How can we engage well with Living in Love and Faith?


Andrew Goddard writes: This is the third of three articles exploring responses to Living in Love and Faith, particularly among evangelicals committed to the current teaching and discipline of the church. The first piece engaged with the recent detailed account and critique of LLF offered by Martin Davie arguing that his primary objection is that LLF fails because it was wrong to do what it set out to do. The second article examined and rejected the claim that LLF is designed in order to move the church to an “agree to differ” position. In contrast it highlighted how the resources help us to recognise where and why we disagree and in so doing also showed the potential significance of our differences and their possible implications for our common life. This final article offers ten questions that might help constructive engagement with the LLF resources.


Martin Davie’s critique of LLF risks creating a situation in which evangelicals either refuse to use its resources or do so very reluctantly and critically, not understanding their rationale and purpose. Despite his overwhelming negative assessment, Martin rejects the first of these options – “those in the Church of England who continue to accept orthodox Christian teaching and practice need to engage with the LLF material”. However, he gives limited details as to how this should be done, concluding by saying that such engagement requires “acknowledging its strengths, explaining its weaknesses, and giving the clear Christian teaching about sexual identity and behaviour that LLF fails to provide so that the Church is properly informed by the time there are votes in General Synod”. His book gives a little more detail, calling on those who hold the traditional view to explain the beautiful story (referring to CEEC’s film), be people of truth and love, be realistic about the future, and be people of prayer (Living in Love and Faith: A Biblical Response, 173-82). The danger is – particularly given the relative weighting of strengths and weaknesses in his account – that such engagement will appear defensive or belligerent.

In what follows I want to sketch some ways in which I think we can engage much more constructively with LLF materials and with one another across our differences when we use those materials. These take the form of ten questions we can ask of ourselves and of the wider church. Although coming from a traditionalist perspective, and at times making that explicit in my commentary and more specific examples, I hope that these questions (adapted where necessary) might be of wider use and enable people of other perspectives also to engage better with LLF and to express their own current understandings and concerns within the process this year.

1. What can we learn from these resources and what new insights might be possible if we engage with them together as a church without denying our own clear commitments?

LLF offers the church teaching and learning resources. As such it remains in one sense a teaching document but it is such in the form of a learning journey. Its various materials draw on multiple disciplines to enable us to reflect together. Its focus is not primarily on specific contentious questions but more on deeper concerns such as what it means to be human and to be church. It seeks to give voice to a range of different perspectives and thus enable everyone to hear their own views – and then perhaps elaborate on those themselves – and the views of others which they may not always have listened to carefully or fully understood. Wherever we are on the spectra of views on the range of issues discussed, unless we are convinced we already have possession of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, the resources give us opportunities to learn and new insights are often gained by listening carefully to the views of those with whom we disagree.

2. Is LLF right in what it identifies as areas of agreement?

One of the aims of LLF is to seek to identify and express areas of agreement among us and the period of discernment using the resources will help clarify whether or not it is right in what it identifies. To take a few key examples:

In relation to identity it claims (LLF Book, 216-7):

As we seek to understand how identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage fit into the story of love and faith, there are various key claims on which we hope Christians across the Church of England can agree:

  • Every human person, regardless of their gender, sexuality, or relationship status, is created in the image of God. Each and every human being comes from God, and is the object of God’s care and love.
  • God has created human beings to be wonderfully diverse. Their diversity is part of God’s gift of life to the world and is to be celebrated and affirmed.
  • Our deepest identity is our identity in Christ, and every aspect of our existence is caught up in that story, including everything that goes into our gender and sexuality, and all our relationships.
  • For each of us, the discovery of our identity in Christ will involve challenge and transformation, the conviction of sin and repentance, including in relation to our attitudes and behaviour in the areas of gender, sexuality and relationships.

In relation to Scripture it claims (298) that we agree that “the Bible is God’s instrument, telling us of God’s love and calling us into holiness” and that across our different understandings of its nature and authority we share:

  • a commitment to growth in holiness and love;
  • a commitment to the diligent reading of the Bible as God’s instrument for training in holiness and love, and instructing us for salvation;
  • a determination to attend to the way the words of the Bible run;
  • a desire to have their consciences formed by the dynamics of those words;
  • a conviction that Christ stands at the centre of the Bible; and
  • a belief that the Bible’s deep purpose is to unite us with Christ and to draw us into Christlike love for God and neighbour.

In relation to issues relating to sexuality, relationships and marriage it claims (LLF Guide, 49) that although we have disagreements which “are profound and can seem intractable”,

We agree that God gives us the Bible to tell us the good news of God’s saving love and to call everyone into holy ways of living. We agree about the importance of intimate relationships including friendship, the goodness of marriage, the gift and calling of celibacy, and the costly universal call to discipline and self-denial in our sexual lives. We agree that these have a part to play in the abundant life to which God calls us. We agree that, as God draws us into that life, our desires are purified and reordered – as we learn to love ourselves, our neighbours, and God as we should.

