin, and offers the means to do so. None of us is without sin. All of us need forgiveness and grace.

            The irreducible matter at issue is whether sexual activity between two people of the same sex is always sinful, or sometimes can be good and be blessed. (I guess there are some who might say that it is never sinful).

          • David, I don’t prefer Luke’s gospel. What I am doing is screening out Matthean and Lukan redaction. The parable also appears in Thomas 64 by the way where it is used to condemn “buyers and merchants”.

          • Andrew, does your “screening out” remove all reference to sinners, forgiveness and repentance? They seem to me to be too much a part of the core text of all the synoptic Gospels to be editorial insertions. Given that, it seems to be very hard to see that Jesus of Nazareth did not conceive of the need of turning from sin as part of receiving the Kingdom.

            Of course, if the grounds for identifying some texts as editoral additions is that they do not match a presupposed view of the content of Jesus’ teaching, then one can adapt the text to any view one chooses. I would rather wrestle with apparent conflicts in the whole text.

            I believe that Karl Barth was once asked of his stand on the Bible. He said that he did not stand on the Bible, rather he sat under it.

          • David, no, my reading does not remove total reference to the things you mention but we are not discussing greater entities, we are discussing a single parable extant in 3 separate sources and, if you believe there was a Q Gospel, as I do, implicating a possible fourth. Furthermore, it is my belief that it is not the task of biblical researchers to assume the storyline of the Bible but, rather, to refuse to assume it. A genuine history has little to fear from honest investigation. In fact, one of few things one can assume about the Bible is that it is literature and so makes literary sense. That it is history and so makes historical sense is to be demonstrated.

        • In fact, Luke’s feast parable (3 excuses) is practically *the* classic case for a Deuteronomy skeleton in the journey narrative of 9.51-18.14. Note how different Luke is precisely here from Matt – just what would be expected if Luke were developing inherited material in a Deut direction. So why go here for bedrock historical Jesus?

          • Christopher, I wonder if “bedrock historical Jesus” is really a very useful term? Its my view that anyone who says they have such a thing is bluffing because, as Dale Allison said in “Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet” and then all the more forcefully in “Constructing Jesus”, a lack of verifiability about Jesus as a historical person is the most common historical truth. Would that scholars such as N.T. Wright had such humility and honesty instead of imagining they know what every Jew in Palestine was thinking in the First Century CE! But, as you will know, if one is interested in historical Jesus research and the historical development of the Gospels, which is one of my areas of interest, then you have to make choices somewhere down the line. Here it is interesting that those of a certain type of faith, the Dale Allison, James Dunn, Scot McKnight and N.T. Wright type approach, refuse to pick and choose amongst the texts and instead argue for a version of the “we have to trust it all or we can’t trust anything” argument. Yet by refusing to choose and refusing to do the hard and, frankly, fallible work of distinguishing the wheat from the chaff, you end up saying its all wheat and none of it is chaff. I must confess I find that weak as an argument and cowardly as a strategy. Better to be wrong but trying to find than taking the easy way out without having done any work at all except the straight bat defensiveness that is apologetic.

            That is a long-winded way of saying that there is a parable, certainly told multiple times by Jesus, behind Matthew 22, Luke 14 and Thomas 64. What that parable might have been is my primary interest and only secondarily what those who have written it down have done with it in accordance with their interests as a whole. This, in fact, is thematic for the whole field of historical Jesus study where the task is to be suspicious of the writers and discerning regarding their redaction. An example here would be Mark 1:15 which elides kingdom and gospel as if what Jesus meant by kingdom is what Mark means by gospel. That’s not historical in my analysis unless the history you seek is “how Mark used the kingdom message of Jesus and turned it into the gospel”. Mark then carries on doing that throughout his gospel which, in my view, is a hybrid of a number of elements, only one of which is material from the historical Jesus.

          • Kingdom and gospel are very intimately connected indeed for Mark, and also very central to him, because of their close connection in Isaiah 40 and 52 (Isa. 40-55 mainly servant songs being his deep structure).

            How can you generalise about bedrock? To say there is no bedrock at all is so sweeping as to take one’s breath away. In order to make such a statement one would first have had to reviewed the whole Jesus corpus bit by bit. Some things about Jesus are especially firmly historical as all would agree – baptism by John, crucifixion, temple action, parables, table fellowship, 12 disciples etc etc etc..

            You agree strongly with Tom Wright re the centrality of the feast parable and similar ones.

            I love Allison 1998 and the commentary, but Constructing Jesus I personally was less sure about – I found it a classic case of the perils of not having the right presuppositions and the terribly complicated picture that results, but of course it is terribly difficult to begin with all the right presuppositions.

            The parable is ultimately only in Luke and Thomas because it was first in Matthew. But it is in Matthew because Matthew sometimes expands a saying or principle (normally from Mark, but this time from Rev) into a parable in order to make it 3D.

            ‘A lack of verifiability about Jesus as a historical person is the most common historical truth’ – I don’t find your English clear here.

          • Christopher, I feel certain I do not have “the right presuppositions” and for that I am very grateful.

            “…when all is said and done we look for the historical Jesus with our imaginations – and there too is where we find him if we find him at all” Dale Allison, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet, p.7.

            PS I enjoyed Constructing Jesus but probably not for reasons Allison would have enjoyed. It is a book with a tour de force opening chapter that tells us memory is not something anyone can rely on and then he goes on to pretend that we can still know the truth anyway because of “the gist of the New Testament”. Lovely stuff!

          • Wow! There is not a single assertion in your comment, whether by Lloyd or Allison, with which I agree. The entirety of study is based on having accurate presuppositions.

          • Ah, I see, Andrew. You would prefer to be a Cavalier, “wrong but romantic” rather than a Roundhead, “right but revolting”.

          • It is certainly a revelation to me (and will be to many) that study ‘is’ not primarily about seeking correct/accurate answers. Is that a wish or a private definition?

        • It seemed to me that Andrew was saying that the parable of the feast means that God accepts all without any requirement to repent and seek forgiveness. That sounds to me like “anything goes.” I may have misunderstood.

          I assume your question means that you do not think that “anything goes.” Can I ask you how you decide what is good and what is not good?

          • David W
            The parable teaches that we are all invited to the feast, the prostitutes and tax collectors may get there first, they may have the seats of honour. We can do nothing to make ourselves worthy of this invitation. This does not mean that ‘anything goes’.

          • Penelope,
            The parable teaches that we are all invited to the feast, the prostitutes and tax collectors may get there first, they may have the seats of honour.

            Er, no it does not. Those in the streets and highways are compelled to come in. There is no invitation, no choice. They are there so that there would be no room for those who were invited (and had accepted) but then were more concerned with their own interests than to turn up when it was ready.

            No doubt, if one acted this out, the characters playing those forced to come would show pleasuer at the spread before them. But parables are not exactly allegories. You cannot necessarily interpret all details. The final verse of Luke’s version, as with the different ending of Matthew’s version, shows the story to be one of exclusion, not inclusion.

          • It is unlikely in the extreme that a parable whose only stated ‘moral’ includes ‘few are chosen’ is primarily a parable about inclusivity. It holds together the broad invitation with the fact that not all end up at the banquet.

  9. Penelope,
    1 Satan a better exegete than Jesus, (the Promised seed to crush Satan’s head) as an extended allusion to Eden scene is played out in Luke 4 with God’s true Son, the last Adam?
    2 Psalm 2 Thanks for asking. Great question. Thanks for the surprise opportunity to worship.
    2.1 This is fulfilled by Jesus the true anointed King of Kings.
    2.2 The Psalms are about Jesus, as he points out on the road to Emmaus who fulfils all scripture allusions, figures, patterns, covenants, prophecy and presence and more.
    2.3.1 ” God’s response to human pride sand power is to install his son on Zion. This points beyond Israel to Jesus God’s true Son to install in Zion, going to the cross…
    2.3.2 ..there is no refuge from him -only in him” My Rock My Refuge The Kellers
    2.4.1 ” The heart of Psalm 2 is is fulfilled the a) the reign of Jesus, the LORD’s King, b) in the present (Hebrews 12;22-24) c) and in the eternal Zion ( Revelation 22:10, 22-27 22:21)
    2.4.2.1 Jesus is the “Anointed King of Kings 2 Lord of Lords.
    2.4.2.2 “psalm 2:12 focuses on a special relationship with the anointed One, the LORD’s Son: personal devotion -“kiss” Alex Motyer – Psalms by the DaY
    Don’t we just worship Him. Once again thanks for the opportunity.

    • Geoff
      1) the serpent isn’t Satan. Read carefully.
      2) Psalm 2 isn’t about Jesus.
      Though you’re welcome to the opportunity to worship.

        • Hi David W

          Yes, of course. The first followers of Jesus and the writers of the NT mined their scriptures to discover why their Messiah was cursed by hanging on a tree and, yet, raised from the dead. There are many scriptures in the HB which speak to us of Christ. But this was not, pace Christopher, the original authorial intention. If we eviscerate the HB of all Judahite religion, to produce a Christian gospel, we are being supercessionist, at the very least

          • We get that and so did Peter: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who foretold the grace to come to you, searched and investigated carefully, trying to determine the time and setting to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”

            “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they foretold the things now announced by those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” (1 Pet. 1:10,11)

            So, regarding Psalm 2, the the original authorial understanding was at odds with the Holy Spirit’s intent.

          • Bold assertion, but St. Peter’s statement about OT prophetic insight partially ministering to future generations is underscored by Dan. 12:9-10 and doesn’t “eviscerate” the HB of all Judahite religion.

            Even Daniel was told: “ Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”

      • Penelope,
        Is it me who is wrong or Keller and Motyer? Perhaps you need to brush up on Biblical Theology and address the points made. Others may be interested in your answers, not me.
        Goodbye

          • Penelope,
            Alex Motyer,
            Perhaps you’ll be edified by this tribute to him by Lee Gatiss of the Church Society
            :http://churchsociety.org/blog/entry/a_tribute_to_j._alec_motyer_1924_2016

            Ftrom which this is taken: Born John Alexander Motyer in 1924, he studied at Trinity College, Dublin where he was awarded BA, MA, and BD degrees. He trained for Anglican ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and was a curate in Lichfield diocese before becoming a theological college tutor in Bristol. He was Vice Principal of Clifton Theological College (1954-1965) before going back into parish ministry at St Luke’s, West Hampstead for 5 years.

            The call to theological education remained with him, however, and he soon returned to Bristol and was Principal and Dean of Trinity College there (1971-1981). J. I. Packer was Associate Principal with him during these years, and everyone I’ve ever met who trained there at this time speaks very warmly indeed of the positive, Reformed and evangelical nature of the training and pastoral formation they received under Jim and Alec. The latter left Bristol to take up another ministerial position at Christ Church, Westbourne in 1981, from where he retired in 1989.

            Alec was both a scholarly and a popular writer. He was the Old Testament editor of the Bible Speaks Today commentary series, contributing his own unique volumes to that series, on Amos (1974), Philippians (1984), James (1985), and most recently Exodus (2005). His magnum opus (in my humble opinion) is his first commentary on Isaiah, published in 1993, which was followed by other smaller commentaries on the same book, as well as popular level volumes on the Old Testament and on preaching.

            He was a close reader of the text, with a keen eye for chiasms and other literary devices in scripture. “I’m not really a scholar,” he once said, “I’m just a man who loves the Word of God.” This came across in everything he wrote and lectured on. I remember being riveted by a talk he gave to the theological students’ fellowship in Oxford when I was an undergraduate (which later became the article on Isaiah, in the list below); and his talks on the covenant at Word Alive in Skegness in 1994 were so utterly gripping and absolutely compelling that I immediately bought the cassette recordings and almost wore my tape player out by listening to them again and again!

          • Thank you Geoff. Like Lee Gatiss not quite my cup p of tea, but clearly he has had a profound effect on your spiritual journey.
            My journey has been enriched by scholars of the HB from whom I have learned a little about serpents in Hebrew mythology. Nowhere in the HB or the NT is the serpent identified with Satan.

          • Christopher
            There is no link in Revelation between the serpent of Eden and Satan. Rev. speaks of the ancient serpent who is much more likely to be identified with the Leviathan, cf. Isaiah 27.

          • From your answer Penelope, it seems that you have heard of Motyer , but dismiss him as in the same category of Gatiss, with a wonderful Cultural Anglican response of subjective taste of tea taste, but not even the curate’s egg variety, without even reading him!
            Motyer is a Christian Hebrew scholar, obviously not up to your standards.
            The Hebrew Bible is the Christian Bible, unless you are a Marcion heretic. The God of the Hebrew Texts is the same God as revealed in by and through Jesus Christ.
            Satan is adversary of God, throughout scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, as you well know, and his spoken and written word, twisting and missusing for his own malign ends epitomised in Luke4.
            He is the god of this age.
            Of course, you may dismiss this as myth and defend him as a great exegete, seemingly, as an advocate for him.

          • But Satan / serpent has the ministry of leading people/nations astray, both 12.9 and 20.2-3. This is both a/the prime ministry of the Eden snake and also something not specially associated with Leviathan.

          • Genesis plainly says the serpent was a creature – ‘more crafty than an other wild animal’. The effect of this in the drama is to keep the focus of responsibility on Adam and Eve. There is no mention of the devil. Even after the fall God addresses and rebukes a snake, one of his creatures.

          • David (and Penelope) but I suspect you are aware that the serpent in the garden started to be understood as Satan = the devil in Jewish Second Temple literature, with its apocalyptic eschatology and binaries between good and evil (see 1 Enoch and Wisdom of Solomon) and this identification is taken for granted in the New Testament. I suspect this understanding is evident in some aspects of the account of Jesus being tempted in the desert, for example where Matt 4.3 describes the devil as ‘the tempter’ (lit ‘the one tempting’). And of course Rev 12 gathers all these terms together (serpent, Satan, devil, dragon). (The greek term here ophis, in Hebrew nachash, is not used of Leviathan in the wisdom literature, but is in the prophets e.g. Is 27.1. Given that it is the term for the serpent in Gen 3, I don’t think it is possible to argue that Rev 12 refers to Leviathan and *not* the serpent; it appears to be offering a theological integration of all the primeval opponents of God into one character, exactly in line with other apocalyptic literature.)

            I guess it might be seen as naively harmonising to say ‘The serpent is the devil’. But to say ‘the serpent is not the devil’ is to ignore this long, intra-canonical tradition of theological reading. And I think to insist that, within the canon, the *only* meaning of the text is the meaning that the immediate verses, rather than the whole canon, is strangely atomising–though it is a feature of quite a lot of reading of the texts on sexuality.

            If we cannot understand one another on this relatively simply question, it does not bode well.

            And I am not sure why we are getting distracted on this, when the large questions Andrew has asked are not really being answered anywhere..?

          • Christopher

            The dragon and the ancient serpent of Rev 12.9 closely parallel the twisting serpent and the dragon of Isaiah 27. No real echo in Rev. of the serpent in Genesis.

          • Ian
            I apologise for going off topic. I think it was a response to Geoff.
            But I do find it interesting that non canonical texts are licitbwhen they support our hermeneutic and illicit when they don’t!
            The dragon and the ancient serpent in Rev. 12 seem to me to echo the monsters of chaos which crop up in non-Genesis creation myths, e.g. Isaiah, rather than the serpent in Eden. But, it’s your area, not mine.

          • Geoff

            I assume that certain biblical scholars (Dale Martin perhaps?) are not your ‘cup of tea’.
            And, of course the Hebrew Bible is the Christian scripture, but it is also the Jewish scriptures and we should not eviscerate them for our own ends.
            Satan is not God’s adversary throughout the HB; sometimes he is God’s lieutenant.

          • Penelope, I don’t think you addressed the key point about leading astray. Eden snake does that, Leviathan doesn’t. But in any case John is a great systematiser. He will want or make a system where it can be understood how the different Bible references to serpents, deceivers etc relate to one another. For that reason, Leviathan is certainly present here too.

        • Strange then, that when Jesus, the second Adam, overcomes temptation in the wilderness by rejecting the lust of the flesh (i.e. directing divine power towards sating his physical needs), the lust of the eyes (i.e. to succumb to the alluring vision of earthly kingdoms and their worldly glory) and the pride of life (i.e. to presume divine providence should impart invulnerability) cf. 1 John 2:15-17, He is tempted by the devil, and not a serpent.

          If your thesis about the serpent in Genesis was correct, the gospel mentioning Satan’s role in the wilderness temptation would also detract for Jesus’ responsible obedience in overcoming it.

          It doesn’t.

          • Thanks, David.
            The is also the point about the promised seed… (Jesus) crushing/bruising the Serpent’s head….on the cross, taking the curse.

          • David
            Forgive me, I don’t understand your point at all. The serpent in Genesis is a serpent (which had interesting roles in Hebrew myth).
            Jesus is tempted by satan in the wilderness.

          • I was replying to David R’s assertion about the serpent (vs. Satan) in Genesis that “the effect of this in the drama is to keep the focus of responsibility on Adam and Eve”.

            It’s an argument without substance, since, if that was truly the case, Satan’s involvement (vs. a serpent) in the wilderness temptation would take focus away from Jesus’ responsibility in obedience.

            As I said: it doesn’t.

