Evangelical and affirming: re-reading Genesis 2?

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.  This seeks to explore each response in turn.

David Gillett: Scripture, Hermeneutics, Creation and Logical Reasoning

The opening article, by Bishop David Gillett, highlights the deeper issue of how we read the Bible and what it means for Scripture to be authoritative.  He writes that he still holds “wholeheartedly to the fundamental importance and authority of Scripture”.  His disagreement with the bishops and their traditional reading of the Bible is, he says, because he wishes “to expand our understanding of marriage in the light of the questions asked of those Scriptures by our understanding of sexuality and gender today”.  He helpfully illustrates what he means by this with reference not to the interpretation ofthe six or so verses in the Bible, which in some way or another refer to same-sex activity” but to Genesis 2.  In so doing he implicitly acknowledges that it is these more foundational biblical texts and the biblical doctrine of creation – particularly God’s creation of human creatures and the institution of marriage – which are more fundamentally at stake in at least some of our disagreements.

Understanding creation and interpreting Genesis 2

David Gillett offers a response to Genesis 2 in which a gay man imagines himself as Adam, being offered various potential partners by God.  Like Adam, this gay man finds many proposals unsuitable but then “after a while a man is presented to him who evokes a totally different level of recognition and response. This for him is what he has been longing for and he exclaims, ‘This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!’ They can become one”.

There can be no doubting that this indeed describes the experience of many gay men.  The first person commenting on Thinking Anglicans testifies to being “moved to tears” with “the very strange experience of recognising myself, in the telling of a story about a man recognising himself, in the story of Adam and his search for a helpmeet”.  Offering a theological interpretation of this experience in the light of Scripture is one of the challenging questions for those of us who share the views expressed in the bishops’ letter.  It is, however, important to analyse what is being claimed here in David Gillett’s theological interpretation and reading of Genesis.

This is an approach to this chapter which – in exegetical substance, hermeneutical method, and theological conclusions – has no basis in the long Christian (or I believe Jewish) tradition which has devoted great attention to the opening chapters of Genesis over thousands of years.  In relation to exegesis, Ian Paul’s comment on the original blog posting highlights three main elements of the text that highlight the importance of the difference between male and female in the text itself: the importance of the unusual Hebrew phrase ezer kenegdo to refer to a helper who is different, opposite or matching; the shape of the narrative in which something other than another adam is sought; the goal of the narrative as an explanation specifically of the male-female form of attraction and union in marriage.

In relation to hermeneutical method, the article’s approach is highly individualistic and self-centred.  This is evident from the dominance of first-person references in David Gillett’s initial reading of Genesis 2 which forms the basis for his proposed re-reading from the perspective of a gay man:

As I read this story for myself, I am presented with a range of possible partners – as was Adam – and I am unsatisfied until I see the other human being – the one who became my wife – and I exclaim, ‘this at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!’ For me, and for most others whom I know this encounter has been one of the most thrilling of all life’s discoveries.

The deeper problem lies here – in the method which initially presents itself as leading to a traditional heterosexual reading – not in the reading suggested on behalf of a gay man or the theological conclusion drawn in relation to Scripture and same-sex marriage.  It is a method which does not pay attention to the text in its immediate (see above) or wider canonical context (discussed below).  It assumes the text is a description of how any human being finds a life-partner and takes as a given my own experience of this quest, hence particularly my pattern of sexual attraction and desire.  It then finds that personal experience present in and hence authorised by the biblical text.  The article then further argues that others with a similar experience but a different pattern of sexual attraction and desire can legitimately follow the same process in response to the text.  They will legitimately “inhabit the story” so as to find it affirming their personal experience and thus leading to different theological and ethical conclusions from those traditionally drawn from Genesis and wider Scripture.

The hermeneutical logic of the case for same-sex marriage from Genesis 2

The argument seems to be

(1) that because a gay man (or lesbian) can truly experience what Genesis 2 describes as Adam’s response to Eve but they do so for someone of the same-sex therefore

(2) what they experience is also biblically sanctioned and approved by God in the Genesis 2 creation narrative. The claim may be even stronger –

(2b) that this passage teaches us that, as regards our desire for an intimate relationship to rectify the fact that is not good to be alone, God’s purpose as revealed here is to give each of us what we believe fulfils our need not to be alone; therefore when we experience with someone what Adam experienced with Eve this too is God’s provision for us.

Whether in its weaker or stronger form this second claim clearly needs more careful articulation and qualification.  I am confident that David Gillett, while he accepts the line of argument when expressed by a gay man, would not accept either of these claims in relation to a man experiencing Adam’s response to a woman who is already married to another man or to a person who claimed they were experiencing what Adam did in relation to more than one person, both of which are claims that have at times been made by Christians to justify their actions.

Furthermore,

(3) because Genesis 2 is a description of marriage as created by God, that experienced pattern of love for someone of the same sex must also be recognised as marriage. As a result,

(4) “we will now be able to see the tradition in a fully inclusive way – or, at the very least, hope that others who disagree will allow blessings of same sex marriages – thus leaving a variety of ways of living God’s story that recognizes the full humanity and equality of our LGBTI+ brothers and sisters”.

That final claim actually goes even further and shows why our differences here are so difficult to hold together within a single coherent and united witnessing Christian community: David Gillett’s statement implies

(5) that those, like the bishops, who cannot accept this hermeneutic and so allow blessings of same-sex marriages are thereby denying some people’s “full humanity and equality”.