3. What can we conclude from these areas of agreement?

Where there are areas of agreement it is important not only to affirm these but to draw out some of their practical implications for our life together and for how we portray the views of others. So, to give a couple of examples, if we agree on what is said above about identity then it follows that upholding the church’s traditional teaching is not, as some claim, to deny the dignity of LGBT people or to imply that they are not equally made in God’s image. This is what underlies the helpful statement in the recent Braver, Safer document that anyone who “in a tone of genuine and respectful sharing or enquiry” during discussions “expresses their view that ‘my reading of the Bible is that same-sex activity and/or gender transition are wrong’” or “states that their understanding of Scripture is that marriage is intended to be between a man and a woman, including stating that this is the current position of the Church of England” is not being homophobic. On the other hand, those who hold traditional views should, if we agree on what LLF says we can agree, not portray those who do not hold those views as therefore being unconcerned with holiness or as rejecting the need for transformation, discipline and repentance in Christian discipleship.

4. How can we take to heart and apply the Pastoral Principles within our understanding and practice in our churches and in how we engage with others in the LLF process?

Although developed by the Pastoral Advisory Group rather than the LLF team, it became increasingly clear that the Pastoral Principles have a vital role to play in helping us discern together using the LLF resources. Some evangelicals have felt that these principles are seriously flawed (Martin Davie again offered a critique) and/or that they are particularly aimed at evangelicals. In fact, they represent a challenge to all of us, whatever our perspectives or labels. Those wishing to understand them and their importance better may find helpful the conversation about them between two PAG members—Ed Shaw as a same-sex attracted celibate evangelical and Bishop Nick Chamberlain, the only openly gay bishop. I have sought to explore some similar ground in reflections on a spirituality of disagreement.

5. What can we learn from—and how should we respond to, perhaps change as a result of—critiques of traditional views which are aired within LLF?

In a number of places the LLF book sets out why some people are unable to accept views held by others. It does this not to reject the views examined but in order to show why there are differences and the problems some Christians have with the beliefs or actions of other Christians. When these refer to our own views it is important to consider whether the critique is fair. If it is unfair, in whole or in part, what has it misunderstood or misrepresented? If it is fair, how can we change in terms of what we believe, how we express it, or how we live it out? So, in relation to inclusion, how would those who hold traditional teaching respond to the following observation?:

If I have transitioned, and have experienced that as a deep liberation, and a church says, ‘You are welcome here, but your involvement will be limited while you still live as a man’, I am very unlikely to agree that the Church is actually willing to welcome me as the person I believe myself to be. Or suppose I am a lesbian in a long-term relationship, and a church says, ‘You are welcome, but you won’t be eligible for a role in leadership while you are still in that relationship—or at least whilst it is sexually active.’ I am very likely to experience this as another form of rejection and exclusion, especially if I notice that no such questions about sexual activity are asked of my straight friends, and that nobody criticizes those friends when they say how central those relationships are to their identity and their well-being (228-9).

6. How can we draw attention to the ways that LLF sets out our concerns that may help others who disagree with us understand us better and think afresh about their own views and how they relate to us?

In contrast to the preceding question, here we are looking at when LLF articulates rather than critiques our views. Again, this may be helpful because it is not doing so to win an argument against opponents and sometimes does so in a different manner (in tone or wording) from the well-worn regular ways of expressing the view whether in more confrontational debates or in exhortations to those who already hold the view. Here it is worth asking whether, through the work of LLF, we might find better ways of explaining our views and commending them to those whose inclination is simply to reject them. One example here might be the passage that responds to the critique above relating to inclusion:

For those of us who do believe sexual relationships between people of the same sex are sinful, or that transitioning gender is a rejection of God’s good intention for us, the making of distinctions like this is unavoidable. It is a normal and necessary feature of the welcome that the Church extends to all. If the Church is understood as the community of those who follow the way of Christ, and if that way truly is incompatible with these behaviours, then it is necessary at some point to communicate that such ways of life are sinful and subject to God’s judgement. That means communicating God’s call to repentance as the means of being fully included in the life and ministry of the Church (229).

7. How can we work with the 3 levels of disagreement distinguished in LLF?

LLF summarises the earlier FAOC report (“Communion and Disagreement”) suggesting 3 levels of disagreement (230–4). Evangelicals have in the past tended to use a simple binary categorisation of “first order” vs “second order”. Increasingly, however, many have recognised that this is too crude. It is important to consider whether this tri-partite distinction will serve us better and, if so, what is the best way to describe the three levels. If it, or a variant of it, can be worked with and provide a shared model across our different viewpoints then careful attention needs to be given as to in which level supporters of current teaching should place different possible developments.