          • David On what basis do you assume that these two passages of scripture – written thousands of years apart, crafted by different authors, using different literary genres, languages, in historically different cultures, one featuring a cunning creature, the other Satan himself, one centred on the first two humans, the other on the Son of God – must mean, and be saying, exactly the same thing?

          • Hi David,

            I concur with Ian, when he wrote: “I think to insist that, within the canon, the *only* meaning of the text is the meaning that the immediate verses, rather than the whole canon, is strangely atomising.”

            Nevertheless, my focus was on your reasoning about the role of the serpent in the Genesis narrative by which you asserted that: “the effect of this in the drama is to keep the focus of responsibility on Adam and Eve”

            If that were true, the converse effect of Satan in the wilderness temptation would be to take the focus of responsibility away from Christ.

            I would re-iterate that Satan’s involvement in Jesus’ temptation doesn’t detract from His responsibility in obedience.

          • Hi David R,

            BTW, how do you understand the Gen. 3:15 prophecy of enmity between Eve’s seed and that of the serpent, and the crushing of the serpent’s head by Eve’s seed to be fulfilled?

          • David S cites Gen 3.15. This is to the point. My comments on the 2.7.18 post contend that the Satan = Eden-serpent equation (baed largely on this verse) is all over John. It’s a case of ‘let me count the ways’.

  10. As some of this topic is rooted in an interpretation of Acts 15, I have been pondering that passage. One point is that this can be seen as the first ecumenical council. This was, in effect, the whole Church reaching an important decision. Perhaps decisions about this are too important for even houses of bishops to decide, let alone blog commentators! For us in the Church of England, we need to remember that Anglicanism is no longer centred in the West. Its heart is African. Of course, it is the case that Christianity generally is ceasing to be Western. Deciding about doctrine needs to be done on a wide stage.

    • David, you seem to be propounding a myth of uniformity, much as Acts does itself, in fact. Does it not concern you that Galilee is entirely absent from Acts save a cursory mention in Acts 9:31? What did those who followed Jesus in Galilee in, say, 30-50 CE believe? How would we know?Have you ever asked yourself if such notables as Peter, Paul and James preached the same thing? Have you ever asked yourself what Apollos taught? Have you ever asked yourself about the development of Syrian or Eastern Christianity? You may well know that there is a lot of scholarly debate about these and other things. A lot of this debate puts Acts in question and it certainly puts the claimed uniformity of Christian belief in question. Some would even suggest that Christian beliefs started proliferating and diverging from the very first. Today, indeed, we have thousands of different “Christian” denominations and several ancient, and different, traditions. So was Acts 15 really “the whole church”? I doubt it. It was the story Luke was interested in. There are, doubtless, lots of other stories that could have been told but either weren’t or disappeared. Are they less valid? Do only the historical victors count? Or, put it another way, is the historical victor what we call the truth?

      • The truth is far more important than the historical victor. But what is meant by ‘historical victor’ anyway? – given that history never comes to a. As Sellar and Yeatman put it. (Or has not yet done so, but will one day.) Claims to be ‘on the right side of history’, as though it is obvious that history is culminating in the lifetime of the speaker, are just as self-centred as those other more theological claims that invariably put the eschaton in the lifetime of the speaker.

      • I thought that any history that could be written would inevitably tell only a minority of the whole story. That is because so many millions of things happen, not because the historians are incompetent.

      • Andrew Lloyd Just to think you for your contributions here which I am finding very stimulating. I have been on long walks like yours! And I would love to read more of your exploring re Acts and beyond. You mention a book? Thanks again.

        • Stimulating is all I aim to be David. Unlike many, I don’t claim to know anything but I do hope to identify, and ask, good questions that those who feel themselves more certain seem to overlook. Having located your website, I will send you an email at the address you give there about my own work. Thank you for reading me.

          • You must know something! Even if it is that you know nothing. People always say that Socrates was especially wise because he claimed not to know. But in fact he merely claimed not to know on those occasions *when* he did not know, which is basic honesty.

          • Saying that knowledge is never attainable anywhere is a remarkably totalitarian generalisation; has it been thought through? Wouldn’t there be a standard deviation curve for how easy it was to attain knowledge on different matters? To presuppose that the ‘very difficult’ category must outnumber the ‘very easy’ is an ideological assumption, and in order to make such an assumption one must have the broad sweep of all possible topics in one’s purview. Impossible. Often caution is an excuse for not thinking. Caution per se is not scholarly (it can be a cop-out sometimes); what is scholarly is appropriate caution, caution-where-appropriate.

      • Andrew
        So much yes! There is so much that we don’t know, but also so much that we ignore or prefer to harmonise. Such as the gulf between Acts 15 and Galatians, where so many scholars (particularly of a previous generation have preferred ‘Luke’s’ version, rather than Paul’s own.

  11. I would very much like to read David R’s response to Andrew G’s critique here. In particular the crux point Andrew makes by reference to Prof Martin. If indeed one reads the Acts15 event as Martin, David, VickyB et al do, and deduce from it that the Spirit can lead us to wholly new places not yet revealed, new ethics contradicting old ethical and moral parameters, then Prof Martin’s boast of ‘lots of sex with lots of men gay, straight or bi…’ and playful promotion of uninhibited sexual experimentation, promiscuous gay sex and gay orgies, seem reasonable. I have never read David R ever advocate for anything like this (thank God) but only for a full acceptance and blessing of Christians in PFS – but Andrew G rightly presses, why stop there? Indeed, why not aggressively pursue where the hermeneutic leads and embrace the libertarian example and exhortation of Prof Dale Martin? Who decides and how on where the Spirit is leading? Why cannot the church home-Group decide they want to meet for group-sex not prayer and Bible study? On what basis can we prescribe or even proscribe? Who is to say what the Spirit is saying?

    I really do think Andrew G gets to the nub of the matter here – the use of Acts15 to justify the Spirit endorsing gay sex is, to my mind, using the Bible in order to reject the Bible.

    • Simon Greetings. I have yet to fully digest what Andrew wrote and I intend to. But I do find it a bit strange that such an extended part of his response to me focuses on a book I made no reference to and an approach I would never endorse. As such I find it is a rather a ‘slippery slope’ argument. These are generally based on anxiety and fear – where will it all end? – which makes the discussions we need, which need courage and trust, even harder to conduct.

      You ask, ‘Why not aggressively pursue where the hermeneutic leads’. Because it doesn’t! I find that to be a massive and actually rather offensive assumption. The context is couples wanting to forsake all others and faithfully commit to one another in marriage as long as they both shall live. When heterosexual couples do this we don’t turn up here saying ‘where is this hermeneutic going to lead to’ and feverishly speculate on the wild, amoral, promiscuous behaviour that will surely result (though goodness knows we heterosexuals have more than enough to answer for when it comes to sex and faithful relating). So why do we do it for our gay brothers and sisters?

      ‘Why stop there?’ Because we committed to scripture.

      ‘Who decides and how and where the Spirit is leading’? Well there is nothing new in that question. The church has journeyed with it throughout its history. Surely you have regularly faced that kind of issue in church life Simon? There is nothing new in home groups doing UDI on issues such as the sacraments or leadership – especially in our evangelical and charismatic worlds. How have you handled it? The issue doesn’t change because those involved are gay.

      So no, I don’t think Andrew G gets to the nub of the matter here. It’s potentially rather a distraction.
      And finally Simon – this is not ‘endorsing gay sex’ – that is unless you are willing to define your marriage and mine in the same terms.

      • David, the reason why Andrew talks about a book you do not is that he notes that the hermeneutical trajectory in it follows the same pattern as yours.

        So I guess the question is: at what points are you doing something different from Martin in moving beyond scripture?

        Note that Andrew is not accusing the gay community of anything; he is citing a well-known, widely circulated and often welcomed argument from one of their own. Martin features regularly in debates on this issue.

      • Hi David,

        I think that there’s significant value in this clarification of your position in response to both Simon’s questions here and Andrew G’s above reflection on Dale Martin’s position.

        You ask, ‘Why not aggressively pursue where the hermeneutic leads’. Because it doesn’t! I find that to be a massive and actually rather offensive assumption.

        ‘Why stop there?’ Because we committed to scripture.

        However, you wrote further: “The context is couples wanting to forsake all others and faithfully commit to one another in marriage as long as they both shall live. When heterosexual couples do this we don’t turn up here saying ‘where is this hermeneutic going to lead to’ and feverishly speculate on the wild, amoral, promiscuous behaviour that will surely result (though goodness knows we heterosexuals have more than enough to answer for when it comes to sex and faithful relating). So why do we do it for our gay brothers and sisters?”

        Well, it’s not feverish speculation to reflect on the other affirming hermeneutic approach which resulted in Jayne Ozanne and Vicky Beeching’s affirming sexual relationships which might not be wild, but are certainly neither within marriage, nor permanent, nor stable.

        “Because we committed to scripture” is as resolute a rejection of their position (also held by Miranda Threfall-Holmes) as any others I’ve heard.

        And it’s good to know that commitment to scripture should prevent both conservative and affirming evangelicals alike from campaigning for the Church to affirm sexual relationships beyond the context of those who, as you say, “forsake all others and faithfully commit to one another in marriage as long as they both shall live”.

        That’s true, even if you still remain averse towards making “negative public pronouncements”, as you’ve said, having been formed in “a tradition that has too often taught sex badly and caused great hurt and isolation in its consequent judgments and boundary making.”

        https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/why-should-we-listen-to-vicky-beeching/#comment-353209

        We’re getting somewhere.

      • David the point is that the exact same approach you take leads others, mainstream in the affirming movement, to much more permissive conclusions than ones you endorse – indeed, your own position is probably among the more marginal, being termed ‘pseudo-radical’ by Susannah Cornwall. The mainstream is represented by OBOF, which does not place clear limits on the ‘diversity’ it affirms, and it is this more permissive version (eg no mention of limits or marriage) which is appearing in episcopal missives such as those in Lichfield and Oxford, where we are being asked to affirm without qualification. So while I accept that you are entirely convinced that scripture constrains affirmation to PFS sexual relationships, that is not where the mainstream of the affirming movement is.

        Furthermore, as Andrew notes, it is not hard to see how your argument could be used to dismiss the imposition of ‘heteronormative’ marriage norms on LGBT Christians in favour of accepting LGBT people on their own terms, just as Acts 15 shows that Gentiles were not to be accepted on Jewish terms. So it is not slippery slope anxiety, it is pointing out the logic of your position and how it is followed by many if not most of those in the affirming camp.

        • Will
          I hardly think that David is responsible for what others in the ‘affirming movement’ might believe. We can agree with David’s hermeneutic or we can disagree; what we do with our conclusions is our own responsibility.
          You have spoken before of Cornwall’s description of people who believe in SSM as ‘pseudo radicals’. It is an apt term. She is not, I think (nor am I, and nor is David) suggesting that Christians ought to be ‘true’ radicals in this matter. Some gay and non binary people are, eschewing marriage with all its patriarchal etc. overtones; maybe even some Xians among them. But, as you say, not the mainstream, nor likely to be.

          • Penelope it is not a matter only of agreeing or disagreeing with David’s conclusions but about examining the logic of an argument and where it leads and where others take the same logic to lead.

            I’m confused by your last comment as it is quite clear from OBOF and the main representatives of the affirming movement that the mainstream of that movement affirms some non- marital sexual relationships. As do you of course. It is only a small ‘pseudo-radical’ minority that thinks sex should be limited to PSF relationships.

          • Will
            ‘Acts 15 shows why the same sex attracted should be affirmed on these terms’. No it doesn’t. It means there is hermeneutical precedent within scripture for the developing of beliefs in new ways.

            Will, having asked me a question – you then straight away tell me why I am wrong.

            Because …
            1) ‘The bible does forbid same sex relations’. Will, that is your opinion. It is not mine and others like me. We disagree.
            2) ‘it is very much a minority reading’. You state this twice. Can I ask when Christian belief has ever been based on a majority views? ‘One with God is a majority’ was the mantra I was taught in youth club days. Are the majority always right or minority’s wrong? This is certainly not an argument the early Christians could use. Christian beliefs are based on theological study of scripture – not percentages. And Christians have always been in debate with each other and with the Word.

        • Will and Simon
          Penny is right but on the basis of your logic do you accept that your conservative biblical belief about same-sex sex is ‘exactly same approach’ that leads others to violently persecute, exclude, kill, criminalising and support the penalty for being gay ?

          • David

            The mainstream of the affirming group is pro some non-marital sexual relationships. See OBOF. Also many of their leading writers. And the recent bishops’ missives to affirm LGBT relationships, no questions asked, no standards set.

            Please can you point to the mainstream conservative thinkers today who advocate for the things you mention? Also the NT passages supporting those courses of action.

            Your view is on the edges of the affirming group. Very few argue for such a restrictive approach to sexual relationships. And that’s because they either ignore scripture or follow your logic of how to use it to its natural conclusion.

          • Thanks David. I think I want to take your challenge seriously here, for two reasons. First is that the texts of Leviticus do indeed prescribe the death penalty for offence, and secondly because, as you highlight, there are Anglicans in the world today who read this texts and understand them as endorsing violence towards gay people. So there is a fair question: where does the hermeneutic of people like me lead, and is it continuity with these others?

            For me, there are three issues here. The first is textual. OT law prescribes all sorts of penalties for all sorts of things, and it has long been recognised in Christian theology that whilst the law might express God’s mind on sin and holiness, these laws are expressed in a particular cultural context, and cannot be simply carried over either into another social context or from the first covenant to the second. Such a distinction between the intention and the execution (pun not intended) seems to me to be at the heart of Jesus re-appropriation of the law in Matt 5 to 7, where he both recontextualises (and so *appears* to reinterpret) but at the same time insists on the enduring relevance and importance of law. I think Paul does the same.

            The second is connected with that, and is canonical. Both Jesus (in his repeated emphasis on issues of sexual morality, alongside issues of greed and justice) and Paul (quite explicitly) assume that the key moral aspects of the law carry over to the new Israel of Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus. But both are very clear that violent sanctions are to be rejected and so offer no support for contemporary violence against anyone involved in sinful activity of any kind. To advocate violence means both setting aside the explicit teaching of Jesus and Paul as well as rejecting their own appropriation of these texts.

            The third is about hermeneutics and how we read these texts. I think to many people in Africa (and to Westboro Baptist church) I would look like a woolly liberal, because I do believe in a self-conscious process of hermeneutical deliberation, whereas others appear to take a more ‘straight line’ approach to these texts. So for me, the answer to the question of whether same-sex sexual relations and holy and should be commended cannot simply be answered by asking ‘what do these individual texts say’. The individiual texts need to be taken in cultural, historical and canonical context, in order to provide an answer to the bigger question: ‘What is a biblical theological understanding of sex, sexuality, and bodily relationships?’ or, if you like ‘What is God’s mind on these questions?’. That is not the hermeneutic that those pursuing violence against the gay community follow, and it is not a hermeneutic that leads to violence.

            So, my answer is: violence is not the end trajectory of this hermeneutic which rejects same-sex sexual relationships, even those exclusive, permanent and stable. And this hermeneutic is based on what is within the canon rather than extension beyond it. I think this kind of approach is the one I see consistently presented in discussions within the Church of England in support of the Church’s current teaching position.

            The question then remains: given that, like Martin, you want to extend our ethics beyond the canon, and given that, like Martin, you want to reject what the whole canon consistently and explicitly says, for what reasons do you reject his extension whilst endorsing your own?

          • Thanks for engaging on this Ian.
            This has to be a brief response but …
            ‘you want to extend our ethics beyond the canon’. Where you read me wanting that I am not sure. No I don’t. I am clear the priority is to be based on scripture – not bypassing it. But we need to work out how to read the bible for wisdom and guidance for situations and contexts the bible itself does not directly address or even know about. (nothing startling about this – contraception, family planning, organ transplants, genetic engineering, Brexit ….)
            ‘and given that, like Martin, you want to reject what the whole canon consistently and explicitly says ‘. Hold on! ‘The whole canon!?’ You have me down, like Martin’ as trying to re-invent the entire faith. Lord who can stand! (Pause while I pop out to gather some more wood and firelighters to put around my stake in the garden).
            Nor, as you know, do we agree about what you believe the canon ‘constantly and explicitly’ says on this subject. The Christian gay couples I know take scripture as seriously for their guide in their relationships and way of life. As I do. Neither they, nor I, find anything in scripture to encourage or endorse the kind of experimenting Martin apparently is interested in (I haven’t read him).
            (Now where did I put the matches …?)

          • David

            If I understand you correctly you think that the bible forbids sex outside of PFS relationships but not same sex relations as such, and that Acts 15 shows why the same sex attracted should be affirmed on these terms. So the reason you think the logic doesn’t follow through to non PFS sexual relationships is because the bible forbids those. Is this a fair summary?

            My objections to this are:
            1) The bible does forbid same sex relations as such and it is very much a minority reading among biblical scholars to think that the verses which appear to do so are not doing so.
            2) The bible restricts sexual relationships to marriage not to PFS relationships, which it understands in intrinsically male female terms.
            3) This approach to affirming same sex relationships is anyway very much a minority one in the affirming movement since very few in that movement believe that sexual relationships should be confined to PFS relationships, whether from the bible or by setting aside scripture.