Disagreement and the limits of logic

This in turn makes clear that David Gillett does not really believe what he writes under the guise of “a greater generosity – in line with our all-generous God”: “I may be wrong, or they may be wrong, however we need to hold in faith the fact that we may both be right!”.  That he does not really believe this is not surprising because it is logically incoherent to say two indisputably mutually exclusive truth claims can both be right. The simple fact is that eitherthose who, like David Gillett, say marriage as God intends it in creation requires “a commitment to a faithful, life-long and intimate relationship between two people” are right or those who, like the bishops, say marriage as God intends it in creation is a relationship which requires (among other qualities) that those two people be of the opposite sex are right.  If David Gillet is right then the more specified definition of the bishops, in line with Christian tradition, cannot also be right.  We may say we are not sure what we believe but if we truly believe one of these views is right then we must of necessity also believe the other is wrong.  We cannot “hold in faith” that we may both be right unless that faith abandons reason.

The problems with David Gillett’s approach therefore include its novelty in which what is claimed to be “our understanding of sexuality and gender today” (emphasis original) is ultimately determinative of how we interpret Scripture and also its appeal, in line with our contemporary cultural context, to a highly individualistic reading which treats the passage as concerned simply about how each person finds their right partner.  There is, though, a further and even more serious problem theologically.

Reading canonically and Christo-centrically

Despite his claim to be concerned with the Bible as narrative, David Gillett shows no interest in how Genesis 2 fits within Scripture as a whole.  Any genuine reading of this or any other text – certainly any that claims to be evangelical – is going to be concerned with such a canonical perspective (e.g., is the male-female structure of nuptial imagery from Genesis to Revelation really so secondary?).  In particular careful attention must be given to Jesus’ appeal to the text in Matthew 19 and Mark 10.  There, the text is not understood as to be interpreted in the light of each individual’s way of inhabiting the story by reference to whatever way their own, unchallengeable subjective experience mirrors that of Adam when presented with Eve.  Rather, explaining the focus in the Christian tradition’s reading of Genesis, for Jesus the narrative of Genesis 2 is set alongside and seen as tied to, perhaps even rooted in, the objective, bi-polar ordering and structure of God’s human creature as male and female set out previously in Genesis 1.  In short, according to Jesus, the social practice of marriage is not to be rooted in our personal pattern of desires. Nor in how we believe we find them to be fulfilled.  The social practice of marriage is to be rooted in the created nature of human beings.  Given this teaching of Christ it should therefore perhaps not surprise us that redefining our doctrine of marriage in the way that David Gillett advocates is now so often also correlated with redefining the nature and significance of human sexual differentiation in our doctrine of humanity as created and redeemed by God.

(Responses to the other two articles can be found in successive posts, and will be linked 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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72 thoughts on “Evangelical and affirming: re-reading Genesis 2?”

  1. David Gillett offers a response to Genesis 2 in which a gay man imagines himself as Adam, being offered various potential partners by God. Like Adam, this gay man finds many proposals unsuitable

    Aaaaargh not this again.

    WHERE in the text is there any hint that anything is ‘offered’ to the man or that the man gets any say in the choice of who is or it not a suitable companion?

    Not one single english translation I can find translates the verse as anything like ‘the man did not find a suitable companion’. Every single one uses the passive voice: ‘for the man no suitable companion was found’. Inescapable conclusion: it wasn’t the man who was doing the choosing. It it was, the verb would be in the active voice.

    • S Well here’s one. ‘The Man named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but he didn’t find a suitable companion.’ The Message. Peterson’s English translation of what he clearly takes to be an idiomatic Hebrew way of saying – ‘he found nothing suitable’.

      • David, can I politely express my rather stunned amazement at the idea of reaching for The Message to tell us what the Hebrew says? The Message is not a translation; it is a very loose paraphrase intended (and sometimes very effectively) to communicate some of the rhetorical impact of the text. But it is not a translation.

        The expression is ‘for the adam no ezer kenegdo was found’, as just about every non-paraphrase translation faithfully renders it. It is not unreasonable to interpret this passive as a divine passive.

        Have we really reached the point where ‘evangelical’ readings of the Bible find it so difficult to attend to what the text actually says…? Or are we really now into an era of looking for translations that helpfully offer us what we are looking for?

        • Ian Are you still lying down then? I hope you recover quickly. But come on mate! Read me carefully. I was simply replying to ‘S’s claim that no English translation said that. Not exactly stunning. More a matter of fact.
          Now I am not a Hebrew scholar (though Peterson was a very careful one) and I am very open to correction. But since that whole creation passage is about Adam being gifted with choice it is at least as reasonable to read the verse Peterson’s way it seems to me. Or perhaps it is both ways?

          • But since that whole creation passage is about Adam being gifted with choice

            No it isn’t. Adam doesn’t choose anything in that passage except for what to choose the animals. He doesn’t get a choice about being put in the garden, he doesn’t get a choice about taking care of it, that’s just the job he’s given, like it or lump it. He doesn’t get a choice about which trees he can eat from; he’s told which are in and which out of bounds.

            And he certainly doesn’t get a choice about whether he gets to keep all his ribs or not. If he tried that in modern Britain God would be up in front of the GMC for administering general anesthetic and performing innovative major thoracic surgery without even the whisper of an informed consent form.

            It’s not even clear, in the text, that Adam has a choice about whether to accept or reject Eve. She is brought to him and he recognises that she is flesh of his flesh, which she is — she was made out of him, that’s simply a matter of fact he’s stating. So where’s the choice?