8. What follows from what LLF says about disagreements relating to identity, sexuality and marriage in relation to the different levels of disagreement? What implication does this have for the idea we can just “agree to disagree” and support some form of “mutual flourishing” similar to that which we are attempting in relation to women’s ordination?

The claim that LLF—by giving voice to different views and in a descriptive more than evaluative tone and not clearly ruling certain views out of court—gives support to the “agree to disagree” viewpoint is a misreading. Much better is to engage with the multiple areas of disagreement which LLF seeks to identify and map and to then consider what implications follow for our common life. Here Scene 4 of Part 5 of the book (405–12) and its “Conversation About the Church” has much helpful material and the views of Derek and of Harry helpfully and succinctly voice many evangelical concerns.

9. How do we engage with what LLF says about views on Scripture?

One of the most important discussions in LLF relates to different understandings of the nature and authority of Scripture. Here it is worth considering how accurate and helpful it is to say that, across the spectrum of views that LLF offers,

All of these speakers believe themselves to be taking the Bible seriously – in fact, each may think that they are taking it more seriously than the others. All of them are determined to be obedient to God’s purposes in giving us the Bible, as they understand those purposes. They can’t simply be divided up into those who are trying to be obedient to God’s voice and those who are not (299)

The seven views set out in the spectrum also merit careful scrutiny and reflection: Do the different speakers represent significant shifts in position? Where do we see the most important movement taking place (most evangelicals seem to see to it between 3 and 4 or 4 and 5)? What follows from this? How might the 3-fold categorisation of levels of disagreement relate to different places on the spectrum? Most fundamentally, perhaps, is it the differences mapped out here which are more significant for the unity of the church and are our differences on identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage as closely correlated to our differences on Scripture as many believe?

10. Does LLF provide sufficient support for those seeking to change the church’s historic teaching and practice and point to a clear consensus on what alternative teaching should replace it?

LLF does not itself seek to adjudicate between the various views that it describes other than to clarify which are part of current church teaching and which represent alternatives to it. It is for those who use the materials to make their own judgments and ultimately for the bishops to discern and decide whether, and if so how, the Church of England should change its doctrine, discipline or pastoral practice. LLF also does not explore to what extent there is a presumption in favour of the current teaching in relation to sexual unions other than male-female marriage due to its uniform acceptance by Christians until the last half-century and its continued acceptance by most of the wider church (most recently demonstrated by the Vatican’s rejection of any blessing of same-sex sexual unions). At one point in the process it was suggested that an analogy here might be the ‘umpire’s call’ in the DRS system in cricket: the assumption is to stick with the original umpire’s decision while asking if there is a good reason to overturn it. If this is the stance we are to take—that the burden of proof lies with those who seeking to overturn historic teaching and practice—then I think Lee Gatiss is right when he writes:

Overall, I want to say this: Ultimately, there is absolutely nothing in LLF which warrants a change in the Church’s doctrine or practice. It simply fails to present a sufficient case to justify revision.


Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.  He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF.


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530 thoughts on “How can we engage well with Living in Love and Faith?”

  1. I have not read Andrew’s third article in detail but I have done a word search on ‘article’. There are 3 instances but none of them is about the LLF assertion in note 318 which casts doubt on whether in a legal sense the 39 Articles should still be considered the doctrine of the CofE. Surely this is a key issue for evangelicals?

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Phil: I had hoped others would reply to you, as you and I have had discussions before on here about the importance and significance of the 39 Articles. I am pleased, of course, that LLF recognises the points I have made many times here before, and which have been rejected many times by others. LLF has this to say about the articles:

      “In 1968, a report on Subscription and Assent to the 39 Articles was produced by the Archbishops’ Commission on Christian Doctrine. Focusing in particular on the approach to Scripture set out in the Articles, it called for the then current Declaration of Assent to
      be changed, so that it would ‘not tie down the person using it to acceptance of every one of the Articles’, and would leave open ‘The possibility of fresh understandings of Christian truth’, while also leaving room ‘for an appeal to the Articles as a norm within Anglican theology’

      “In response, in 1975, a new form of Declaration of Assent came into force in the Church of England.317 The preface states of the Church of England that:

      It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.

      In response, the person being ordained or licensed affirms their loyalty to ‘this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care, and declares their belief in, this inheritance of faith.’
      Opinions around the Church of England differ about the implications of this form of the Declaration for appeal to the Articles in disagreements like ours.”

      It has always been clear that people mean different things when they make the declaration of Assent. This ties in with the discussion I have been having with S further down the page – that there is no fully agreed set of ‘rules’, and so talk of appealing to umpires etc is a very weak analogy and argument.