            If I’ve misunderstood your view please let me know!

          • Will
            Sorry – this posted in the wrong place. Hope this works ….

            ‘Acts 15 shows why the same sex attracted should be affirmed on these terms’. No it doesn’t. It means there is hermeneutical precedent within scripture for the developing of beliefs in new ways.

            Then Will, having asked me a question, you then straight away tell me why I am wrong.
            Because …
            1) ‘The bible does forbid same sex relations’. Will, that is your opinion. It is not mine and others like me. We disagree.
            2) ‘it is very much a minority reading’. You state this twice. Can I ask when Christian belief has ever been based on a majority views? ‘One with God is a majority’ was the mantra I was taught in youth club days. Are the majority always right or minority’s wrong? This is certainly not an argument the early Christians could use. Christian beliefs are based on theological study of scripture – not percentages. And Christians have always been in debate with each other and with the Word.

          • I don’t think David’s take on scripture is correct (ie the idea that it doesn’t pronounce on same sex relations in general and that it is concerned with PFS relationships abstracted from male female marriage), but even if it was there is the point that the affirming movement in general is not looking for the affirmation only of PFS sexual relationships. If it was that would be front and centre of all their output. Instead what we find are imperatives to affirm diversity and to avoid questioning and the absence of clear standards. This is clear even in the Lichfield and Oxford bishops’ letters – no mention of PFS there. Just encouragement to affirm. It’s not a slippery slope, it’s just the reality of the movement.

            The logic of using Acts 15 to develop beliefs in new ways as a general hermeneutical technique also throws the possibilities wide open – and if God and one is a majority then who is the arbiter?

          • Hi Will,
            Please excuse me for chipping in. Please could you put me out of my misery and tell me what PFS relationships are? So far my Google search has come up with ‘Personal Finance Society’ and Progression-Free Survival’, and neither of those seems to fit in the context of this conversation!

        • Will
          I think you are employing the slippery slope trajectory here. And it’s just silly isn’t it. I’m moderately left-wing. I don’t become more socialist by reading stuff produced by Momentum or because lots of my friends think Corbyn would make a great PM. Liberalism, like conservatism, has many shades and gradations. Some liberals (myself included) see nothing immoral in couples living together before the wedding. As do many evangelicals. They realise that since reliable contraception became available and shame lessened, sexual mores have shifted (although lots of couples have cohabited before the marriage ceremony, even before the advent of reliable contraception). Likewise, some advocates of LGBTI equality are comfortable with polyamory (especially those who regards marriage as a heterosexual institution); others (who desire the covenant or sacrament of marriage) are most definitely not. Rather the same as in the straight ‘community’.

          • I don’t believe in a slippery slope in all instances. Perhaps more common is a precipitous drop followed by a plateauing, such as was seen for numerous aspects of the sexual revolution from 1960s/70s on. The end result is the same.

          • Hi Penelope/David R,

            I don’t think that Will is arguing that the affirming
            “direction of travel” is on course for an inevitable 1:4 incline with minimal traction towards free-wheeling libertarianism.

            Sure. We all understand that affirming arguments are no more monolithic than conservative ones, but, in response to Andrew G’s post, it surely can’t be wrong to ask David to summarise where he principally differs from Dale Martin’s argument for far greater liberty, as presented above.

            In other words, where and why does David believe that the argument fails for a far more libertarian stance than his own position allows?

          • Hi David S

            David R can of course speak for himself. But as I understand it the reason he thinks the logic of his argument does not imply further affirmation of sexual relationships is because he thinks scripture forbids non-PFS sexual relationships.

            What I think we want to know is why he is so confident that his Acts 15 inspired hermeneutical development won’t quickly inspire alternative hermeneutical development. Particularly as (as I’m trying, not very successfully it seems, to point out) both his reading of the texts and his sexual ethic are very much minority positions among biblical scholars and affirming proponents respectively.

            A good question perhaps then is why, given this context, he is so confident his view will become widely accepted among biblical scholars and affirming writers and activists and will therefore hold for any length of time?

          • Hi Will

            I cannot offering any guarantees that others won’t take and distort what I believe to a scriptural reading. Nor can you with your views. I am not responsible for what others think. But I can and do engage and seek to contribute to the wider debate where I can. Sometimes it is my own views that change. Sometimes we must agree to differ in gospel unity.

            I have already challenged your approach to measuring truth as that which the majority believes. I think you are rather hopeful in assuming where the majority view lies here. But the argument does not interest me as I find nothing biblical in that approach. In fact I think it is rather dangerous.

            ‘why he is so confident his view will become widely accepted among biblical scholars and affirming writers and activists and will therefore hold for any length of time?’
            Well it is not just my view. A lot of people already hold it.
            I believe it is true – but not that I am infallible.
            The test of time is crucial – we must wait and see. Jesus teaches precisely that approach.

          • Thanks Will, but I still want to ask David R “to summarise where he principally differs from Dale Martin’s argument for far greater liberty, as presented above.”

          • Hi David R

            In terms of biblical scholars, I don’t see why seeing what is held by the vast majority of those with relevant expertise is a poor guide to the truth (though not infallible of course). Here is a (partial) list of affirming scholars who believe that the scriptural prohibitions on same-sex relations are just that (they reject of course that this means we should prohibit them): Bernadette Brooten, Louis Crompton, Luke Timothy Johnson, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Martti Nissinen, Pim Pronk, William Schoedel, Dan O. Via, Walter Wink. Which biblical scholars are you relying on for your readings? The point is not the numbers of course but that they are right in their reading; however, the sheer number of those who study these things who hold it to be the case (even when they might be thought to have a reason to desire it not to be so) must have some weight for us non-experts.

            In terms of the affirming group, I have already pointed to the fact that none of the main affirming organisation – One Body One Faith, Inclusive Church and so on – are committed to the PSF standard as the exclusive context for sexual relationships. Neither have the letters from the bishops of Lichfield and Oxford mentioned it, always appealing for the affirmation of LGBT relationships in general, no questions asked, no standards set.

            Among those on here, besides yourself, do any believe that it is only PSF sexual relationships that are morally unacceptable? I’d be happy to be pleasantly surprised to find that many, or indeed any, do.

            You should be interested in these arguments. They are important for the credibility of your position and its likelihood of being sustainable for any period of time, if in fact it can gain any purchase at all.

          • Will
            Sorry for butting in (but you didn’t answer my point above!), but aren’t you confusing two different things. People who believe that sex before ‘marriage’ is ethically fine don’t subscribe to the ‘PSF standard’. I believe in permanence and fidelity, but I don’t condemn sex before marriage; nor do I condemn divorce.

          • Thanks Penelope.

            David R does believe that only PSF sexual relationships are morally permissible and one of my points to him is that his is very much a minority belief among the affirming group – I’d be surprised if it’s shared by anyone on here but I’d be happy to be corrected. I believe your view is much more representative of the group, though there is no small number of libertines like Martin.

            This means it is highly unlikely that David’s view could ever become established as a replacement sexual ethic in the church and that to change teaching on marriage is also to change approach on appropriate contexts of sexual activity beyond marriage-like relationships. The fact that the letters from the bishops of Lichfield and Oxford didn’t mention a PSF standard for LGBT relationships is I think telling and typical.

            In terms of your question about how I know that God wills all children to have a mother and a father, no I didn’t answer it.

          • Will
            I think I got my syntax somewhat tangled!
            What I meant to say was that people who believe that pre-marital sex is ethical also believe in PSF relationships.
            The belief in PSF unions is normativecamong my friends in OBOF and all the people I know in CPs and SSMs.
            Since you usually pursue my comments for elucidation, may I ask again, why you believe that God wills all children to have a mother and a father.

          • Penelope the problem here is the phrase ‘believe in PSF relationships’. You appear to mean that you think they’re a good idea as something to aim at. Which is great. But not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the proper context for sexual behaviour. That is the teaching of the church and the bible that is in dispute and at stake. That is what David R says is only for PSF relationships. And that is what we say is only for marriage while pointing out that David R is part of a very small minority among the affirming in thinking that sex outside PSF relationships is unethical. To accept the possibility that pre marital sexual relationships can be ethical would be to concede the whole argument.

          • Will I’m afraid I am not in the position to keep up with this debate over the next few weeks but will try.
            You do keep quoting my supposed on PSF. And I feel each time you do you are making me sound narrower than I am. I find your position on much of this to very rigidly boundaried and having banged in the fence posts so tight a great deal of honest, moral living is left on the outside.
            ‘David R does believe that only PSF sexual relationships are morally permissible’. I can speak from ideals – but in practice I cannot be so excluding of the way people work this out with moral integrity,
            ‘To accept the possibility that pre marital sexual relationships can be ethical would be to concede the whole argument.’ I don’t agree. My position would be closer to Penny’s.

          • Thank you David.

            But doesn’t this just prove the main point here, that your approach to scripture doesn’t only justify sexual activity in PSF relationships but in some contexts outside of them as well, and thus that we are not looking at a slippery slope here so much as a done deal in terms of a further shift in Christian sexual ethics and understanding of what purity requires?

            It turns out that the whole premise of this discussion has been misconceived as you are not merely wishing to extend permission for sexual activity to same-sex PSF relationships but to other, not ‘rigidly boundaried’ contexts as well, in line with the mainstream of opinion in the affirming group. But how can we discuss the ethics and theology and hermeneutics of an idea that isn’t even defined? What do you think scripture permits in terms of sexual relationships and on what grounds? You are clear in being uncomfortable with a ‘rigid’ restriction of sexual relationships to PSF ones and also with Martin’s libertine ethic. But where between those do you sit and why? If it’s not defined then it can’t be defended or disputed, or taught or upheld.

          • Will I think working out Christian ethics in a world of very different understandings is not generally best done from loud hailer insistence on keeping boundaries that in practice have been largely abandoned. We need a way of working the out in the midst – not shouting from the edge. I know there is a great deal of damage out there. But there is also a great deal of faithful integrity and care too. I have struggled here with how a great deal of this discussion thread has constantly assumed that the only alternative to a very strong conservative, abstain or (heterosexual) marriage, ethic will only be a widely promiscuous one – particularly when involving same-sex relationships.

          • David, the problem is that your writing claims to find justification in scripture for extending a Christian understanding of acceptable sexual relationships to same-sex PSF ones, not to an undefined group of relationships without rigid boundaries. If what you want to defend is extending Christian sexual ethics to a set of relationships without rigid boundaries then you need to make that argument and explain how it arises from a faithful reading of scripture. Does an Acts 15 hermeneutic extend to affirming people in all manner of forms of sexual relationship? What are the boundaries to this? How does this fit with NT teaching on the importance of sexual purity and avoiding sexual immorality?

          • Thank you Will. I do believe that PSF relationships are something to aim for, for all genders and sexuslities. And that they are mostly the best context for the nurture of children.
            That is my reading of scripture and observation of what is generally the good in western society.
            Nowhere in scripture do I find an explicit statement that the only context for child rearing is a two-parent ‘heterosexual’ family. One would really not expect to find such a text in either the HB or the NT. it would be anachronistic. So our readings must be inferences.
            Nor have you yet answered my question about how you know this is God’s will?

          • Having PSF as an ideal is a backward step from having it as a norm. It was a norm for centuries, and these were centuries of far flung people and much-reduced opportunity for policing!! But if something has been a norm for much longer than it has been an ideal, that means it is something that is well able to be sustained as a norm.

          • Penelope, in terms of the present discussion the issue is that David R has not presented arguments for such views (if he shares them). He has given arguments for extending the Christian sexual ethic to same-sex PSF relationships under the rubric of marriage. If he wants also to extend it to other forms of relationship without rigid boundaries then he needs to make that argument, explaining where boundaries of any kind might fall, and how this view arises from a faithful reading of scripture, including NT teaching on sexual purity and sexual immorality.

          • Penelope – yes, to avoid getting sidetracked from the main topic by continuing a discussion from a previous thread.

            Actually, talking of unanswered questions, do you know which leading biblical scholars share David’s reading of the passages which have traditionally been taken to be expressing negative judgements on same-sex relations?

          • Will
            It’s really odd that you expect me to answer questions on David’s behalf but that you are unwilling – either in this thread or the last – to explain how you know that God wills all children to have a mother and a father. Since many same-sex couples wish to parent children, this is a rather important ethical concern.

          • Next time the topic comes up we can resume the discussion – I stopped on the previous thread because I was too busy at that point and I don’t want to get sidetracked on this one.

            I wasn’t expecting you to do anything, just wondering if you had any ideas about a question I raised on this thread. It wasn’t really on David’s behalf so much as something you might have some insight into.

          • Penelope, what do you mean by saying that PSF was not the norm for centuries? It’s exactly the sort of vague statement (or creed?) that I ideally aspire to avoid. Which country? Which period? UK illegitimacy was at 2-4 percent 1750-1950: that is a stable situation (rose slightly during Napoleonic and World Wars).

    • Simon
      David R is not ‘using’ Acts to endorse gay sex.
      Firstly, he is employing a hermeneutic to suggest that the admission of gentiles without qualification is analogous to the extension of marriage to same-sex couples.
      Secondly, what is this ‘gay sex’ of which you write? There is no such thing.

  12. Penelope – it was a slightly clumsy phrase – I guess Prof Martin’s comments, quoted above and listened to online by me, left me uncertain of just the right phrase and the right predicate to attach and in which order.

  13. Penelope you correct me stating, “gay sex’ there is no such thing”. Interested to see Prof Dale Martin has written of ‘heterosexual sex’ – presumably the category ‘gay sex’ is something he would not balk at and certainly his descriptions in his lecture (linked by Andrew) might fit such a category?

    David R – you seem to balk at my introducing the category of sex (following Andrew G’s) – I note Prof Dale Martin has written: ‘The debate that currently rages over homosexuality is not really about homosexuality. It is about sex itself. ‘

    https://reflections.yale.edu/article/sex-and-church/it-s-about-sexnot-homosexuality

    The question of course is whether Prof Martin’s insights and views reflect those that are normative in this debate among the ‘affirming’ group. There is a wide spectrum between Prof Dale Martin’s apparent endorsement of promiscuous sex and gay group sex and David R’s blessing on PSF – but on what basis is a line drawn or ignored?

    • Simon Greetings. I engaged with various things you said and asked some genuine questions in return in my post to you. I don’t know what you thought of them. You have simply pushed back a question on my last sentence to you. I don’t accept all the questions are for me to answer here.

    • Simon
      I admire Dale Martin, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he writes. I argue that there is no such thing as ‘gay sex’, because all sexual intimacies which gay people enjoy can also be enjoyed by straight people.

      • Penelope
        “all sexual intimacies which gay people enjoy can also be enjoyed by straight people.” Perhaps, but would you agree that your proposition cannot be true vice-versa as sex between gay people cannot enjoy the physiological correlation (union of sexual members that belong together by design) nor enjoy the potential of teleological procreation.

        • Simon
          I’m not sure what you mean by teleological procreation, but many straight couples engage in sex acts which cannot result in procreation, either because they are infertile or the acts they enjoy are not open to procreation. I don’t believe there is a hierarchy of sexual intimacy.

          • You are surprising me Penelope. That’s not your usual robust logical argument.
            It’s simple enough even for me…

            1. Gay couples cannot under any circumstances enjoy all the sexual experiences of straight couples.

            2. There are no circumstances in which gay people can procreate.

            The rest is obfuscation.

          • Penelope, you sidestepped the central point about teleological procreation, which is clear (if not absolutely layperson’s) English.

          • Apologies for my odd terms – I made them up when typing my response to Penelope and put them together ‘cos they sounded alliteratively nice – and I think obvious in meaning – Christopher though is right, hardly Layman’s English – but I’m not a layman, just a simple cleric.

            1) Physiological Correlation 2) Teleological Procreation
            1) Male & female genitalia, are by God’s design, made to fit
            2) The telos/goal of this union has the potential for creating life

            Regardless of whether 1 or 2 ‘always’ feature in heterosexual sex,
            1 & 2 can never feature in gay sex and thus Penelope’s proposition that “all sexual intimacies which gay people enjoy can also be enjoyed by straight people” cannot be said vice-versa.

            Penelope’s claim “there is no hierarchy of sexual intimacy” is patently wrong in relationships and even law: if I kissed another woman tenderly that would be highly inappropriate, if I had sex with her that would be adultery. Both would have consequences, the latter far more severe than the former – a hierarchy of sexual intimacy.

          • Ian H and Simon

            It is true that there is one straight sexual activity – PIV intercourse – which gay people cannot engage in.
            Procreation is one telos of PIV intercourse. It cannot be the only telos of sexual intimacy, as the CoE marriage service demonstrates. I think we have had this discussion on a previous thread, but if PIV intercourse is the telos of sexual intimacy, what, then, is the telos of the clitoris?
            What I mean by hierarchy, this, is that there is no table which places PIV sex at the top and, say, oral sex at the bottom, teleologically or morally.