            I honestly can’t see how you could possibly think that it was about Adam being gifted with choice! If anything it’s the opposite! There is only one area in the narrative where Adam exercises any kind of choise at all — he gets to choose what to call the animals — and even that is constrained by God (ie, Adam is told that he has to name the animals, he doesn’t get the choice of whether to do that or, I don’t know, go and lie in the grass munching tree-of-life-fruit or whatever).

            It’s about Adam being given his duties and his responsibilities: naming the animals, looking after the garden, not eating from the forbidden tree. Duties and responsibilites that he has no choice about whether to accept, he’s simply told this is what he is here for.

            Seriously. There’s no choice in this, except for God. None.

            And indeed when Adam does execrise real choice for the first time — when he chooses to eat the forbidden fruit — well, that didn’t turn out too well, did it?

            This is not a pro-choice narrative!

          • If I’m reading S correctly then it seems we may conclude “Welcome to God’s Guantanamo!”

            No, they didn’t get orange jumpsuits.

            (Seriosusly though, do you really equate ‘having a duty to do’ with ‘being in a prison camp’? Actually I suppose that is the fashionable thing nowadays, isn’t it? Nobody has any obligations, duties, responsibilites, except those they choose (and then only for as long as they choose). Something getting in the way of you being happy, maybe, I don’t know, a wedding vow, an elderly parent, an unwanted child? Just choose to get rid of it!)

          • “She is brought to him and he recognises that she is flesh of his flesh, which she is — she was made out of him, that’s simply a matter of fact he’s stating.”

            This is one of the creation narratives and you are referring to it as a ‘simple matter of fact’?! So it’s simply fact that the creation took 7 days?

          • This is one of the creation narratives and you are referring to it as a ‘simple matter of fact’?! So it’s simply fact that the creation took 7 days?

            Oh my goodness, go look up the word ‘diegetic’.

          • Exactly S. There isn’t any ‘simply matter of fact’.

            Within the narrative it is a simple matter of fact that Eve is made from bits of Adam’s.

            So when he says, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ he is (diegetically) stating that simple fact.

            Just as when Doctor Who says that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than the outside, that’s stating something that is a simple fact within the narrative. It’s got nothing to do with the real world where neither TARDISes nor Time Lords exist.

            There is no sense in which this is Adam ‘choosing’ the woman and ‘rejecting’ the animals. So any reading which relies on such a construction, that Adam had a choice over who his companion was, is not actually a reading of the text but is entirely made up, and you might as well say that Adam was not in fact a man but a giant rainbow-coloured elephant and you’re be making just as much sense vis-a-vis the text.

            Ah but then again I remember you have trouble with the concepts of fiction and reality, don’t you? Telling them apart, I mean. Remind me again, why do you think those who have believed without seeing are blessed?

          • “I remember you have trouble with the concepts of fiction and reality, don’t you? Telling them apart, I mean. Remind me again, why do you think those who have believed without seeing are blessed?”

            Strangely S my memory is that it was you who struggled with those concepts. And you still seem to be struggling……
            And I don’t think you were ever able to say why those who believed without seeing were blessed. So I think best not to pursue that one.

          • And I don’t think you were ever able to say why those who believed without seeing were blessed.

            Of course I wasn’t, because I don’t think they are. You were the one saying they are, but apparently you didn’t have any actual reasoning to back it up then. Do you now?

            So I think best not to pursue that one.

            Oh, I pursue to the ends of the Earth.

          • David (Runcorn) I am still recovering…but it is an experience I find myself having just about every day as my friends post quotations from ‘progressives’.

            ‘S’ (whom I really wish would use a real name!) has given a full answer of his own. But I too am puzzled by the idea that this narrative is about ‘choice’ rather than about finding God’s provision in creation. As an anecdote in connection with this, last year we were preaching through the creed, and I had ‘I believe in God…creator…’ I pointed out that our task in life was not to construct or create ourselves, but to receive from God the gift who we are, within the narrative of God’s creation of the world–and several young people were very relieved to hear this counter to contemporary narrative about happiness and success.

            More broadly, I think it is amazing that David Gillett suggests we can read this passage in this way. Andrew Goddard summarises my comment on the original post, and David has just not responded. I will repost here in full–but to have missed these elements of the text suggests that we have some real and basic problems in our ability to listen to God carefully as he speaks in Scripture:

            “Your reading here is challenged by three obstinate features of the text, and you really need to explain what you are doing with them.

            First is the term you cite that opens this section of the narrative: the quest for an ‘ezer kenegdo’. It is an unusual phrase, used only here in the OT, and not the one we would expect to find if the issue were simply finding a companion to end loneliness (which would be kemohu and not kenegdo). Neged is not just alongside, facing, in relationship, (in) front, but more strongly, opposite to, corresponding to (BDB), over against, complementary to. As Wenham, citing Delitzsch, says, the relationship is not just ?zer (help, assistance, support alongside, but ?zer kenegdô: help alongside as from someone different, opposite, matching.

            Secondly, given the need for this difference, the narrative follows the obvious course by bringing the animals to the Adam. The striking lacuna is the idea that God could simply form another Adam from the soil. The animals do not do the job (there is emphatic repetition of the phrase ever kenegdo) because, though different, they are not equal.

            Thirdly, the climax of the story reveals its purpose: it is an aetiology seeking to explain in God’s creation why it is that these two unlikes find such striking union in marriage. The whole point of the story is to explain the rather strange phenomenon of this bond, and its purpose. It is again striking that it does not offer a parallel explanation for same-sex attraction, unlike the later aetiological myth in Plato’s Symposium. That is, it is not offering an explanation for *all* sexual attraction or bonding, but for this male-female one–and as you say, in some tension with the cultural norm of polygamy. It is this one relationship, claims the narrative, which is ‘holy, a gift of God in creation, which all should honour’.