  14. How far all this is from Paul’s saintliness. ‘Let fornication and all impurity not even be named among you. … You know that no fornicator or impure person has an inheritance in the kingdom. … It is shameful even to speak of the things they do in secret.’ (Eph 5)

  15. Ian (Paul),
    At last.
    Hope you don’t take this as patronising but your answers of “Ian Paul
    January 12, 2019 at 11:30 am” and “Ian Paul
    January 12, 2019 at 11:48 am,”
    Whilst on seemingly unrelated tangential (Psalm2, Satan) topics they drew out and brought together under one theme , the crucial, which is at the nub of this whole series of Andrew Goddard’s pieces, and the place of the Bishops theology: How do we read scripture? Can we see the wood for the trees?
    It is as you say a whole, canon, biblical theological approach, a seeming newly invented incomprehensible foreign language to some scholars, though even in the paucity of my naive lay understanding have been aware of since first encountering Goldsworthy (who, as you will know Vaughan Roberts heavily leans on in his “Big Picture” book) in the mid 90’s, then, I think, the now moribund “Beginning with Moses..” web site, followed by many others since then, mostly from the other side of the Pond, such Edmund Clowney (who with Keller did a taught PhD on the subject- lectures available free on inter-net) Beale&Carson, many of whom credit the influence of Anglican Alex Motyer, as you will know. (Motyer’s lectures the book of Exodus at the Keswick Convention some years ago, when he was in his 80’s, were marvellous – a man who obviously loved scripture, but more, loved the LORD of scripture.
    You have articulated it in away well beyond my competence, with coherence, cogency and compelling weight, except for those who are activists, beyond persuasion. From one lay theologically inarticulate interloper – thank you.

    • As a first year student in an English department of biblical studies in the mid-nineties during an Old Testament lecture, a rather cocky student, me, put up is hand in response to something the lecturer, the distinguished Old Testament professor, Philip R Davies, had said. I asked him what the issue he had been talking about would look like in the context of “canonical theology”.

      Davies did not hesitate with his answer and it has stuck with me ever since. “There is no such thing,” he said.

      • Andrew,
        Not a very scholarly answer and wrong, although if this is correct,in relation to “Whose Bible is it anyway” I doubt his Christian credentials or his belief in the Triune God:
        “Philip Davies argues that the Bible may belong to the church or synagogue as an instrument of religious practice, but as an object of academic study it belongs to the world as a whole and as such can function in theory and practice as a secular discourse. A number of exegetical studies suggests that a genuinely academic discourse about biblical writings-one that distances itself from received canons of interpretation-can expose a subtext of deceit within the Creation narratives, re-conceptualize the relationship between Abraham and his deity, reveal lament psalms as texts of oppression, and identify the death of Daniel’s God.

        In a new chapter, Davies evaluates how the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian contributes to “life of Jesus” research. Here is a challenge to conventional biblical scholarship and a bid to define and establish a genuine academic discipline of biblical studies.”
        I’d have like to have heard his conversion testimony.
        He could equally have become an Egyptologist without believing in their deities.
        as an atheist, I was fond of Monty Python on the TV Series, as were my student contemporaries as we watched it collectively as the drinks flowed in a nearby student pub.
        A “genuine academic disciple”. He’s having a Monty Python laugh, almost beyond their own anarchic , heretical parody. No doubt this is some disservice to some of his learning, but I’d not stake my eternal salvation on it.
        It seems as though he might also have lived through some of his years in the 60’s and 70’s.
        He might even be welded to form criticism, Bultman and all his derivative disciples of all stripes, of Schweitzer and his Kingdom of God and the Jesus Seminar.
        Andrew, which God do you worship? Can you give a testimony about your conversion to Christ.?It would be good to hear.
        I could perhaps give a more detailed response, but don’t have any reference books to hand, (out on loan) such as McDowell’s “New Evidence that Demands a Verdict” that I bought to offer some counters to what was being taught, without any alternatives on a Methodist Faith and Worship on Course, as it jarred with my supernatural conversion to Christ at the age of 47, and with all my training and experience as a lawyer.

        Perhaps this progressive Biblical Theology reading is just too radical and progressive, for the traditional reconstructionists who have morphed into ne- oreconstructionists and those, some of whom may have lived and been infected by the sexual mores of the 60’s and 70’s. and with all the handed down entailments on family, sexual activity and liberal theology.
        Do you have a creed? If so, on what is it based. The canon, perhaps?
        Here is one which I first came across in a book, from the mid 90’s by Ravi Zacharias, “Can Man Live Without God”, given away to a questioning Senior Mental Health Manager. It seems remarkably prescient:
        CREED by Steve Turner:
        “We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin.
        We believe everything is OK
        as long as you don’t hurt anyone,
        to the best of your definition of hurt,
        and to the best of your definition of knowledge.

        We believe in sex before, during,
        and after marriage.
        We believe in the therapy of sin.
        We believe that adultery is fun.
        We believe that sodomy is OK
        We believe that taboos are taboo.

        We believe that everything’s getting better
        despite evidence to the contrary.
        The evidence must be investigated, and
        you can prove anything with evidence.

        We believe there’s something in horoscopes,
        UFO’s and bent spoons;
        Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
        Mohammed, and ourselves.
        He was a good moral teacher although we think
        some his good morals were bad.

        We believe that all religions are basically the same;
        at least the one that we read were.
        They all believe in love and goodness.
        They only differ on matters of creation,
        sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

        We believe that after death comes The Nothing
        because when you ask the dead what happens
        they say Nothing.
        If death is not the end, if the dead have lied,
        then it’s compulsory heaven for all
        excepting perhaps Hitler, Stalin and Genghis Khan.

        We believe in Masters and Johnson.
        What’s selected is average.
        What’s average is normal.
        What’s normal is good.

        We believe in total disarmament because We believe
        there are direct links between warfare and bloodshed.
        Americans should beat their guns into tractors
        and the Russians would be sure to follow.

        We believe that man is essentially good.
        It’s only his behaviour that lets him down.
        This is the fault of society.
        Society is the fault of conditions.
        Conditions are the fault of society.

        We believe that each man must find the truth
        that is right for him.
        Reality will adapt accordingly.
        The universe will readjust. History will alter.
        We believe that there is no absolute truth
        excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

        We believe in the rejection of creeds
        and the flowering of individual thought.

        Post Script

        If chance be the father of all flesh,
        disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
        and when you hear:
        ‘state of emergency’,
        ‘sniper kills ten’,
        ‘troops on rampage’,
        ‘youths go looting’,
        ‘bomb-blast school’,
        it is but the sound of man worshipping his maker.”

        • Geoff, it does not sit well with me for people to pontificate about “scholarly answers” when their own are long-winded and barely intelligible religious dogma. Quite what your credentials are to pronounce anything “wrong” in the face of a decorated former member of the biblical academy you will have to inform me. Yet in an effort to further my point about Emeritus Professor Davies allow me to quote him directly: “Despite its origin as a descriptive exercise… ‘biblical theology’ has been predominantly a Christian genre, including the sub-genre of ‘Old Testament Theology’. It has rarely if ever been ‘descriptive’ rather than highly evaluative. But the Old Testament Hebrew Bible offers a theology of neither Judaism nor Christianity, and the status of the usefulness of its ‘theology’ is somewhat questionable: indeed, there is a widespread consensus nowadays that it has no simple ‘theology’ (Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception 1, no. 1, (2011), p.146).

          • Andrew,
            Frankly Andrew, from what you quote of Davies, it gets worse.
            Let’s stop this tit for tat nonsense. According to your own lights is “totally devoid of meaning” – and propounds your own dogma.
            From the authoritative Christian sources I’ve cited, no matter how lauded Davies is wrong. My conclusion comes from their writings and teachings. Have you read “He Walked Amongst Us?”
            Please tell me if I’m wrong to conclude that that what you quote above from Davies could be categorised of neo Marcion dogma. Do you find the scriptures as we have them, intelligible?
            As for intelligibility, I’m making myself vulnerable here. I have had a stroke and have extremely poor keyboard skills, even more so when stamina deserts and tiredness seeks to prevail. I would not pass any exams now.
            But I was trained to speak “without fear or favour.” Of course I could take umbrage at your comment and play the vulnerability, victim card.
            Which God do you believe in Andrew, let’s have you testimony? What is your creed? And how about Psalm 2. It would be good to have your input. But not really. We are worlds apart.
            I’ll sign off with this reminder of Ian Paul’s comment:
            Ian Paul
            January 12, 2019 at 11:48 am
            Many blessings in the name of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit.
            Geoff

          • The greater truth, Geoff, is that we are NOT world’s apart. We are of the same species and inhabit the same planet. We use the same faculties to come to different conclusions.

            That is the mystery.

      • PRD, an OT scholar of high capability, was certainly a child of the sixties! I do agree with him that canonical thought can be a fudge and that it is best to begin by studying individual authors separately. As for ‘There is no such thing’, that certainly overstates it. Why would writers in a common culture not mutually illuminate or cross fertilise? The more so in cases where they were writing of a shared reality.

        • Thanks Christopher.
          I was also greatly helped by this book,” He walked Among Us” by McDowell and Wilson of which you are likely to be aware.It was of great help as a fairly, new but old convert, encountering form criticism and the rest and Q for the first time. I have it somewhere, but here is a free download. It’s probably too slight for you.
          https://s3.amazonaws.com/jmm.us/Books-Downloadable/He+Walked+Among+Us.pdf
          I had to find these McDowell books myself as they weren’t course material which was written with total uncritical acceptance and promotion of Higher criticism and the historical critical method.
          Interesting to me was the knowledge of the law and rules of evidence and collection of it in criminal court cases and police evidence that I put to some use in critiquing methodology and assumptions in conclusions.
          I have a friend , a retired dentist, a local preacher, 12 or so years older, whose formative young adult years were moulded by Albert Schweitzer and his theology has been locked into that time. He’s unmovable, as is his adherence to Jung. He’s caught in the pincer between those two. Consequently Now he is delightfully devoted to Jordan Peterson. But John Stott was also an influence, even though he’d been raised in the Brethren.

  16. You are surprising me Penelope. That’s not your usual robust logical argument.
    It’s simple enough even for me…

    1. Gay couples cannot under any circumstances enjoy all the sexual experiences of straight couples.

    2. There are no circumstances in which gay people can procreate.

    The rest is obfuscation.

  17. It is apparent to me the level of Bullying by those who wish to seriously alter the understanding Christianity has of the importance of marriage and the family.

    In all of these articles the bullying of revisionists becomes very clear when no consistent arguments in favour of LG relationships is ever put but, no matter how hard I examine what is written. There is only ever consistent sniping at extensive understanding of what scripture tells us and how it has been handled within tradition, as well as consistently avoiding the subject and selectively choosing parts of the subject at which one can take a shot (no matter how misguided that shot is).

    It is part of the twisting and bullying to claim to be “moderate”, such as the claim to be “moderately left-wing”, when very clearly one of the three words is untrue.

    The Oxford letter, whilst not the subject of this piece, talks of bullying LGBT people whilst very conveniently ignoring the extensive and clear bullying of Christians around them including patronising and dismissing those LGB people around them who have chosen celibacy.

    I, for one, will consistently stand up to the bullying, no matter what the cost is to me personally. At my licensing I swore an oath before the congregation and the Bishop in the cathedral that I accepted Scripture as the primary authority (not secondary or tertiary) and I am old enough that I believe an oath is not something one breaks – ever.

    • Clive, when you took this oath did you commit yourself to any specific interpretation of Scripture or merely the written markings on a page? As you must realise, to have done the latter commits you to precisely nothing since, as any practitioner or observer of Jewish biblical interpretation will be aware, that there are markings on a page is relatively trivial. It is what you think they mean and can rhetorically justify that counts. So the common phrase “Scripture as the primary authority” is utterly devoid of meaning. It is the meaning you give to it that is the point at issue. Presumably this also means that your oath was either relatively nebulous or that you imagined it meant something it, in actuality, did not. Things to ponder, I think.

      • Andrew, given your response you have proved my point absolutely perfectly ….well done! You prove the modern trend of treating oaths as meaningless and irrelevant. I am not in that position and I will not keep my fingers crossed either rhetorically or factually when making an oath.

        I know how difficult interpretting Scripture is, I am not shying away from that but I will not, under any circumstances read into Scripture anything that i want it to say but instead struggle with it even when it says something i do not want to hear.

        • Actually, Clive, I take it that you have proved your own point to yourself. You have taken my comment and read it as you preferred to! Nowhere did I say the oath was “meaningless”. Rather, I asked what you understood by it and if its meaning was fixed. That, I suggest, is what you should be wrestling with.

          • So as both your first reply and this one says you are trying to say that interpretting Scripture has meaning it just to be any meaning that works for you ….. Therefore you prove my point perfectly, absolutely perfectly.

          • And yet you do that without simultaneously pointing out that yours works for you. Hypocrisy or blindness? You act as if you are doing something fundamentally different and yet you are doing exactly the same. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t read so that things accord with their view of the world.

          • So their view of the world never changes as a result of what they read? It is always the other way round?

          • No Christopher. What I didn’t say to Clive but could have is that I never said that the reading a text might have is necessarily one with which any reader would agree. It is manifestly easy to find texts which you read as something you disagree with. In my case, most of your posts come to mind, for example. And where there is disagreement there is opportunity for learning.

            However, Clive, as many readers who do not have a sufficiently complex theory of interpretation, assumes the text must mean one thing or, as the only possible alternative, it means “whatever the reader wants it to mean” in an anything goes free for all. That would be as far away from a theory of interpretation that I would accept as it is possible to get. Unfortunately, it seems that Clive is not willing to engage on those issues and he prefers his comfortable “this oath means what I want to commit to” instead. This is unfortunate when I raised interpretational questions about its meaning which, to me, seem very much open to interpretation. So it is not me propounding the “what I want it to mean” hermeneutics; it is Clive. I, on the other hand, would be happy to affirm that the world quite often changes as a result of what I read. I would hope everybody’s did.

    • Clive,
      That is deeply encouraging to me, as someone who no longer has anything to lose personally in any of this. It is so important to Christianity in general as the CoE (and Catholicism) is generally seen in this country (England) to be the mouthpiece, the exemplar of Christian. beliefs.
      A retired friend who was first a local preacher in the Methodists became an ordained minister in the CoE. He was concerned that he’d have to say he accepted/believed the 39 Articles. (My understanding is that is no longer necessary). He was told that he’d should just say that he did, as a lot of those already ordained didn’t accept them either.
      I came away from the Methodist Local Preacher training as I couldn’t, at the end of it, in any licensing service, vow not to preach or teach against the Methodist doctrines (not that many knew what they were). I was told that I should just agree that I wouldn’t. Congregants may have be en non-the- wiser, but I would. But, I had nothing to lose financially, or in status, within or outside the church.
      I read in the Sunday Times today that the kerfuffle over the the appointment of the ABoC representative in Rome, over resurrection belief, was blandly batted away (my words) as due diligence having been done in the appointment process. What a patronising statement, if correctly reported, that either lacked integrity or revealed the core beliefs.

      • “A retired friend who was first a local preacher in the Methodists became an ordained minister in the CoE. He was concerned that he’d have to say he accepted/believed the 39 Articles. (My understanding is that is no longer necessary). He was told that he’d should just say that he did, as a lot of those already ordained didn’t accept them either.”

        What confusion there seems to be over the 39 articles, which simply aren’t taught in any detail any longer anyway. I think the requirement that clergy subscribe to every statement in the 39 Articles was abolished as long ago as 1865. What we are required to give is “assent” which has never been legally defined.

        As to the nonsense about the ABofC rep in Rome: In 1938 there was a Report on doctrine in the Church of England, and it specifically allowed for differences in the way the “Resurrection” was understood. The resurrection of the body is much more than a conjuring trick with bones.

        • Do you not really know what assent means. Maybe this definition from the online Collins dictionary is too simple for you:
          “If someone gives their assent to something that has been suggested, they formally agree to it.”
          Why on earth does it need to be “legally deifined”. Which Court are you going to take it to, what cause of action? What locus standi will you have. It would be struck out as “frivolous or vexatious.”
          Preposterous.

          • We’ve been here before Geoff. We assent that they are historical formularies.
            You’ve only got to read them to see the heavily Protestant prejudices. Some of the articles are somewhat offensive – deliberately so – and 400 years after they were formulated it isn’t possible to assent to them in the way you suggest.

          • Andrew Godsall,
            Not sure where this will pop up in the sequence of comments
            but it is a rejoinder to your comment: “…We assent that they are historical formularies.
            You’ve only got to read them to see the heavily Protestant prejudices. Some of the articles are somewhat offensive – deliberately so –…”
            1 “heavily Protestant” now that is a surprise. Fancy that, the CoE being heavily Protestant. Whatever next. Pigs might fly.
            2 “offensively – deliberately so” Oh yes they had you in mind when they were written.
            The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ , God’s Son, God the Son Saviour, supernaturally incarnate, in time space and history, killed in history and by you (and me )…think about it in the expansion and contraction of time and eternity, and supernaturally physically raised from the dead , is prfoundly offensive.
            3 And your spercilious comment about the Resurrection is what, if not meant to be deeply offensive? But to whom? to my Triune God.
            4 “18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

            “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
            the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]

            20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

            26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1
            5 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
            1 Corinthians 15:17
            6. It seems that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.
            7 This is not a trifling matter: it is of the essence of Christianity, which you mock.
            8 Which god do you believe in? Which god do you BELIEVE. What is your creed? Do you know your god.
            9 It would be good to have your testimony of conversion to Jesus. Do you know him ? Do you know our Triune God.
            10 Do you know our God as John Owen did as exemplified in his “Communion with God” as exemplied by Wesley C in the likes of “Love Divine All loves Excelling” and “And can it be.”
            11 Or this by Graham Kendrick:
            “All I once held dear, built my life upon
            All this world reveres, and wars to own
            All I once thought gain I have counted loss
            Spent and worthless now, compared to this

            Knowing you, Jesus
            Knowing you, there is no greater thing
            You’re my all, you’re the best
            You’re my joy, my righteousness
            And I love you, Lord

            Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
            To be found in you and known as yours
            To possess by faith what I could not earn
            All-surpassing gift of righteousness

            Oh, to know the power of your risen life
            And to know You in Your sufferings
            To become like you in your death, my Lord
            So with you to live and never die”

            12 Do you kno who you are missing? Do you even want to know? Doesn’t it make you want to worsh, with soring heart and mind, and raised hands?

            Blessings in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit

          • Is it any wonder the the Church is so confused about sexuality when you have Graham Kendrick writing ranty songs about Jesus being his boyfriend. 🙂 Blatant rip off of an Abba song too – who did it about a million times better. 🙂 Thank goodness for plainsong is all I can say….

            Geoff: the articles were intended to be deliberately offensive to Roman Catholics. In a more enlightened age do you think that’s really ok?

            I’ve been ordained 30 years. I’ve taken the oaths and declarations many times. I’ve NEVER been quizzed about the articles. I went to a very mainstream theological college (Cuddesdon). They were not even mentioned during my two years. I’ve never been taught them. Asked about them. I’ve been a DDO. They aren’t even mentioned in the criteria for selection. Do you really want to maintain that they are the be all and end all?

          • Andrew (Godsall),
            Don’t where on earth this is going to get posted. Tied once and lost it.
            The only thing I know about you is from what you have written, and what you’ve avoided.
            As you know, this is a personal blog, and it is here dealing with something far bigger than in-house Anglican wrangling. it is of public Christian-wide importance.
            It goes without saying you are not obliged to answer me, but you, not me, is seemingly in a senior CoE position. I’d aver that your beliefs are to be known, broadcast publically. You already have in relation to the bodily resurrection of Christ.
            In various comments I’ve revealed a lot about myself, former lawyer, former Senior NHS manager (more in name only), independent advocate for a mental health charity.
            My true name is Geoff. Ian Paul has my email address and can bar me.
            Through this whole set of blog post I now am aware of the CEEC. I see that one of the members was a Magistrate when I was an advocate. We still recognise each other. I became supernaturally born from above at the age of 47, on a CoE Alpha Course.
            Penelope, if she can recall, knows quite a bit about me from all we’ve written.
            Penelope , I have a Blessed Assurance of my eternal destiny, from the true Priest, true High, Priest Jesus, not from the presence or advice or counsel from Andrew, though he may offer some wisdom, with humour.
            This is not to be taken as patronising, but on the plain reading of Ephesians 1 & 2 there is a marvellous reality revealed there.
            I’d challenge you to doubt your doubts

        • Andrew
          You and I have disagreed about this on various threads. There is no way that the language of the Declaration of Assent and the Preface can be made to support your assertion ‘We assent that they are historical formularies’. I will not rehearse my detailed points here but will just point out:
          1 Underlying our disagreement, I suspect, is the different views we hold on the Reformation disagreements between Roman Catholics and the Reformers. As I see it those disagreements were and are about what the Bible reveals are the vital doctrines of salvation including: Original Sin, Free Will, Atonement, Justification, the place of Good Works, Predestination and Christ the only way of Salvation. Articles 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18 and 31, and certain of the Homilies, make the Church of England’s teaching on these vital truths clear. All who make the Declaration commit themselves to believing and teaching these truths.
          2 I don’t know whether your ‘…39 articles, which simply aren’t taught in any detail any longer anyway’ is true of any, some, or most CofE theological colleges. I would be amazed if it was true of them all, e.g. Oak Hill. If it is true of some that just means that the teachers there have moved away from Reformation truths to some other doctrines of salvation. This has been and is the sad trajectory for the last 350 or so years.
          3 ‘A 5 Of the doctrine of the Church of England
          The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.
          In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal’
          Canon A5 says that ‘such doctrine is to be found’, now – not ‘was found’ (in the 16/17th century).
          4 I have suggested to Ian Paul that he should start a thread specifically devoted to Canons A5 and C15 for a full debate. I continue to hope that he will agree to do so.
          Phil Almond

          • Phil: I’m sure that doctrine is to be found in the 39 articles. I just don’t think that’s the only place it’s found, and I just don’t think they are infallible. And I think understanding has moved on since the 16/17 C.

          • Andrew
            Canon A5 says where the doctrine of the CoE is to be found NOW. That is the point I challenge you to answer, please.
            Phil Almond

          • Andrew
            What is not clear to me is this: on the one hand you are saying that the Declaration of Assent does not commit you to believing and preaching the doctrines of the Articles; on the other hand Canon A5 is saying that the doctrine of the Church of England ‘……is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal’. That means that you are not committed to believing and preaching the doctrine of the Church of England. What is not clear to me is how you can regard that situation as satisfactory.
            Phil Almond

          • Phil: I’m sure its found there. But I don’t believe it’s the entire story. I’ve preached in some pretty significant places and some very insignificant ones. Preaching has to engage with where people actually are. And none of them (practically) are where the 39 articles are.

          • Andrew
            Thanks for your reply. Can I just explore what you mean by ‘But I don’t believe it’s the entire story’.
            According to Article 9, we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God because of Adam’s sin and our own sins, and we are all born with a faulty and corrupt nature and we are all of our own nature inclined to evil, but there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptised. And we learn from, for example, the Homily on the Nativity (‘And because death, according to S. Paul, is the iust stipende and reward of sinne, therefore to appease the wrath of GOD, and to satisfie his Iustice, it was expedient that our Mediatour should be such a one, as might take vpon him the sins of mankinde and sustaine the due punishment thereof, namely death’) why there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptised.
            In what way, as you see it, is not this the essential ‘entire story’ of sin, atonement and justification?
            I entirely agree that ‘Preaching has to engage with where people actually are.’ Article 9’s terrible but true diagnosis is just where people actually are before they believe the wonderful good news and repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection.

            Phil Almond

          • Thanks Phil. We’ve discussed this before. I see very little point in doing so again. Not everyone accepts that Calvinistic take on sin. I certainly don’t.
            (And concupiscence is certainly not a word that’s likely to be where people are at).

          • Andrew

            What you describe as the ‘Calvinistic take on sin’ is the doctrine of the Church of England and the Bible according to Canons A5 and C15.

            Phil Almond

          • No it isn’t Phil. It’s what was thought over 400 years ago at a time of very severe political and religious turmoil in our country and in the face of the Reformation on the continent. A potent mix. It isn’t what everyone in the C of E thought then or thinks now.
            Which is not to say that doctrine isn’t found in the 39 articles. Just that they aren’t the whole story……and never will be. There is more light and truth to break from God’s word than is there in Scripture, Canons or Articles. All of those things simply bear witness.

        • Andrew (Godsall),
          Andrew,
          1 Kendrick – It is a trite, twitter-like comment.You clearly don’t know the Kendrick song. It is neither of the ranty, nor Jesus is my boyfriend sort, nor an Abba clone, though your smilies might hide a smirk, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Nor do you answer the points about John Owen and Wesley.
          2 Then numbered points you fail to answer are deeply significant. The essentials. And as far as I’m aware, though I stand to be corrected, in Catholic doctrine the bodily resurrection of Christ is essential. Your seeming discipleship of (and quotation from) David Jenkins about the resurrection – cited with implied affirmation, would be deeply offensive to Catholics.
          3 Longevity in office is not relevant (that is, logically probative of the facts in issue.)
          4 No doubt it will offend you: I’m probing you about your testimony, beliefs, and your god, your creed which can be said with believing integrity. Which is really what this is about. You are wasting your time and everyone’s time if the bodily resurrection did not take place. Perhaps faking it. (Now where can I find that smiley.) It is not about cultural Anglicanism.
          5 Are the scriptural citations, in your bible, or have you cut them out?
          6 What is scripture to you, NT and OT combined?

          • Geoff: I’ve no idea who are. This ain’t a thread for questioning me about my beliefs. Other people have already done that, ordained me, licensed me, entrusted me etc.

            I know the Kendrick song. It’s drivel. (In my opinion)

            I repeat my question to you: I’ve taken the oaths and declarations many times. I’ve NEVER been quizzed about the articles. I went to a very mainstream theological college (Cuddesdon). They were not even mentioned during my two years. I’ve never been taught them. Asked about them. I’ve been a DDO. They aren’t even mentioned in the criteria for selection. Do you really want to maintain that they are the be all and end all?

          • In what sense was Cuddesdon mainstream?

            (1) In terms of being the establishment stream, for preferment – absolutely – and especially from the 1980s. But that is morally neutral.

            (2) In terms of being typical – pretty much. But nothing is typical in Anglicanism of course, as it has 3-4 streams.

            (3) In terms of being middle of the road in what was taught. Certainly not historically, but not even in a contemporary sense. It was towards the liberal end, and poor Michael Hampson (‘Last Rites’) sighed with relief when he was taught actual facts, documents and artefacts in biblical studies having been taught nothing but vagueness and doubt -nothing solid or quantifiable- in every other module. I gather that Cuddesdon changed since then, under Martyn Percy.

        • Andrew (Godsall),
          It is deeply significant that you avoid the questions I probe.
          I don’t know you either, but I’d certainly not want to come under any spiritual or church authority of yours without knowing them and would leave if you preached or taught what I think you would. Here you leave me unknowing. And you wonder why there is decline. You have not given any semblance of the Good News of Jesus.
          And the questions get to the crux of the totality of the 3 Andrew Goddard blog posts.
          You hone in on what you see as a soft target or weakness (Kendrick) in what I wrote, while avoiding all the substance. Even with Kendrick, you dismiss out of hand, highhandedly without any any theology (scholarly or otherwise) it contains, with addressing. it.
          Of course, you’ll not be interested in this. My wife and I and a good sister in Lord sang heartily, in worship, the Kendrick song on my way to the operating theatre when my life was on the line, with no certainty that I’d come out on this side of eternity. “I’ll have some of that,” said the staff.
          Thank you for an opportunity to worship again- worship in surprising places in the midst of seeming unbelief.
          Bye.

          • Geoff: you will know a good deal more about me than I do you. You don’t even give your second name. You may not even be ‘Geoff’ for all I know. It’s significant that you want to remain basically anonymous, and I don’t generally reply to anonymous people – (something taught to me by a Bishop when I was his chaplain).
            I know about peoples lives on the line. I know about hospitals. I’m glad you found Kendrick helpful. I’d rather listen to Abba any day and six times on Sunday. But I was giving a personal opinion. You are quite entitled to your own.

          • Geoff
            Shall I tell you something? We all have our times of crisis, even if most are, fortunately, not as dramatic as yours. At these times, something, we hope, keeps us close to God. As you approached the Theatre, yours was a Kendrick song. Mine is priests like Andrew Godsall who lead me to believe that it is still possible to follow God with doubt, difference, integrity and humour.

    • Clive This one I presume?

      ‘I, A B, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness’.

    • Clive

      It might have been more pertinent, if, at your licensing, you had sworn not to be offensive.
      You know something of my theology through having interacted with me on this thread. You know nothing of my political allegiances, unless you also follow me on a Twitter. You have no idea whether I am moderate or radical or an extremist. You could do me the honour of believing my self designation, although, if I was, in fact, a member of Momentum, what would it matter to you?
      Often I see cabals gathering on social media and on Ian’s blog to attack the ‘others’. They are never the ‘moderates’ or the ‘liberals’. The bullies are the 104 in the Oxford Diocese who want to blackmail their own bishops and the HoB because they are Pelagians who have added something to the gospel. You know what St Paul said about them?

      • Penelope

        It wasn’t me who said “moderately left-wing” it was you who said it of yourself at
        January 12, 2019 at 8:24 pm. So it is odd that you choose to designate your own words as “offensive”.

        • Clive
          Please don’t play silly games. You know perfectly well what I mean. Though why you felt that you had to comment on my political affiliation and question it, is rather a mystery.

        • Or, Clive, why you think my self description is part of ‘twisting and bullying’. What am I twisting? Who am I bullying?

  18. Oh dear, I am getting befuddled. There are those who like the status quo, and defend it sometimes with “project fear”. Then there are those who want change, and suggest that the way ahead leads sunshine and roses. I’m not quite sure what they want in detail, because the remainers say that they understand someone wants just one thing, and then he says “no, not exactly”.
    The arguments are getting testy and rather ad hominem. I wonder what the rest of the world will do with us.

    Perhaps Acts 15 does not give a hermenutic for Brexit.

    • David Wilson,
      Of course Acts 15 does -that is, validates Brexit.
      It is the epitome of political theological liberation. We have liberation to leave, to take back control of our own national lives and make marital polygamous covenants, treaties with other nations.

  19. While I wait for David R to get back to me on his biblical argument for expanding the scope of ethical sexual relationships to non-PSF relationships without rigid boundaries, is anyone able to help me with the names of leading biblical scholars who read the passages traditionally taken to prohibit same-sex relations in other ways?

        • Wil

          Before I read anything else, here it is:
          the usual suspects –
          Martin, Loader, Boswell and Brownson;
          and –
          K. Renato Lings
          Halvor Moxnes
          Ken Stone
          Hugh Pyper
          Stephen D. Moore
          James Alison
          Douglas Campbell
          Loveday Alexander
          Louise Lawrence
          Linn Marie Tonstad
          Tobias Haller
          Teresa J. Hornsby
          Deryn Guest
          Sean Burke
          Joseph Marchal
          Charlotte Methuen
          Gillian Townsley
          Lynn Huber
          Adrian Thatcher
          Robert Song
          Sarah Coakley
          Gerard Loughlin
          Mark D. Jordan
          Daniel Boyarin
          Eugene Rogers
          Chris Greenough
          James Crossley

          * Some of these are theologians

          • Thanks Penelope. That’s a helpful list. Though not quite as helpful as I was hoping as I meant biblical scholars specifically engaging with the meaning of the texts in question (the ‘proof texts’). I guess I’ll have to do a little work to find which among these are those, and where they’ve published their research.

          • (Of these, there are of course some who want certain conclusions for personal reasons. The overlap there is beyond chance.)

            The following are NT scholars: Martin, Loader, Alexander (a careful scholar who does not take extreme positions), (Furnish could be added,) Moore, Crossley, Campbell (a brilliant scholar; fertility in ideas can go together with provisionality), Marchal, Boyarin (Judaism & NT). Lawrence, Huber, Hornsby too – though prime skills would be linguistic analysis. In some cases, social location and milieu more or less compels such a position (the alternative being ostracism). In others, there is often a sense that writers are working through autobiographical issues. Lings, Pyper, Guest are OT scholars. Ken Stone I don’t know of. Most of the others are theologians (theology of the non-biblical non-systematic kind has to fight hard if it is to escape being classified as mere speculation and/or ideology).

            But which of these denies that every time same sex ‘sexual’ activity is mentioned it is condemned strongly? And on what grounds would that be denied? We should be listing arguments not names – and not the arguments on tangential issues which have been oft-rehearsed. Without an answer to that central question, the other (tangential) issues are irrelevant.

        • Will and others

          A rider. These scholars are not necessarily engaging with the 7 or so ‘proof texts’, though some are. They are discussing other texts or engaging with the metanarrative of scripture.

        • Christopher

          All writers write though autobiographical lenses, as Andrew
          Lloyd has observed somewhere on this long thread.
          Ken Stone is a very fine HB scholar.
          I don’t share your rather dim view of theologians.

          • There are widely differing degrees of being autobiographical. Everyone agrees to that. If someone writes a book on Montaigne’s life and times, there is not a great deal of autobiography in it.

          • Really? A writer would not read Montaigne through her own hermeneutic lens? Have you read any biographies?

          • But in that case what I said was exactly right. ‘There are widely differing degrees of being autobiographical’. A scholar trained not to import personal or culturally distant matter into their historical oeuvre will minimise the degree to which they do so. I had never put the level to which they do so at zero. Unless the personal rears its head to exactly the same degree in every book ever written (which would be a coincidence…) then what I said was right.

          • Christopher
            You have a rather different view of scholarship from mine. Scholars – at least in the humanities – are not taught to not import personal material into their reflections, studies and readings, but to be self-reflective of how much personal stuff we all, inevitably, bring to our work, much of which is unacknowledged.

          • You can have 2 views on the specific issue under discussion. (1) Every work ever written is, by coincidence, autobiographical in exactly the same proportion. (2) No it isn’t: varying proportions are both possible and likely. (2) is my position and is the one of the two that is tenable.

      • Will

        OK, but dealing simply with the ‘proof texts’ is, as Ian has argued, redundant, atomising, and, I and other argue, leads to stalemate. Surely, the engagement should be with the sweep of scripture and, if we believe that there is a metanarrative, with other texts which speak to us of God’s purposes for sex, gender, procreation and sexuality. The ‘proof texts’ tell us very little about these, especially those, like Genesis 19 and Judges 19, which don’t deal with ‘sexuality’ at all, but rather with patriarchy, power and shame. I think that expecting these 7 texts to teach us an ethic of holy sexuality is like looking for a needle in a stack of needles.