            You don’t appear to me to be offering any real engagement with these three important features of the text. Without such an engagement, I don’t see how your reading can claim in any sense to be ‘evangelical’, or even Anglican…or even a good reading of the text.

            So how do you account for these prominent features? To claim the Adam here is ‘heterosexual’ or that people are ‘gay by nature’ so can simply be dropped into this narrative is to impose modern categories and assumptions that this text seems quite directly to resist.”

      • They key question is whether that is a fair translation of the Hebrew. I.e. is Adam the subject of the verb ‘find’? I would think that the majority of translations use something like “but for Adam a suitable helper was not found” suggests that Adam is not the subject.

        • So what is it? It is called ‘The Bible in Contemporary Language’ on the cover. Is such a firm category distinction really so helpful? Every translation is a work of interpretation. It clearly is a work of translation with strong strands of paraphrase as he aims for something ‘street level’. I think it is a remarkable achievement – but like others here I only use it alongside a more mainstream text.

          • What is it? It is a paraphrase. When I introduce the topic of Bible translation, I am always careful to distinguish between word-for-word, sense-for-sense, phrase for phrase dynamic equivalents, and free paraphrases.

            The Message (a bit like the Living Translation, but not like the New Living Translation) is a paraphrase, and a very loose one at that.

            Again, this used to be the sort of thing I learned at CYFA camps in my teens. Is this not now common knowledge amongst Anglicans?

          • Quote: “I am always careful to distinguish between word-for-word, sense-for-sense, phrase for phrase dynamic equivalents, and free paraphrases.”

            But in practice all of these merge into one continuous spectrum. The Message is just at one end of the spectrum. To deny it is a translation of any kind is just weird. I regularly use it when teaching NT Greek with other translations to discuss with students choices around translation. And it misses the point, which is that at least one translator of a popular English version of the Bible decided that the passive was referring to Adam.

            Is this right? I don’t know. But it is certainly a possible translation. In any case, this is not key to David Gillett’s approach.

          • Of course they merge into a spectrum.

            I am not denying that it is ‘some sort of translation’ but that it is at the far end of the ‘paraphrase’ end of the spectrum.

            Amongst other things, that means that it is about the last place you would go to get a sense of the underlying Hebrew terms. To do so seems very strange for someone ‘in the evangelical tradition’, since it suggests a disengagement from historic disciplines and practices that have consistently marked the kind of careful attention to the Bible that is characteristic of this tradition.

  2. The dubious category ‘a gay man’ is swallowed whole. That means that there can be a gay baby. The opposite is true: the way we are in essence is the way we are born, and it is largely those whose world does not contain multi-age people but only their peer-group (i.e. students and those who spend a lot of time at work, the unmarried etc.) who could try to think otherwise.

    A lot of water can go under the bridge in terms of experiences including ones that deeply affect and change us, whether for the better or for the worse, between the age of 0 and N.

    • Christopher, I agree with you that “a gay man” is a dubious category. Indeed, its every bit as dubious as “a straight man” and it gets much more complicated if one wants to take that debate back into history when “gay” as a categorization didn’t even exist as a possibility. For me, such categorizations are all equally arbitrary cultural abstractions that are imposed upon human beings by human beings for rhetorical purposes. Yet its equally true to say there is no “the way we are in essence” either. This “essence” is yet another rhetorical object created and used for rhetorical purposes. You disagree? Bottle me this “essence” and show it to me.

      It is for this reason that anyone who speaks as if “gay” or “straight” were examples of different natural kinds seems to have entirely missed the point of this debate as far as I’m concerned. For me what’s more important is that, gay or straight, male or female or, indeed, trans, each are examples of differing kinds of the same one thing: the human being. If we don’t all start from a place where we are all equally human beings, which is where Genesis 1-3 takes me, then we are lost from the start.

      • The essence is:
        our unique genetic make-up,
        our unique physical body,
        our unique family.

        Later personality traits and interests will be partly a result of the above and partly of environment, culture and circumstances.

        I agree with you in rejecting the odd word ‘straight’.

        • What, in your view, is “unique” about us and how could such a categorization be justified in terms of evolutionary biology?

          Where would genetic outliers fit into such a theory?

          How is “genetics” any more “essential” than any other form of words you might use to describe a human being?

          • Our genetic makeup (like our place in the family tree, and our physical body) is unchangingly, timelessly us. That’s the definition of essence. Other aspects of us develop, pop into and out of existence.

  3. “That means that there can be a gay baby.”
    Yep. As Qazi Rahman says, if humans were entirely unstructured creatures we would be subject to the totalitarian whims of outside forces.
    (Qazi Rahman is an academic at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. He studies the biology of sexual orientation and the implications for mental health.)

    • But you have repeatedly been confronted with the fact that multidimensionally-
      identical twins
      history of abuse
      urban environment
      college environment
      particular cultures
      particular eras
      particular parenting (lesbian parenting: Stacey and Biblarz meta-analysis)
      being surrounded by particular media-
      there are environmental and circumstantial factors that outweigh anything biological.

      With the fact that what we have biologically may or may not be good (e.g. predispositions to violence)…

      With the fact that gay orientations (more the female ones) are agreed to be highly fluid

      With the definition problem. Everyone is in favour of strong same-gender bonding; everyone agrees that women may well find women more physically attractive than they find men.