        However, if you want scholars who do deal with these texts, the usual suspects do, as well as K. Renato Lings, James Alison, Daniel Boyarin, Loveday Alexander and Douglas Campbell

        • Thanks Penelope.

          The reason for asking about the ‘proof texts’ is not because they are all there is to say, but because David R bases his scriptural argument in part on the claim that the proof texts are not in fact condemnation of same-sex relations as such but only of certain kinds. So I wanted to know which biblical scholars take this view of the meaning of the texts, which is he relying on?

          I’ve looked up William Loader. He says (http://bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/homosexuality-in-the-new-testament):
          How did Paul understand homosexuality, and how did he view homosexual orientation and action? Paul’s approach to homosexuality and homosexual acts reflects the assumption he shares with other Jews of his time, that all people are heterosexual because God created humans male and female (Gen 1:27). Feeling or acting otherwise is unnatural and against God’s intent, an abomination Leviticus taught was worthy of death (Lev 18:20; Lev 20:13; see Rom 1:32). Paul typically focuses not just on the act of sinning but on sin as a state of being. Accordingly, he condemns the action involved in same-sex relations, namely, for males, anal intercourse, but he goes behind it to what he sees as the state of being which produces it. Thus, Paul argues that a perverted response to God led to people having a perverted response to each other, in particular, having passions towards their own sex. Paul’s concern is not just pederasty but also consensual sex (Rom 1:27). He probably saw intense passions producing the perversion. Like other Jews of the time, Paul extended this to lesbian relations (Rom 1:26). Although some scholars suggest that “unnatural” (Greek para physin) relations concerns birth control or nonprocreative heterosexual intercourse, the context suggests that Paul is talking about same-sex sexual relationships between women (Rom 1:26). In Paul’s world, for a man to take a passive (female) role or a woman to take an active (male) role was unnatural and shameful. Paul’s contemporary, the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, shared Plato’s argument that same-sex relationships were unnatural because they wasted semen and would depopulate cities. On this detail Paul is silent, but he shares Philo’s view that such relationships are unnatural because God made people only male or female.

          So Loader does not support David R’s reading. Do you happen to know which of the scholars you list do specifically support his reading of these texts?

          • Will
            I must be missing something. I don’t find Loader’s own position stated here at all. He is summarising his understanding of Paul – ‘ for a man to take a passive (female) role or a woman to take an active (male) role was unnatural and shameful. Philo shared Plato’s argument that same-sex relationships were unnatural because they wasted semen and would depopulate cities. On this detail Paul is silent, but he shares Philo’s view that such relationships are unnatural because God made people only male or female.’ Loader doesn’t say this is his own view. It is certainly not mine.

          • David, to be clear, you claim that the ‘proof texts’ in the NT were not intended by their authors (in this case Paul) to prohibit same-sex relations as such but only certain kinds. Loader here explains that Paul, in common with the Jewish view of the time, did in fact intend the prohibitions to cover all forms of same-sex relations as such. So Loader’s view of what the texts meant for their original authors in context (which is what we are interested in) does not agree with your view about what they meant to their original authors in context.

          • Will I suspect that could probably be an accurate summary of Paul’s view. I still think you have misunderstood my position. My question is whether Christians today are required to believe and behave this today. Hasn’t our understanding of Christian relationships, sex and sexual identity, patriarchy/equality, male=active/women=passive roles in sex, wastage of seed/procreative sex etc has not evolved beyond what the world of Paul’s day (and therefore the scriptural teaching that assumes that context) could have understood? Unless you yourself believe Paul on this – and that – to toss other teachings in – we should also obey him on the length of women and men’s hair, women wearing hats in church and slaves should be obeying their masters ?
            I know this is Loader’s summary of Paul. Is this what Loader himself teaches a scripture today to fellow believers?

          • All perfectly sensible questions of course. Just as long as we can stop with any nonsense about Paul’s prohibitions and the other ‘proof texts’ not being, in their own context, concerned with same-sex relations as such.

          • And, Will, FWIW, I don’t accept that this is Paul’s view entirely. I don’t think
            Paul ever mentions lesbianism

          • Will Thanks for engaging. I asked you – ‘Unless you yourself believe Paul on this? Well do you? And if you do not, have you not already moved beyond Paul’s teaching and the text of scripture? I would really like to know your position on this.

            I think the ‘proof texts’ are concerned with same-sex sexual activity of some sort. I do not think they are related at all to contemporary expressions of committed relationhips. I have never said otherwise.

          • David, the point is they concern same-sex relations as such, as William Loader explains (his is the standard scholarly view here as far as I am aware), not ‘same-sex sexual activity of some sort’. I think you’re still trying to imagine and suggest that these prohibitions in their own context would not cover same-sex sexual activity in certain contexts. Which just isn’t the case.

          • But David this thread is about examining the cogency of your position not mine so I don’t think it would be helpful to get side tracked exploring what I might happen to think about things, which will only distract from what we’re actually supposed to be focusing on.

            The most important question is whether you will accept, in line with every biblical scholar anyone has so far quoted, that the ‘proof texts’ in their original meaning and context intended to prohibit and disapprove of same sex sexual activity as such and not only in certain contexts.

          • Will This is a discussion thread. You are clearly stating your views here at other times. It would help me to understood what you are bringing to the table and where we have possible common ground. Answering my question is not a distraction therefore.
            I am in no doubt how careful you have thought this through. I would be very grateful for answer.
            You quote Loader:
            ‘In Paul’s world, for a man to take a passive (female) role or a woman to take an active (male) role was unnatural and shameful.’ and that Paul likely shared the common views his day that ‘same-sex relationships were unnatural because they wasted semen and would depopulate cities.’
            I extended the question to Paul’s teaching about ‘natural’ hair length for men and women and the retirement for women to wear head covering.
            I am asking you – do you believe the church today should still be teaching and practising this because because it is in scripture?

          • David, thanks for replying, but there are lots of questions there and lots of issues all of which could absorb a lot of time and energy discussing them, much of which could be worthwhile, but right now would only distract from this key question on a thread underneath a piece examining your views on sexuality: Do you accept, in line with every biblical scholar anyone has so far quoted, that the ‘proof texts’ in their original meaning and context intended to prohibit and disapprove of same sex sexual activity as such and not only in certain contexts?

            I really don’t want to get side tracked talking about lots of other issues when that question can simply be answered and is important.

          • Will I am not asking you lots of questions. Just one. Nor is it a distraction. It is very much relevant to the discussion here.
            I’ll shorten it further.
            If we both agree, following Loader, that Paul believes, long with that ancient world, in man as ‘active’/woman ‘passive’ roles in sex – should we still believe and teach that today?

          • Ok David I will answer that one question and then hopefully you will respond in kind: if Paul does believe that he nowhere says so in scripture and Loader acknowledges as much so while Paul may well think that it is speculation and anyway being absent from scripture would not have doctrinal implications.

          • Will Thank you for replying. The relevance of this discussion is immediately apparent to me.
            You say of Paul – ‘he nowhere says so in scripture’. But it is not that simple. One of the first tasks in interpreting a text or passage in the bible is to ask the background context in which it is written. What did this mean to the first hearers? Why was it important then? So discerning what lies behind what Paul writes about men and women, as far as we can, is a vital task. This is not speculation at all. It is the vital task of bible study. For example interpreting the ‘two words’ in 1Cor 6.9 is simply not possible without a discussion about background – socially and linguistically. And why do we not expect to follow Paul’s teaching on women’s head covering or the length of hair for men and women (as I presume you do not?)? Are we disobeying scripture? Or are we acknowledging cultural understandings change over time. Nor does the fact that something is not spelled out in a text mean that it is not actually there. Paul always writes within a particular context – as we do. So seeking to understand Paul’s beliefs about male/female roles in his society and the newly emerging church is a very important discussion to try to have. The background to a scripture is very important to the task of discerning how its teaching is to be understood and obediently applied to our context today – or not.
            Do we agree?

          • David all of that is of course important to consider and discuss, but it doesn’t alter the specific point we’re considering right now, which needs to be established before moving on to any of the other issues and questions you rightly raise.

            As Andrew Goddard notes:
            The only substantive appeal to Scripture made by David Runcorn in relation to the specific question of same-sex unions and marriage is his claim that the traditional texts have been misread. He holds that “these Bible texts condemn abusive sexual behaviour of any kind. They are not for applying to what is loving, faithful and committed”.

            This claim you repeat in many forums. But on this thread you accepted above that Loader’s account (which is the standard scholarly reading) is correct. Assuming you do accept the scholarly consensus here, you need to stop making the claim that such scholars are misreading the texts when they say that they relate to same sex relations as such and not only to abuse or some other narrow context. Otherwise you are using your position as a respected theologian to mislead people about the scholarly consensus on the original meaning of these texts. You can then make whatever argument you want for how scripture as a whole on this issue should be interpreted. But not on the basis of a false claim about what the texts themselves meant in their original context and how scholars are supposedly misreading them.

          • Will Thank you – but once again you push my contribution to one side and ignore my question to you.
            You quoted a brief passage from Loader. He was one name from a long list of more ‘including’ scholars that Penny offered you. You did not quote Loader’s actual view on my quoted words in Andrew’s piece. I am away from home and cannot check.
            But one scholar is not a ‘scholarly consensus’.
            In my own survey of scholarly opinion I find a quite range of opinions, not one view, on the ‘texts’ that concern you.
            But there is, for example, a growing consensus among Hebrew and Christian scholars that we simply cannot be sure how to translate or interpret Lev 18.22 and therefore have much clarity what it actually means. (there was a very learned and courteous debate on Ian Paul’s blog on this passage a few years back that came to no agreement).
            Even conservative scholars are slower to claim the the story of Sodom has anything to do with homosexuality at all. And quite right too.
            So no – I am not making false claims and I am not misleading people. And nor have you produced any actual evidence that I have.
            And I would still like an answer to my question.

          • David please can we distinguish Loader’s view on an issue with his view of what certain texts meant in their original context, which is what we are discussing here?

            Loader isn’t alone in his reading here. I listed earlier 9 affirming scholars who take this view. You say you are aware of biblical scholars who do not. I have asked several times on this thread for you to name who these are whose reading you are relying on to claim that the others are misreading the texts. You have not so far named anyone but I would be grateful if you did. Penelope did give a list, but the first I looked up was Loader, who reads the texts in the standard way. And above you said you accepted his view of what the texts mean. Yet now you are saying you do not.

            Please can you clarify whether you do or do not agree with Loader’s view of what Paul means (ie the texts concern same sex relations as such and not a narrow subset) and if not on whose scholarship are you relying to disagree with him (and others, like Johnson) in this matter?

            We really need to get this point clear before moving on to talk about the other issues you raise.

          • Will Once again you sideline my response to you. You say, ‘ We really need to get this point clear before moving on to talk about the other issues you raise.’ No we don’t actually. They are linked. You are just insisting on being in control of the discussion.

            I am not convinced by Loader’s very general summary, no.
            The most exhaustive view of the range of views that I know of is:
            Renato Lings Love lost in Translation – homosexuality and the bible (2013 780 pages).
            I think that is all I can offer at this point here.

          • But David, Lings’ book is self-published, not with an academic publisher or subject to any scholarly scrutiny at all. He contends, against all the scholars cited above (who publish their research with academic publishers) that the church only developed opposition to same-sex sexual activity in the Middle Ages – despite it being well known that 1st century Jewish culture opposed the same-sex love often characteristic of pagan culture, as seen in the writings of Philo that Loader cites above.

            Here’s part of an account of a seminar Lings ran on the topic:
            In another example, Lings looked at a passage from 1 Corinthians 6:9. The passage focuses on who will be allowed into the kingdom of God. The English versions list “adulterers, homosexuals of any kind, thieves” and others as those who will not inherit the kingdom. But the list in the Greek original, according to Lings, reads, “adulterers, softies, male-liers, thieves” and others. “I find it really difficult to translate softies and male-liers — those are two different words in Greek — into homosexuals of any kind,” Lings said. “It makes me feel very uncomfortable.” https://www.njherald.com/story/27016359/author-disputes-bible-translations-of-homosexuality#

            I hardly need to point out that ‘it makes me feel very uncomfortable’ is not a sound argument for choice of translation, and certainly not a good basis to dispute the scholarly judgement of Johnson, Loader etc. I suppose there may be better arguments in the book, but this was a sympathetic report, so why not quote the best that was said?

            I really hope this self-published book touting a highly idiosyncratic reading is not the primary basis on which you feel justified to claim, without any qualification or nod to what most of the best scholars say, that ‘these Bible texts condemn abusive sexual behaviour of any kind. They are not for applying to what is loving, faithful and committed.’

            I am not trying to control the discussion – I have agreed with you that the questions you raise are important and that this issue of the original meaning of the texts is not all there is. But I don’t think you recognise how misleading in terms of the best scholarship your claims are about what the Bible texts supposedly meant in their original context. I put it to you that no one reading your writing would come away with an accurate picture of what the best scholars regard to be the original meaning of the texts in question. And as a scholar yourself and a man of integrity that should concern you.

          • I should add that I am not defending the specific translation ‘homosexuals of any kind’, which uses the 19th century neologism ‘homosexuality’. But you can’t get from an objection to that particular translation (which I’m not familiar with) to a general objection to the idea that the Greek words/concepts relate to same-sex sexual activity.

          • Will Be as sniffy as you like. But people concerned to source and assess good scholarship do not usually turn to light-weight journalist pieces in the New Jersey Herald to form their judgements.
            ‘I suppose there may be better arguments in the book’. Rather a give away that. At your request you have been given an extensive list scholars from Penny (which included Lings). Text by text he reviews and assesses a wide range of scholarly and linguistic opinions. But you appear to have made your mind up without reading it – based on a local newspaper clip about the author from the US!
            Then you make this discussion a measure, not only of my scholarship, but my own integrity.
            Well I am not an academic theologian myself. Never claimed to be. Like most if us here I am seeking understanding where can find it.
            And as to my integrity? Will you do not know me.
            I am more happy at this stage to pursue these discussions elsewhere. If you are interested in keeping up you might try the Tiverton Echo.

          • I gather that Lings spends most time on on the Sodom story, whereas for Christians the NT is more relevant. Having spent more time on it, apparently he does not face the logic of the offer of Lot’s daughters being rejected. If anyone can refute that, please do so, as I have not read the book but am relying on someone who has.

          • Christopher He not certainly doesn’t. He covers all the texts in equal depth. Perhaps it would make more sense to offer opinions of Lings after we have read him – not before?

          • David my ‘sniffiness’ was not based on a newspaper report, which I provided for illustration because it is available on the net, but on the fact that it is a self-published book which makes claims that are known by those who publish in peer-reviewed outlets to be historically inaccurate. I didn’t ‘give myself away’, I didn’t claim to have read it, I am basing my points on publishing information and reviews and reports from sympathetic people.

            If there are better arguments in the book then please outline them for us – it’s you who has read and relies on it – don’t just claim they are there and expect us take it on trust. On what basis does this self-published book dispute the readings of all his peer-reviewed colleagues? Please do tell us so we can have a sensible discussion about this.

            You are of course free to leave the discussion at any time, but I will repeat that no one can consider your presentation of the meaning of the texts in their original context to be anything like a fair reflection of what the best scholarship says about them. You don’t even indicate that this view is contested, let alone very marginal. And that cannot be right.

          • Yes David, as I said, that certainly would be better.

            Why don’t we all proceed as follows:

            (1) Citing a name is not an argument (it is the authority fallacy). Plenty of people write because they want a certain conclusion for personal or peer-group reasons.

            (2) The number of pages written is not an argument. It may in fact be deliberate.

            (3) Depth of analysis is not an argument if the analysis is self-contradictory, is not to the point, or omits key points.

            (4) The number of people lining up to defend a point of view is not an argument. They may be ideologues.

            We should be listing and assessing arguments only, without much reference to scholarly names (though of course certain writers and publishers do have an earned good reputation).

          • Christopher

            Gagnon spends far too much time analysing the Sodom narrative, in my opinion.
            May I ask what you mean by the logic of the offer of Lot’s daughters being rejected?

          • Will
            If I was writing on 1 Cor. I could easily write that I would find it difficult to translate those terms into homosexual. Because that is not what those Greek words signify. Just as I cannot and do not translate psykikos and pneumatikos as physical and spiritual.

          • Christopher

            I certainly agree about the value that would be added by actual arguments being presented in this thread. But you can probably appreciate that I am having to work with what David presents in defence of his unconventional claims about the original meanings of biblical texts, and I’m keen to know whose scholarship he is relying on. I would of course also like to know what their arguments are but it’s been hard enough getting names. I was hoping once I had names I could look up their arguments myself, but as you have seen that has proven a bit trickier than I had hoped. Really though it should be incumbent on David to present the arguments for his very non-mainstream views of what certain texts mean, not mine to try and find them and him to mock me for citing a newspaper report.