      WIth another definition problem – that ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ individuals impregnate or are impregnated with double the frequency of straight. Are these not hypersexual individuals fully signed up to the sexual revolution who have become bored by vanilla? ‘Orientation’ is therefore demonstrably the wrong way of looking at things – we need a ‘reorientation’ of our thought (well, some of us have already had it, but cultural forces have been single-mindedly pressing the ‘orientation’ line on us for quite a while now, against so much of the evidence).

      Are you an evidence avoider or as the fashionable phrase has it a science ‘hater’? The world is full of those who think they are ‘above’ engaging with the evidence. But to fail to do so is to concede. So what errors are there in the findings of the mainstream large-scale surveys, so many of which (those familiar to me) I cite in ‘What Are They Teaching The Children?’?

      • “Are you an evidence avoider or as the fashionable phrase has it a science ‘hater’?”
        Ummm, obviously not one of those – hence I was citing a scientist.
        Dr Qazi Rahman
        Research interests
        Psychobiology of human sexual orientation; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) mental health; neurocognitive sex differences; evolutionary theory; public understanding of science and psychology

        If I was a ‘science hater’ and ‘evidence avoider’ why would I be using an academic scientist for evidence? Have you read him? I suspect he is correct when he suggests that those who make claims for social construction, choice and such like is that it plays into the hands of homophobic ideology, and into the hands of the “aversion therapists”.

        • Hi Andrew,
          On the subject of the effects of genes on sexuality (‘can there be a gay baby’) , I would be interested in your thoughts about the effects of hereditary haemochromatosis on sexual function, particuary in males. I had never heard of HH until May last year when my sister was diagnosed with it. In July last year I also tested positive for it, and since then our entire family has been on a journey of discovery with regard to HH. One interesting thing I read was that sexual dysfunction is common amongst people with HH, and especially with males. If untreated, it can affect the pituitary gland and eventually lead to testicular atrophy and loss of secondary sexual characteristics. Only about 1 in 200 people have hereditary haemochromatosis, so this affects a small minority of people – but it has got me thinking about the ‘hidden heritage’ of some genes!

        • You addressed none of the many points, merely used the argument from authority which no-one considers valid.

          I would be more impressed with the psychological federation if they did not have a markedly higher divorce rate than the population at large – i.e. failure in the very area they ought to be qualified to help in. The fact that anyone can (or till recently could) set up as a psychologist is not the fault of trained professionals. But my main point is that all the several extremely clear-cut conclusions I referred to above were themselves made by psychologists. So why is the research of someone who was involved in none of those studies cited by you above all of those many who were involved in them? Will watching you avoid addressing them be like a slow car crash or will the oracle finally speak? 😉

          • I’m not using any argument from authority. I’m quoting a scientist. So I ask again: if I was a ‘science hater’ and ‘evidence avoider’ why would I be using an academic scientist for evidence? Have you read him?
            Your talking about divorce is a complete non-sequitor! What on earth has that got to do with it at all? It sounds like another prejudice, sadly.

            Christine I know nothing about HH I’m afraid. But I agree that there is something in the idea of the hidden heritage of some genes.

          • [I think that the unsuccessful home lives of psychologists indicate that as soon as you ‘look within’ you end up with incoherence. Look at how their number mushroomed at exactly the same time that the public worldview went wrong and dechristianised. Look at how they perfectly reflect the fact that it is within the humanities above all that secularism with all its incoherences seeks to run away from Christian truth (psychology being the most ‘human’ of all the humanities). The real world does not have an outer and an inner – it is a seamless whole from which we cannot screen out everything that is not incurvatus in se or self-reflexive (those are not the aspects of the world that are to be privileged above other aspects, but those which are to be most examined for their questionable coherence).]

            None of which (to repeat) has anything to do with the main point I was making. After all, your chap is a biologist. But you were not only using the argument from authority but also scoring an own goal in so doing, since all the conclusions that so strongly and in such a clear cut manner privilege circumstances, life-history and culture over genes themselves emanated from (or are affirmed by) psychologists.

            So, rather than rejecting science, I am affirming what the relevant scientific studies say, and rejecting the right of non-researchers to do differently (and their credibility in yet again avoiding addressing any of the relevant studies). I had no idea that your chap had contributed in the fields under discussion.

          • When I met Dr Qazi Rahman in the Guardian building in King’s Cross, he was not only unaware of the Stacey and Biblarz meta-analysis (he rightly corrected me for using the slightly wrong term meta-study) but made a note to consult it. It is a meta-analysis ASR 2001 of the preceding work done on lesbian parenting. It finds the chances of lesbian children emerging from such a set-up to be at the very least 400% increased.

            This was odd because in the debate that had just taken place he had said that there was no increase – it was parity. But in that case, how can a large-scale meta-analysis of preceding analyses come up with a minimum 400%?

            The other odd thing is that at no time did he say anything that went against the fashionable ideology. Which is not to say his views seemed uninformed. Maybe they were just ‘spun’. But in the case cited in the previous para they were spectacularly incorrect, and one would think it likely that if someone is spectacularly incorrect on a fairly central point, they will also be at least partly incorrect on other points.

            The debate in question was at times ‘spectacularly’ shallow and foul mouthed, but not on his part. For example ‘Bigot, bigot, bigot!’ was understood to qualify as being an argument! That was at times the intellectual level.

          • So I was not impressed that Qazi Rahman was happy to share a stage in such a comradely way with those who on this particular occasion reverted to cliched and anti-intellectual playground language (the reason I gave feedback to the organisers @ The Guardian is that we had forked out £20 or so expecting an intellectual debate) – Stella Duffy and Patrick Strudwick. It was 17 July 2014.