          • Yes Penelope I appreciate that homosexual is not a very accurate word for translating those terms. As far as I can ascertain his views from information available online however Lings wants to claim that these texts do not cast negative judgement on same sex erotic love and that that was a later imposition of the church. Which is not a credible position and is certainly not widely shared amongst any scholars I have come across.

          • Will
            I suggest you read Lings.
            I read Gagnon before deciding that his readings are somewhat affected by his prejudices

          • Thanks Penelope.

            Is that really the best you’d recommend as an example of an alternative to the viewpoint of all those scholars listed above – a self-published book that against all evidence claims that first century Jewish culture was relaxed about same sex eroticism?

            You really think I should buy and read that over any other book or article on the subject?

            Aren’t there some kind of standards for this stuff?

          • Really Will?

            I am surprised that someone who dismisses peer reviewing is so intellectually snobbish. Still, it’s wiser to read the book than to rely on reviews (though they can be useful for an overview before reading). Then you could try some of the other scholars I listed. As I did with Gagnon.

          • Ha! Yes I can be pretty sceptical about peer review, well remembered. But I still think it’s the best we have as a general rule, even if not infallible or immune from corruption. I’m more surprised that I finally receive a recommendation for something to read on this alternative reading of the key texts and it’s a self-published book which appears to be premised in part on a manifest falsehood (the info I have about the claims it makes came from a favourable not hostile review).

            I’d still appreciate knowing which of the long list you kindly provided are actually biblical scholars who share something like David’s view of the original meaning of the texts ie that they do not concern same sex relations as such (at least male) but only a narrow subset or abuse. As you know, the first I looked up was Loader, and he definitely wasn’t.

          • A group of men that desires (what they perceive to be) men but also turn down virgin daughters must be of a very precise type.

            I believe that the word ‘homosexual’ being used for an orientation is a relatively recent development, given that people did not think in terms of anything called homosexual orientation, and were (to a large degree) observationally correct not to do so. I also believe that the word has for a long time till recently been used for types of behaviour.

          • Will’s continued reaction to being offered a ‘self published’ book as a source for reviewing critical scholarship on the scripture texts calls to mind the reaction of Naamon being told to go and bathe in Jordan. Discerning readers here will have noticed that while challenging me on my scholarship and integrity Will continues to quote from a brief newspaper clip in the New Jersey Herald he found on Google describing a presentation and discussion hosted by Lings in the US. Will is now, apparently seriously, calling this piece a ‘ Review’. It is not.
            I am grateful for this extended discussion provoked by my Via Media piece and Andrew Goddard’s careful response. As always there is more to say – and we will. But I need to withdraw from further discussion here.

          • David I read a number of reviews and descriptions of the book and its contents in addition to the newspaper report. I did not say I wouldn’t read it. I expressed surprise that a self-published book that appears to be premised in part on a manifest falsehood was the first recommendation I received on alternative readings. It hardly instils confidence. And it doesn’t change that your writing grievously misrepresents the state of scholarship on questions of the original meaning of the texts.

            Rather than criticising me for linking to quotes from the scholar you are citing, why not actually present his arguments for us and the evidence he adduces for them so we can see the basis on which you take a view on the original meaning of texts different from almost all specialists (affirming or orthodox) working in this area?

          • Will
            I gave you a shorter list on one of my Jan 15 replies:
            James Alison, Douglas Campbell, Daniel Boyarin and Loveday Alexander. Ken Stone and Boyarin on the HB.

          • Thanks Penelope.

            So as far as I can tell at this point:
            – Loveday Alexander shares the standard understanding of the texts’ original meaning. From Grace and Disagreement:
            In Romans 1:26-27 homosexual practice (male and female) is singled out as specially characteristic of the sins of the Gentile world. In Paul’s anthropology of desire, same-sex relationships are ‘contrary to nature’: that is, they represent a distortion of the default sexual identity, which Paul assumes to be heterosexual. Like other post-Biblical Jewish writers, Paul sees same-sex activity as a manifestation of the pagan world’s underlying sin of idolatry (1:18-23): ‘worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator’ leads to all manner of sexual impurity (vv. 24-25).
            – Daniel Boyarin argues that only male anal intercourse is specifically forbidden in the Torah, though cites various sources showing that other forms of same-sex eroticism (including female) were also taboo, with a variety of reasons cited. His main concern is to show that ‘sexuality’ was not the underlying reason for the bans and taboos, arguing instead that it was ‘gender-crossing’ as part of the general taboo on mixing of kinds. So this does not support David’s position. http://nes.berkeley.edu/Web_Boyarin/BoyarinArticles/74%20Are%20There%20Any%20Jews%20(1995).pdf
            – Douglas Campbell argues that parts of Romans 1-4 are to be understood as false teaching that Paul was quoting to oppose, not Paul’s teaching itself, which is much more unconditional and spiritual and found in the later chapters. This is an interesting idea – to me it seems implausible but leaving that to one side it doesn’t support David’s position as it is a completely different argument to his.
            – James Alison appeared to be a theologian rather than biblical scholar and I couldn’t find relevant research by him.

            So I still can’t see any biblical scholars supporting David R’s reading of the texts in their original meaning, despite him frequently asserting it as fact. Are you aware of any?

          • Will
            I am not here to represent David R’s views. If I tried I would doubtless misrepresent him by proxy. You asked for a list of ‘revisionist’ scholars and I gave you one. Martin, Stone and Boyarin argue that the texts don’t proscribe all sam-sex activity. Others, that where such activity is proscribed, it is not for the ethical reasons that we as post-Enlightenment Christians assume (Boyarin again I think). Douglas Campbell is great on Romans because, by ascribing the pro-Wisdom view to Paul’s enemy, the false teacher, he pulls the rug from under the idolatry=deviant sexuality link. And this is for linguistic and exegetical reasons, not from liberalising motives. Allison is also good on Romans. I have a link somewhere.

          • Thank you, Christopher.
            That’s a good point (about Lot’s daughters). But I don’t think it indicates the sexual orientation of the men of Sodom since, in the p// passage in Judges they are quite ready to rape the Levite’s concubine/wife.
            Even if they were ‘homosexual’, however, their actions tell us nothing about the morality of same-sex relationships. We do not condemn heterosexual relationships because David raped Bathsheba. And rape is not, generally, a sexual urge, but an abuse of power.
            One of the characters who comes out very badly in this narrative (as culpable as the men of Sodom) whose offer of his virgin daughters to be raped is beyond horrific, is Lot. Yet he is not condemned

          • Thanks Penelope.

            I appreciate you’re not here to represent David, I didn’t mean to imply that.

            There was perhaps a miscommunication; I asked (David first, then you, or anyone) for biblical scholars who specifically supported David’s reading of the texts i.e. that they are about abuse not same-sex relations as such, rather than generic ‘revisionist’ scholars (I didn’t use that word).

            None of the scholars I’ve so far been pointed to as far as I can see argue that the NT (or OT) texts are limited to abusive situations, which is I believe David’s central textual claim.

            Didn’t you indicate that Boyarin and Stone specialise in the OT/HB rather than NT/Paul? I saw that Boyarin argued that the Torah in particular only prohibited male AS, whereas other same-sex eroticism was certainly taboo and prohibited but (he argues) not understood to be included within the Torah ban itself. He argues that it was not about ‘sexuality’ (i.e. sexual orientation) but about not mixing genders, within a general framework of avoiding mixing kinds – so men are not to behave as women, including by being penetrated. I can see the prohibition can be understood as about not mixing kinds. But specifically in relation to sex (Lev 18 is about sex), and so includes not doing with a man what it is only proper to do with a woman, just as it includes women not doing with an animal what it is only proper to do with a man (even though they are doing the ‘womanly thing’ and being penetrated – it matters that it is the right kind of thing). But in any case, all this doesn’t affect the key NT texts, which after all were written in the context not just of the Torah but of the taboos on all same-sex eroticism that Boyarin describes as characteristic of Jewish culture, and also the Greek Platonic influence seen in eg Philo, which opposed same-sex sexual activity as ‘against nature’. But as I say, this Boyarin argument, while interesting, isn’t the argument that David R is offering.

            I agree that Campbell, if correct, would have a sizeable impact on this debate – though not in anything like the way David R is arguing. However, Romans 1 is not the only place in the NT where same-sex sexual activity is condemned, so I don’t see how it could be quite as revolutionary as is being suggested. It would also leave a consistency problem in interpreting Paul: why is Paul arguing here against a prohibition on same-sex relations that elsewhere he asserts? Are we to suppose he is quoting his opponents in every case? I actually don’t think the idea is at all plausible, but it’s interesting that scholars can claim to find some linguistic evidence for such a structure in Romans.

            A link to something relevant by Alison would be good as I couldn’t find anything. I also wasn’t sure he wasn’t a theologian rather than biblical scholar?

            I’m still hoping to be pointed to a biblical scholar (ideally in a peer-reviewed context) who argues for David R’s position, namely that the NT verses only concern abuse not same-sex relations as such.

          • It is of course a different group of people in Judges 19-21.

            Lot was scared witless. His offer shows that anything, anything at all, would have been less bad than what the men proposed.

            The men’s refusal of the offer shows not an orientation but a corruption: they have reached the stage of depravity and estrangement from their biology where they reject even what purely biologically would be a strong temptation in favour of something that does not match up with their biology.

          • Christopher, are you aware of any biblical scholars who make the case for David R’s reading i.e. the texts concern abusive situations only and not same-sex relations as such?

          • Christopher

            I don’t see the relevance of a different set of people. It is a p// text.
            I don’t care how scared witless Lot was. His offer of his virgin daughters was as wicked, if not worse, than the proposed rape of the angelic visitors. It also demonstrates how worthless women were.
            Again, male rape has no (or very little) connection with sexual desire or homosexuality. Rape is an act of aggression, in male rape this is aggravated by the intent to unman or emasculate the victim, to make him passive, a woman, and, therefore, lesser. It was and still is common in war and in all male prisons and other institutions

          • I think it is highly unlikely that rape is not sexual. It is so by definition. You assert, unevidenced, that it is all about power. I don’t disagree, but it’s not an either-or, is it? For lust is about power and/or pure selfishness, and being on the dominant side in a war is a situation where human nature can descend to the level of animal lusts that it would always descend to if unchecked by civilisation (the same civilisation that war is a breakdown of). That emasculation is a separate category I again don’t disagree.

        • Yes but do these scholars deny the central point without which the others are irrelevant – that wherever same-sex sexual activity is mentioned it is both always and strongly condemned?

          • In the Bible usury and divorce are condemned, slavery is mandated; as is abortion in particular circumstances.
            Some male same-sex activity is proscribed in, perhaps, 4 (maybe 5) passages. This tells us nothing about the ethical status of same-sex relationships.
            Did you read my comment about context, culture and the opacity of language?

          • Hi Penny,

            By similarly emphasising the distinction between sexual activity and relationship, one could also argue that only specific types of incestuous activity are proscribed by scripture.

            Ergo, by the same token as you’ve applied, does scripture tell us nothing about the ethical status of incestuous relationships?

          • David S
            That’s a really interesting question. Does scripture ever tell us why incest is proscribed – affinity as well as consanguinity?
            Do we have to infer, as Will infers that God mandates that every child should have both a mother and a father?
            Of course, quite a lot of our ethics have to be by inference.
            I was taught that there is no connection between health and proscription, i.e. the Law didn’t forbid shellfish because they could cause food poisoning. But, of course in a society which encouraged endogamy, birth defects were likely to be high. As they are in some contemporary cultures where cousin marriage is common. Though, also, there was quite a lot in incest in the HB! Why do we still abide by these proscriptions and regard them as taboos? Even when they involve affinity rather than consanguinity, like the Corinthians man and his step-mother?
            I honestly don’t know.

          • As soon as you speak of ‘every child *should* have a mother and father’ you have privileged a more nebulous meaning for those 2 words over the obvious/natural one. One can understand the obvious/natural being privileged over the nebulous but not vice-versa.

          • ‘The opacity of language’!! This is a relative term. Language was invented precisely to allow maximally accurate communication.

          • So do Joyce, Beckett and semiotics improve clarity?

            Is opacity total?

            If not, what is the max to which it can be avoided?

        • How on earth do you define the sweep of scripture? It sounds like a feast so movable as to lead to each person reaching their own preferred conclusions.

          Moving from an individual author/writing in one step to scores separated by era and culture and genre and all lumped together – that is a step from more scholarly to less.

          Scores of topics are treated in just a few verses. There is nothing unusual about that.

          If what is said about the topics involves condemnation, how often does that condemnation need to be repeated?

          It is so clear that people are trying all means to avoid what the texts say – and that is dishonest.

          How can you say that Paul did not say what he said because another writer from a different era and culture, writing on a more general topic, said XYZ?

          This has always been Emperor Has No Clothes territory.

          • A meta narrative which tells of God’s love for God’s people culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of God’s own son. God was (is) in the world, reconciling the world to Godself.

          • Because the incarnational second person of the Trinity, was a man, Jesus.
            God is not gendered, though Godself is often portrayed in scripture as male and in the NT as ‘father’, as well as, rarely, being figured as female. But to gender God comes perilously close to idolatry

          • Then the biblical writings from which we get the idea of that same God in the first place regularly come perilously close to idolatry.

          • Penelope: ‘Godself is often portrayed in scripture as male and in the NT as ‘father’,’ this is a very insightful comment for me. I could never speak of Scripture as where God is ‘portrayed’, but only where he has ‘revealed’ himself. That is why I am not free to invent terms about him, be it ‘godself’ or ‘ground of being’ or ‘her’ or whatever. Your ‘portrayal’ reveals the fault line between us on this forum – liberals and evangelicals diverge over issues of sexuality because Liberals believe Scripture portrays & Evangelicals believe it reveals. If Scripture is just a particular person’s portrayal of an issue rather than an eternal God’s speech and disclosure about himself, then we can modify and pick and choose whether we accept that portrayal. But if Scripture is God’s self disclosure and God’s directives, we can’t. I do think that all our wranglings here do boil down to this understanding of the revelation of God and why many can dismiss Paul because they dont like ‘his’ ‘portrayal’ of God, or ethics and prefer their own portrayal …..Does that make sense? would that be fair to say?

          • I thought creating God in the image that we or our culture prefer is idolatry.

            Since we can’t create even an atom, we certainly can’t create God. Secondly, if we could then God would not be God. No wonder idolatry is seen as such a crucial thing.

            When people speak that way, they are either confusing wishful thinking with reality (we can wish a God into existence to our own specification: obviously false) or they are saying that no God is real so it is a contest between people’s projected/ideological ‘Gods’.

          • Thanks Christopher
            Barth long ago adopted Atheist Feuerbach’s critique of religion that god was no god but humanity writ large. He claimed the god of the Liberal construction was such, a mere projection; conversely the God of revelation, in Scripture is the God who is and with whom we have to do.
            The current fault line in the Church focussed on an ethical debate reflects this divide Barth highlighted. Many simply do not like God as he is in his disclosure and his divine decrees and would either co-opt him to say what they want to say or reject him when he doesn’t say what they want to say, and in his place project a god who thinks like we think. And that as you say, is a self-projection, an idol. I was intrigued by a friend’s comment yesterday, he is a career soldier, SAS Srgnt Major who cuts to the chase. He referred to Jude’s epistle, and noted that a condemnation was spoken over Cain, Balaam, and Korah. He said all three were wrong, religiously. Cain offered wrong worship, Balaam misused the gift of prophecy and Korah rejected God’s leaders. Jude refers to these as Archetypes of error being played out religiously: wrong attitude to worship, God’s word & spiritual leadership. I thought it a powerful point and relevant for where our church is today.

          • Yes. Lewis thought the fault line was between those who thought we are talking about realities and those who didn’t. I agree. I have encountered 3 people to whom it had never occurred that there was any option other than projection. (All 3 were liberals.)

          • Simon
            That’s a very interesting distinction. Reflecting on this I probably used portrayed because I feel that revelation is partial, mediated as it is by sinful man [sic].
            If God reveals Godself, it is as both mother and father, as male and female. That this is more often as male is a reflection of the patriarchal cultures in which these texts were conceived and written and that they were most probably written by men. The God of some HB texts is also a tribal God, portrayed as a warrior and as a chief/king.

            I am not one of the many who dismiss Paul. With John, he is the Church’s first, and still one of its greatest, theologians. His ethics (Paul’s not John’s) are the touchstone for our response to Christ’s faithfulness.

          • We can’t just move between hope and evidence. There is no common ground between them. It is a given that God will not be according to our specifications or preferences. It is therefore a given that God will not be precisely diametrically opposite to them either.

          • What if He does? That is not for us to define. The palatability of something is not evidence for its accuracy. Facts don’t care about our feelings.

          • That certainly sounds unlikely, but what percentage of God would you estimate would be likely to fit your personal and 21st century specifications? That’s the question one never seems to get a straight answer to.

          • However – your remark does confirm suspicions that what you are taking about is not God but human ideas of God, which (at worst) are much the same as projections.

    • I will be amazed if ‘leading biblical scholars’ take issue with the rather obvious truth that when the 2 Testaments refer to same sex sexual activity they not only consider it bad but are quite strongly, and also without exception, against it. Just as they are against other things that appear prominently in similar lists or are highlighted as significant sins. The obviousness of that is in the ’emperor has no clothes’ category. None of the side-issues that will certainly arise exegetically at this distance of time has any relevance if that central point is true.