            Re the word ‘affirming’, it belongs to a group of words which are used (within much the same circles as one another) in a nonsensically absolute manner without qualification – I argue in my (only published) chapters that this has to be dishonest, which does not reflect well on those who use such phrases, though of course some will do so unthinkingly.

          • “For example ‘Bigot, bigot, bigot!’ was understood to qualify as being an argument!”
            You mean rather like calling people ‘evidence avoiders’ and ‘science haters’?

            Christopher: the debate you are addressing is the old nature v nurture debate that has been going on, what, since medieaval times? Your exclusive attachment to ‘nurture’ in the case under discussion is touching but hardly persuasive. Especially when you resort to claims like the ‘same time that the public worldview went wrong’? Who decides what is a right and wrong public worldview?

          • 8 January 2.15 my comment: ‘there are environmental and circumstantial factors that outweigh anything biological…What we have biologically may or may not be good’.

            All readers can see that your characterisation of this as ‘exclusive attachment to nurture’ is inaccurate.

            Is nature/nurture (NB this is a simplistic binary) compelled to be 50-50? No – 50-50 is highly unlikely. Therefore it is likeliest that one of the two will be more to the fore, possibly substantially so. The 10 or so areas of study listed in the same 8.1.19 (2.150 comment enable us to see which of the two this is in this instance. But what I am interested in is your addressing such matters (since they are central to everything to do with this debate), if necessary one by one. For example: Does the evidence from identical twins support essence more or circumstance more?

          • Christopher:

            I’m not a scientist and don’t claim to be.
            But I can read and I’m aware of research presented at the 2012 American Society of Human Genetics meeting which suggests that identical twins and not identical genetically.

          • Andrew, the reason why identical twins might not have identical active gene sets is because of epigenetic changes due to their life experience.

            ‘Identical twins who inherit the same set of genes may not necessarily develop the same metabolic traits because of differing epigenetic changes during their life. An epigenetic change silences or activates some of the genes that a person inherits without otherwise altering any of the genes that are attached to the chromosomes. As a typical result of activating or silencing genes some bodily functions may be turned on or off.

            Epigenetic changes can be the result of a person’s lifestyle and/or a response to conditions that a person experiences during their lifetime.

            Some epigenetic changes that occur in one generation can be passed on and inherited by subsequent generations. A Nova DVD “The Ghost in Your Genes” offers an easily understood overview of epigenetics.’

            https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-genetic-differences-of-identical-twins

            In other words, environment is probably more important than we realised, and can have an impact on successive generations. Early years psychological development and parenting are presumable a key element of that.

          • Thanks Ian. But other views are available:

            “Identical, or monozygotic, twins come from the same fertilized egg. So, at some point during cell division (before 14 days post-conception), identical twin embryos share virtually all of their DNA. During early fetal development, however, identical twins undergo more than 300 genetic mutations, or copy errors, on average. As human cells divide trillions of times during their lifespan, a few hundred genetic mutations could lead to millions or trillions of genetic differences in the DNA of identical twins over the years. Chemical factors can furthermore activate or suppress gene expression, which means that the same subset of genetic material can lead to the formation of different proteins.

            The results, which were presented by McGill University epidemiologist Rui Li, could have drastic consequences for what we know about the heritability of diseases, addictions, personality and intelligence—or what is more popularly known as the nature versus nurture debate.”

          • Wow it is new to me that identical twins are not identical genetically, but thanks for pointing it out. Why then are they used in such studies at all? Is it not because they are (virtually) identical genetically?

          • Just to be clear. Epigenetic changes do not alter the underlying DNA which form the genes, they are the differences in the way the code within the DNA is read by the cell.

          • So DNA is unalterable.

            In addition, even if epigenetic changes take place, they would be small minority changes, and what you are requiring is that they affect the precise area of life in which you are most interested. The chances of that are surely not high. What we are seeking is a reason why twins identical in DNA would 9 times out of 10 *not* self-style as gay when their twin did. Here we also have a good window into the *proportional* importance of genetics vis a vis environment.

          • No it is possible for mutations in the DNA, but those are not Epigenetic. I cannot respond to your second comment.

          • What he’s saying is that Ian Paul talking about epigenetic changes is a red herring. What I was referring to was were changes inside the womb.

      • I am trying to work out whether the tone of this conversation between Christopher and Andrew G is appropriate or helpful…

        Could we all make sure we focus on the issues, and seek to understand and then engage as the strategy for debate?

      • (Not sure at what level to add my comment. I hope this will do)

        My view is that the discussion of nature vs. nurture, and the broader position that our current (‘scientific’) knowledge of sexuality and gender has a significant bearing on the matter, is moot. We are not in the Genesis 2 world, being separated by Genesis 3. As a result we cannot determine what should be from what is. Science simply describes, it cannot say that what is described is good or bad.

        Our understanding of causes may change our view on culpability. If an attitude or disposition is in some way not by way of explicit conscious choice, that should change our attitude to those affected. However, that does not mean that the attitude or disposition is good. A child growing up being physically abused is more likely to be an abuser themselves.

        The boy hands his father the school report. The father’s face grows dark as he reads it. Anticipating his father’s rebuke, the boy asks, “is the fault of my genes or my upbringing that my marks are bad?”

    • As Qazi Rahman says, if humans were entirely unstructured creatures we would be subject to the totalitarian whims of outside forces.

      False dilemma much?

      • ‘S’ can I ask you again to use an actual name? You don’t even have to tell us if it is your real name, but a real email address would also be reassuring. (Email addresses are known only to me.)

  4. I can’t see that David Gillet has anything other than a verdict scraping around for evidence.

    “Gosh said the first man. I can only be made humanly complete by another man. And I’m sorry about your plan to create nations. It’s going to have to go back to the drawing board I’m afraid. I’d like to have a baby though. It’s all about me God. Didn’t you know? ” It descends into the absurd.

    Genuinely, I’m concerned for those who personally struggle with their sexuality but this bizarre stuff helps not a jot. I’d have more respect if he disowned Genesis as a source of truth for our time….

    PS… The Message can be helpful but in my experience it’s sometimes a way to avoid grappling with scripture and should never be used as THE public scripture reading.

  5. I imagine David Gillett as ….
    The whole objective of Ozanne’s project is to … what? And the the people who are sought to put forward the case are advocates for a position from a pre -determined position. And how will they interpret scripture…?
    As some who indulges his imagination to interpret scripture, he presumably can not, or perhaps he can, imagine someone imagining that his (Gillet’s) contention that he “wholeheartedly to the fundamental importance and authority of Scripture” is purely imaginary,and self-refuting, self-negating, as he doesn’t seem to adhere to any semblance scriptural and /or statutory interpretation, canons of construction, of biblical and or systematic theology.
    What is scripture to him? Is it a mere human construct? In the context of his statement, what is “fundamental importance”. what does that mean? And why? What authority does it have? And over whom or what?
    Can it ever contradict him, his beliefs and thinking? Can his God ever do so?
    Scripture, as we have it, can not be corrected, not even by imaginings or wishful thinking of Bishops, Archbishops or Popes.
    Imagine there is no heaven… above us only… Imagine there is no hell. Imagine Adam and (St)eve and no subsequent humanity at all.
    Humanity,male and female, is the pinnacle of God’s creative order. There is no other species in the image of God. That is the reason that none of the species would do for Adam, only woman, (both supernatural formed). Woman became known as Eve (of all living). Together they had offspring in their own (fallen) image, humanity.
    Jesus is the last Adam, supernaturally formed in Mary (woman) from whom a new reformed humanity comes, not born of human flesh, but supernaturally formed in human beings to be transformed into His image, a new creation. (No Gnosticism here). But of course there is more, much more. And what do I know, a mere Christian.

    • “Scripture, as we have it, can not be corrected, not even by imaginings or wishful thinking of Bishops, Archbishops or Popes”

      No, but it can be interpreted – and that by anyone who can read it. In fact, it gets worse. It turns out you can’t read it WITHOUT interpreting it! All else is rhetoric for one interpretation or another. May the most convincing interpretation win.

      PS it always does.

      • Oh really. 1 What does scripture say- what is written? 2 What does it mean?
        You should go back to Psalm 2. What is written? What does it say about God’s laughter, which contradicts what you say is a cue for laughter, a conclusion that is a contradiction of what is written.
        The way and means of interpretation are important. How do you interpret. I’d suggest you seek the advice and guidance of Ian Paul in this quest.

        Certainly in my experience, you would struggle to operate as a lawyer, if you think it’s all interpretation and that there are no canons of construction.

        • Geoff, the debate between logic and rhetoric is as old as Western thought. It shows no signs of abating. Its much bigger than you, I, or even our esteemed host on this blog.

          PS I don’t know what “canons of construction” are but I’m willing to bet they weren’t pulled from thin air. And I’m also willing to bet they can be deconstructed – as all linguistic forms can.

          • 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?

  6. I have to say I’m largely in agreement with ‘S’ on this one. I do not read the Genesis narratives as if Adam is being offered choices, but nor do I read it as Adam having choices imposed on him by another. Why do I have to accept a choice between the two?

    Adam simply has no reason to question what he is given by his creator, and he would ask for an alternative partner about as surely as he would ask for gills instead of lungs…. He could question God’s choice, but he doesn’t, because he has absolutely no reason to.

    P.S ‘The Message’ is fine. Peterson gets a lot of unfair criticism, which is much better aimed elsewhere. The trick is to understand what and who it’s for, and then to not use it for something else. 😉

    • “Peterson gets a lot of unfair criticism”

      I don’t criticise him. It’s the unthinking use by those *who should know better * 🙂 or whose use of the bible is pretty thin. Preaching on any handy tangents…

      • I wasn’t aiming the comment at anyone specifically. 😉 My observation is that among certain groups it’s something of a fashion to snipe at Peterson, and I think we should avoid it here.

    • Choice in the context of the narrative is a non issue as far as Adam is concerned. Adam is more than delighted; elated, almost ecstatically breathless, smitten, with woman. If choice does come into it, it is God’s choice for Adam.
      I’m intrigued to know the manner in which Adam could question God – there was no alternative
      and would have no knowledge or understanding of what they could be. He’d have an extremely finite cognisance. Put yourself in his bare feet and nakedness?
      Unlike the situation with the two trees.

  7. Choice is one of the great gods of our modern western culture. To deny choice is sacrilegious. To say to someone that their desires might not be good is to be hateful. However, this does not match what is required of Christians. We are to deny self and take up our cross daily to follow Christ. In imitating our Saviour, we should say to the Father, “not my will, but yours be done.” Even in our faith, we recognise that Jesus says to us, “you did not choose me, but I choose you and appointed you so that you might go an bear fruit.”