        • Sadly your response David is a good example of a “….sniping at extensive understanding of what scripture tells us and how it has been handled within tradition, as well as consistently avoiding the subject and selectively choosing parts of the subject at which one can take a shot (no matter how misguided that shot is).”
          Exactly as I wrote earlier.

          If you won’t answer Christopher’s point then the basis of the point remains that Scripture has been consistent on this and you have failed to show any point upon which Scripture is clearly (not ambiguously or imprecisely) wrong.

          • Clive This is a discussion forum. I am grateful to Ian for hosting it – and not least for allowing space for views to be offered here that are not his own. If you have an issue with that take it up with Ian. But it really is rather tedious when you regularly turn up to tell off people whose views you do not like.

        • Where is ‘obvious truth’ a quote from? If it is not from me, then you are misquoting me. If you or I do that, we run the risk of being viewed as biased.

          I should certainly hope that no ‘scholar’ would use a word so vague as ‘relationships’. Scholars would clarify. Friendships very good, nonmarital sex very bad.

          David R’s point is clearly wrong. Any text will have issues that are easier or less easy to crack. David R is requiring in advance that the ones he wants to be less easy will ipso facto therefore be less easy, whether they actually are or not. If texts proscribe all the same-sex sexual activity they talk about, that is not any different from their proscribing all the lying or cheating etc they talk about. These things too vary in their precise nature and configuration from culture to culture.

          To say we must have ‘an open mind’ on everything (which is true in a trivial sense) forgets that there are some things that are not especially controversial in the first place. You cannot compel by force *everything* to be controversial when in the real world only some things are. Where an area of activity is both always condemned and strongly condemned, then it is force and control to expect people to see that as controversial.

      • Christopher

        Leaving aside your claim to know the ‘obvious truth’ about texts written over a number of centuries, in different contexts, for differing cultures, and in language that is often opaque; the scholar might reasonably ask: has a proscription against (some) same-sex activity anything at all to do with covenantal homosexual relationships?

        • If we’re onto opaque language, OK maybe Judges 15 is really talking about Little Red Riding Hood. I cannot prove that it isn’t. The point is that for every passage there are always 10000 times more things that it cannot possibly be saying than that it can be saying.

          But far more importantly than that, look at the independent agreement of scholars on what texts are saying. Again and again, different translations come up with extremely similar understandings and senses. As why would they not? According to your view, there should be a stewards’ enquiry, because everything always has to be biased towards the opaque. (I can see why a maximum amount of vagueness would be convenient – but ‘biased’ is the mot juste.) There is no logical reason why there should be a bias towards the opaque rather than towards the clear: that’s ideology. But more importantly, how can one generalise about diverse passages and issues? They have to be analysed one by one. Such generalisation, which one sees repeatedly, is a second and worse ideology. And ideology is the enemy and opposite of scholarship.

    • Will You have mis-read what I said. I did not say I had a ‘biblical argument for expanding the scope of ethical sexual relationships to non-PSF relationships without rigid boundaries’. I was talking about the pastoral context in which we live out and communicate our beliefs. Interesting how often these discussions reveal the struggle to understand the intention and meaning of the original writer in what we read – and how easily we assume something differentiations . Yes I do it too. And so it is with reading scripture.

      • Thanks David.

        I had assumed that because you say you live under the authority of scripture that you would have scriptural grounds for endorsing such a radical departure from Christian doctrine on sexual ethics.

        Doesn’t a willingness to endorse ‘pastorally’ something which scripture regards as sinful, and which you say you have no scriptural argument to defend, bring into question your claim to live under the authority of scripture?

        And how can we credit your claim that your scriptural argument for same-sex marriage doesn’t entail further relaxation of Christian standards when you yourself affirm a relaxed standard, as does almost everyone who shares your affirming position?

        You can’t credibly claim to live under the authority of scripture if you endorse pastorally things which scripture deems sinful and which you admit you have no scriptural argument to defend.

  20. Will. You are still completely missing the point I was making. I am endorsing nothing of the sort. Your word not mine.

    • David, if readers are struggling to understand exactly what it is you’re saying it isn’t necessarily always their fault.

      Let’s just recap. When I said that I took you to ‘believe that only PSF sexual relationships are morally permissible,’ you said that this was too ‘rigidly boundaried’ and left ‘a great deal of honest, moral living’ on the outside,’ so that ‘in practice I cannot be so excluding of the way people work this out with moral integrity.’ You also said: ‘My position would be closer to Penny’s.’ Penelope had just remarked: ‘I don’t condemn sex before marriage.’

      Since I assume you endorse ‘honest, moral living,’ and since you include pre-marital sexual relationships within such moral living (avoiding rigid boundaries), I don’t see how I have misunderstood you. But whether we use ‘endorse’ or ‘permit as part of honest, moral living’, the point remains. Scripture regards this as sinful, as sexual immorality. You regard it as honest, moral living. Such a stance needs scriptural justification if you want to claim with integrity that you live under the authority of scripture.

  21. Penelope you keep switching, horse: horses for courses.
    Now what is this meta narrative, but that which was addressed by Ian Paul,? (here Ian Paul January 12, 2019 at 11:30 am) Now you agree with Ian. That’s good
    Is it a metanarrative with an OT you’d seek to edit.
    1 Is God of OT God of NT?
    2 Is the OT Christian scripture?
    Not sure if you’ve made it plain on both questions.

    • Geoff
      God is the same God throughout the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, though portrayed in differing and sometimes contradictory ways in various texts.
      I wouldn’t seek to edit anything, either in the Canon or outside it. I enjoy living with ambiguity and constructive tension and believe that this is the work of the HS. We should not seek to harmonise.
      The Hebrew Bible is scripture for Christians; it is also, pre-eminently, Jewish scripture and we must not wrest it from its context.

      I am not quite sure why you think it ‘good’ that I agree with Ian. But we do agree on some things!

  22. Penelope…. “Not extremist, like Oakhill.”. Perhaps a #little# judgemental? I thought you didn’t like rudeness? ?

    My shameful declaration is that I was trained there in the mid 70s. I had no idea that I was an extreemist. Do you really think that one size fits all and that “size” cannot be found across the spectrum?

    As a passing note….. I’m also suspicious of waving years studying:experience around. “Mine’s bigger than yours” . Of course it should count for something but it’s not guaranteed. Some people may have dug themselves a deeper trench not a bigger view. Repeating mistakes isn’t learning no matter how many years one does it.

    • Ian Hobbs: two comments in reply to this if I may.

      It is pretty well acknowledged that Oak Hill is *currently* very conservative evangelical in its theology. It has not always been that way and my understanding is that it was not that way in the 70s. But the whole CofE has become a great deal more conservative in my lifetime (I’m nearly 60). Society more generally has become more liberal. There will be a fight to the death in the CofE over the issue of human sexuality.

      In terms of years study or experience: the point I was making was that in 30 years I have never been taught or asked about the 39 Articles. That’s the thing that’s significant, not my years experience. Happy to hear that you spent three years at Oak Hill studying them, but I think that’s doubtful. Happy to hear that a bishop’s examining chaplain questioned you about them before your ordination of any of your licensings, but I think that’s doubtful.

      • The only reason you predict (possibly accurately) a fight to the ‘death’ is that (as is always the case with appeasers and the weak) people think that a point has substance merely by its often being repeated and by a lot of people claiming it as their ‘view’ without stopping to think how the word ‘view’ can possibly be coherent when it covers everything from selfish preference to objectively researched conclusion.

        In all the denominations where this appeasement has not taken place (Pentecostal and Catholic, many evangelical) there is less problem and less time-wasting. For many Anglicans to have one foot in the culture comes with the territory as it did with the Sadducees, Herodians, etc..

        • I should clarify that the appeasement in question is a very human reaction and a communal one – I don’t have any individuals specially in mind.

          • No, Christopher, they didn’t. Both first marriages had ended before the couples found the people they are now married to. One couple realised that both were gay and should never have married each other in the first place. One partner in the second couple is bisexual and, after divorce (not of their choosing), found and married a spouse of the same sex. All the children and step children of these marriages are grown up and some have produced grandchildren.
            There is no broken irresolution, simply, marvellous loving and life-giving families who support each other, have a lot of fun and rejoice in their Christian faith, of which these are the fruits.

          • First, a marriage does not ‘end’. Some divisive individual[s] actively end[s] it, or seek to do so, though the word is synonymous with eternity and inextricability. One flesh is something inerasable. Likewise omeone can’t just stop being someone’s mother etc..

            Second, marriage is not an agent, and everyone knows it. It reminds me of the motorist who said ‘This great big lamppost came out in the road and hit my car.’.

            If it is crass to be peaceable, what is it to be divisive? That is calling good things bad and bad things good, which is not a million miles of course from Mark 3.

            You are actually saying that nothing negative happened to the children…

            …or to all the relatives one by one…

            …or to the individuals themselves, who must know that division is the product of immaturities already in people, so trying to form new alliances does not get rid of the root cause, with the consequence that the pattern regularly and serially repeats itself.

            ?

            It is all so complicated! Life is incredibly busy already. How do people find the time to add foundational disruption to all that busyness, with all the multiple practical ramifications as well, and why would they want to?

      • ” There will be a fight to the death in the CofE over the issue of human sexuality.”

        A fight to the death doesn’t sound like a very Christ like witness to the world.

        • It’s an awful witness Nick. It need not happen, and I still believe it is possible to achieve a similar compromise to the one achieved over the question of women bishops. It’s long overdue.

          • When neither natural law nor internal coherence is the criterion for what merits a hearing, but only headcount, then what is there to prevent people advocating for their selfish desires? As soon as that happens, incommensurable compromises begin happening (for the common quest for truth is no longer universally shared), and that is a process that can only last so long.

          • But it has been very often said that to indulge people in their selfish desires, and so leave them to stew in immaturity, is a very unloving thing to do. Each of us knows the temptations to selfishness and immaturity in our own lives so we know first hand that they have only bad effects. Not sure I understand the point you are making. It has been agreed since year dot that love and indulgence are streets away from each other.

          • Christopher,

            I am saying that to engage in any disagreement in a manner that is described as a ‘fight to the death’ or indeed in any manner that is not loving is contrary to the command of our Lord in John 13:34, Furthermore I suggest that if it does not look to the outside world to be a loving attitude, then it would fail the test of John 13:35.

            One of the most common reasons I hear from the secularists is that religion is bad because it causes wars. Here is the church doing it level best to prove them right!

            Now let us not pretend that we all agree, but ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace’. Then we might learn what it is to disagree well.

          • I don’t agree with any fight to the death or any other fight. I don’t think your answer distinguishes between human relations on the one hand and truth on the other. But these are quite different matters. It goes without saying that human relations should always be loving. There is (Eph 6) always a fight and it is a fight in which we should attack, but no human is to be opposed and no human blood is to be shed, because our struggle is not against flesh and blood. It is ‘arguments’ (which are, by virtue of their influence and reach, ‘principalities’ of sorts) that are to be demolished (an aggressive word, because they are hateful things that spoil precious people’s lives).

          • Anyway, apart from the very many flaws with ‘good disagreement’ which I have enumerated in 9780957572584, as have many others, there is no disagreement here in the first place. There would only be disagreement if the 2 ‘sides’ were talking on the same topic. But one is talking of ‘what I want’ and the other of ‘what I conclude’.

          • Christopher

            Who is stewing in immaturity?
            Why faithful loving married friends who care for each other in illness and in health, who have marvellous, life-giving relationships with their children and grandchildren, and who are an example to us all?
            They are of the same sex/gender. Are they tempted to selfishness and immaturity?

          • You lost me there. In the contexts of same-gender friends, who are ‘their’ children or grandchildren?

          • Christopher
            It’s quite simple. The children they produced, by biological reproduction and their children.

          • So when you said ‘They are of the same sex/gender’, whom were you referring to? It can’t be the parents.

          • Christopher

            They are not same-sex friends. They are married couples. The children are from previous marriages, and they now have grandchildren.
            They are a marvellous witness to the love and mutuality of good marriages and of loving, supportive and successful families.

          • So all these people with whom conflict was so strong in their lives that they broke covenant relationships, affecting all other related people in so doing, and remain in that state of broken irresolution even today – going on to live in a state at odds with their biology i.e. with themselves, these should be commended as ‘marvellous’. How marvellous that the children are forced by these marvellous (and mature) adults not to live with mum and dad as is their right.

            I say ‘mature’ because they expect of people supposedly less mature (their children) what they do not do themselves, i.e. living in the same house and family. That makes them less mature than minors.

          • Christopher
            I have replied to your rather crass comment about families above. It went into the wrong thread.

      • “I’m nearly 60″…LOL as they say… I’M nearly 70 as it happens.. and? 🙂

        And I didn’t mention the Articles. I wasn’t questioned on them or anything else by and examining chaplain. Didn’t even meet such an animal after starting colledge. I had tea in the House of Lords with David Say though….tea and sandwiches!

        But I did know the articles and the assumption was more that one agreed generally with them I think.

        • “But I did know the articles and the assumption was more that one agreed generally with them I think.”

          Ah I see. It was just assumed? You weren’t ever taught them? Or examined on them?
          Agreeing generally with them is fine. I agree generally with them. 🙂

          • Andrew..

            “Ah I see. It was just assumed? You weren’t ever taught them? Or examined on them. Agreeing generally with them is fine. I agree generally with them. ?”

            Actually it’s so long ago I don’t remember! I do remember some discussions on the latter ones, Christians and oaths….

            It’d be more pertinent to ask which ones you don’t agree with…

    • Sorry Ian H.
      That was very judgmental of me. Perhaps I should have said that Oakhill and St Stephen’s are somewhat off the mainstream?

      • IMHO you should have allowed two things: that liberal seminaries can be off the mainstream too; and that the mainstream is far better defined by Christ and by Christian history than by the representatives of the world’s 4th largest denomination in one small island in one small period of history.

      • Thanks…

        In my experience ordinands from any stable are not wholly uniform Oak Hill included. I did think it went through a sharper phase perhaps – genuine wondering – whether the larger proportion of young male candidates affected that as well as the leadership. I did have one curate from there in the early 2000s and he wasn’t narrowly conservative… as some would see it.

        Though Mainstream doesn’t carry any intrinsic good value.

        • Thank you. True in both ways. I know someone at Wycliffe who isn’t conservative. And being mainstream has no intrinsic good.

          • Exactly…. Flat earthers were once mainstream, as were slave masters. Mainstream is a value is as valueless as “the wrong side of history”.

  23. Andrew (Godsall).
    You asked about who I am in a reply to me above:
    You may have thought you were ignored by me, but after delving back, my response , was posted, seemingly out of sequence> here it is, slightly amended:
    Andrew (Godsall),
    Don’t where on earth this is going to get posted. Tied once and lost it.
    The only thing I know about you is from what you have written, and what you’ve avoided.
    As you know, this is a personal blog, and it is here dealing with something far bigger than in-house Anglican wrangling. it is of public Christian-wide importance.
    It goes without saying you are not obliged to answer me, but you, not me, is seemingly in a senior CoE position. I’d aver that your beliefs are to be known, broadcast publically. You already have in relation to the bodily resurrection of Christ.
    In various comments I’ve revealed a lot about myself, former lawyer, former Senior NHS manager (more in name only), independent advocate for a mental health charity.
    My true name is Geoff. Ian Paul has my email address and can bar me.
    Through this whole set of blog post I now am aware of the CEEC, but wasn’t before-hand. I see that one of the members was a Magistrate when I was an advocate as an atheist. We still recognise each other. I became supernaturally born from above at the age of 47, on a CoE Alpha Course.
    Penelope, if she can recall, knows quite a bit about me from all we’ve written, as does David Runcorn.
    Penelope , I have a Blessed Assurance of my eternal destiny, from the true Priest, true High, Priest Jesus, not from the presence or advice or counsel from Andrew, though he may offer some wisdom, with humour.
    This is not to be taken as patronising, but on the plain reading of Ephesians 1 & 2 there is a marvellous reality revealed there.
    I’d challenge you to doubt your doubts”
    Finally, Andrew, you imply that I’m hiding behind anonymity. It could be argued that you are hiding your core beliefs behind the cloak of office. Imagine you being asked, in your office in the church by a newspaper to set out, with full editorial control, your core, essential Christian beliefs, what the Good News of Jesus Christ is. Though I now know what your belief is concerning the resurrection. None of this is off topic, but is elementary, my dear Andrew, no matter how scholarly anyone may be. (Cue misplaced smiley -but it seems from Penelope that you appreciate humour).

  24. It is not a high level of analysis to dismiss ‘Gagnon’ in a few words: rather one should treat his individual arguments (which he often shares with other writers, and with commonsense) one by one. There are very many of them, which only emphasises the first point. Likewise Lings, likewise everybody. It never matters which individual made the argument.

    It is remarkable that the central point is still unaddressed. What is all this (as it often seems) chattering about, if no-one has even got to the point of being able to deny that every time same-sex sexual behaviour is mentioned it is strongly opposed. If we could get arguments against that, then we would be talking. Otherwise, we don’t even need to get as far as subsidiary points, because the central point is unassailable. Arguments, not the names of individuals whose writings are merely the vehicles of the arguments.

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