  8. Hi Andrew,
    Thank you for your comment on my post.
    I keep re-reading your paragraph beginning: ‘The problems with David Gillet’s approach include its novety in which what is claimed to be ” our understanding of sexuality and gender *today*” (emphasis original ) is ultimately determinative of how we interpret Scripture…’ I find this approach of David Gillet troubling, given that our ‘understanding of sexuality and gender’ (and probably our understanding of many other things, too!) is based on such limited human knowledge. I thought of Proverbs3:5

  9. An underlying assumption of the attempt to justify SSM using Genesis 2 is that v18ff are basically about finding a companion for Adam. (Peterson seems to share that assumption.) English translations tend to let this in. When they say “it is not good that the adam be alone,” it seems to imply that the man will be lonely (although chapter 3 seems to imply that there was companionship between God and the man and woman, which was broken by their disobedience). Then there has been the removal of a space from the KJV’s “find a help meet for him” to generate the word ‘helpmeet’, a word in which many find subordination. The “for him” does not help, either. As far as I can tell, the LLX has the same sense of being ‘against’ (not in a negative sense) that Ian explains about ezer kenegdo.

    Genesis is (by definition?!) about origins and the second chapter is about the origin of male and female, and seems an elaboration of Gen 1:27,28.

    I’m not saying that companionship in marriage is not a good. But it is not the reason for marriage. Indeed, I would suggest that the Bible and many societies see men and women finding companionship outside of marriage.

    Someone once said that the English country gentleman was more fond of his dogs than his wife. Perhaps if Adam had been of the same mind, and had had a choice, when dogs were presented, he would have stopped then.

  10. Thanks for this, Andrew.

    David Gillet’s argument is as awkward as a hairy, size 10 labourer’s foot being shoehorned into a dainty, size 6 dancing slipper. Are these eisegetical flights of imagination really what pass for serious, scholarly engagement with Scripture amongst some members of the House of Bishops these days?

    Gillet’s qualifying comment that he still holds “wholeheartedly to the fundamental importance and authority of Scripture”, given what follows, looks a bit like the big, bad wolf passing itself off as Goldilocks’ granny.

  11. Andrew Goddard seems to attack David Gillett’s response for not being a different sort of article. David Gillett produced a blog piece as a response – it was not an ‘article’. It was under 1,400 words long. Do we really expect such a piece to interact fully with both with 2000 years of tradition and the whole of the rest of scripture? I’m sure that David could do so, but to attack it on these grounds is… …weird.

    And the attacks miss the central point. The passage is about Adam being alone, and finding a suitable companion. It is not unreasonable to ask how that passage might speak to (not an individual) but a large group of people who will not find such a companion in the opposite sex. This is not some strange methodology imported from elsewhere but what preachers have been doing since the time of Peter in Acts.

    Andrew Goddard wants tradition on Genesis brought in. Does he want Chrysostom – who emphasises how alike the woman and man are, in contrast to the animals? or Augustine – who argues that the only reason it’s a woman rather than a man is because of the need to produce children? or more recently Westermann, who emphasises mutuality and the discovery of a companion? Which tradition? And when drawing from tradition, was it explicitly answering this quesstion?

    Reading canonically, to say that these verses can apply to couples of the same-sex doesn’t erase the use of opposite sex imagery. It’s not an either-or. (But also, as we are being Christocentric, in Christ there is no male and female – language that deliberately echoes the creation narrative).

    And appealing to Matthew 19 and Mark 10 underscores how hypocritical much of this debate is. The passages are about whether marriage should be lifelong – an area where many Christians, including formally the Church of England, are happy for disagreement to exist) – not about who it is possible to marry. I fail to see why we cannot live with disagreement in this area too.

    These are soundbite responses – much more could be said – but time presses.

    • Andrew’s piece is not an ‘attack’; it is a careful reflective examination of whether the argument stands up.

      No, we would not expect engagement with 2000 years of interpretation. But we might at the least expect engagement with the major features of the text, which seem to be missing.

      It seems rather odd to expect taking into account ‘tradition’, attending to every different variant. Are you suggesting that, because the tradition is not uniform, we can just ditch it? What happened to critical appropriation?

      And why are you characterising Andrew’s approach here as ‘hypocritical’?

    • I hesitate to contribute amongst the great and learned, but I have commented above on the assumption that Genesis 2 is about finding a companion. If nothing else, to understand ‘ezer’ as ‘companion’ does not seem to me to do justice to a word used most commonly of God.

      The Bible is a rich resource for considering friendship. Of course, it is in the context of an older culture which actually valued friendship (and sometimes valued it above sexual love), unlike our present Western culture which does not seem to be able conceive of intimacy outside of sexual activity. But friendship and companionship are not confined to a marriage relationship.

      I married late, for the first time aged 61, three years ago. In the decades that preceded sometimes felt the force of “it is not good that the man be alone.” However, I have come to be convinced that this should not be read as “it is not good that a man be alone.” If one is to read it as such we have a far larger social and pastoral problem on our hands with those other-sex attracted (or no-sex attracted) who are not married than those who are same-sex attracted seeking to be joined in marriage. If ‘alone’ is not good, and the answer to ‘alone’ is basically marriage, then that is an issue for a significant number of people. However, the Bible is clear that singleness is a good, and can be preferred to marriage. After all, the One who became flesh and dwelt among us had no ‘life-partner’ (Dan Brown notwithstanding). The life He lived was complete and exemplary and celibate. Of course, He had close friends but that is not what this present discussion is about.

      ‘The adam’ [sic] is not just a typical human being. Rather this is a narrative about the creation of the human race and, in particular, the origin of male and female. The application for us lies in Gen 2:24 which is about how man and woman relate in what we now call marriage.

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