      I hope others will contribute to the important point you so often raise Phil, but I am glad LLF has not ignored it.

      Reply
      • Andrew
        Thanks for replying. I have communicated with Lee Gatiss on this and asked him for his view on the legal points made on page 318 and note 318 of the LLF book and whether they have ever been challenged.
        Whatever the legal status of the Declaration of Assent and Article IX are, I remain convinced that Article IX truly summarises what the Bible says about the Fall and Original Sin (though in my view the wording could be made more exact). As I see it, it is vital that this question is seriously considered; it has a massive bearing on whether or not same-sex attraction and practice is sinful
        I have tried to make this same importance clear to Ian Paul but he does not seem willing to answer my points about the right exegesis of Romans 5:12-21.

        Phil Almond

        Reply
      • and would leave open ‘The possibility of fresh understandings of Christian truth’, while also leaving room ‘for an appeal to the Articles as a norm within Anglican theology’

        I assume it was also intended that it would leave open the possibility of eating one’s cake, while also leaving room for still having it?

        Reply
  2. How do we ensure that people don’t feel “rejected and excluded”? A guaranteed way of preventing this is by not actually rejecting and excluding them. However, if we have decided that, for example, being in a same-sex relationship rules someone out of a leadership position then it is difficult to see how the person could be rejected without being made to feel rejected. There may be more or less diplomatic ways of doing it, but the person who has been rejected will inevitably *feel* rejected.

    Of course, being made to feel “rejected” is seen as a very bad thing in the modern age. It is an age in which the sense of self is the ultimate idol. Any (perceived) attack on a person’s sense of self is intolerable.

    Reply
    • Like Richard Bauckham’s, this is a central issue. So far as the NT is concerned, preserving the purity of the faith does involve exclusion and rejection – I Cor 5:5, 5:9, II Thes 3:14, I Tim 20, Titus 3:10, for example. So far as the rejected person is concerned, the basic idea is: better to be rejected now, so that you have an opportunity to repent, than to be rejected by the Lord himself when he reviews your life – Matt 5:20, 7:23 among many other such passages. Compare the spirit of LLF with the spirit of Jude’s teaching, or Jesus’s letters to the churches at Pergamum, Thyatira and Laodicea.

      Reply
      • Indeed, Steven. It really couldn’t be any clearer. If the man who was sleeping with his stepmother had gone to Paul and said that he felt “excluded and rejected”, he would have been given short shrift. Some claim that Paul would not have numbered those in “committed” same-sex relationships among the sexually immoral but I really can’t think of anything more implausible.

        Reply
      • “ So far as the NT is concerned, preserving the purity of the faith does involve exclusion and rejection “

        Quite wrong. Consider the thief on the cross – no repentance recorded. Yet he was going straight to paradise. Jesus said it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man etc etc.
        Other stories in the gospel make it clear that Jesus was explicitly not wanting to preserve the purity of the faith.

        Reply
        • “Quite wrong. Consider the thief on the cross – no repentance recorded. Yet he was going straight to paradise.”

          Really? What about Luke 23:40-43:

          23:40
          But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
          23:41
          And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
          23:42
          And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
          23:43
          And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

          Phil Almond

          Reply
          • I see acknowledgment that he got caught. I see acknowledgment that he is receiving the correct punishment. I see him asking Jesus to remember him. But where does he actually repent?

            And what do you make of Jesus telling those stories about people who thought they were all saved, but in the story it’s the people who are not expected but seem to be going in to the kingdom *before* the righteous people?

        • The verb ‘repent’ occurs 12 times in Revelation. Eight of those occurrences are in the letters to the churches. Again and again, Jesus urges the churches that have fallen short to repent. The other four occurrences relate to the world and are all negative: the world incurs his wrath because it will not repent. Sadly, today’s Church does not listen to Jesus and is just like the world.

          Reply
        • The man on the cross would not be sinning anymore. It seems that the man who was sleeping with his stepmother had no intention of stopping. Presumably, if he had stopped, there would have been no need for him to be excluded. And that is the crucial point about sexual immorality. There is very often an intention to carry on engaging in it. Indeed, those who want to change the Church’s position on sexual behaviour argue that it would be unreasonable for, say, gay people to make a concerted effort to abstain.

          Reply
          • “The man on the cross would not be sinning anymore. “
            Indeed not. He was going straight to paradise without repentance. Because, of course, Jesus could see he was right in the heart, even if he wasn’t quite right in the head. And Jesus does that again and again in the Gospels. It’s the good news.

            Still you ignore the great thrust of the good news – that it’s the people who are not expected but seem to be going in to the kingdom *before* the righteous people. See you there, God willing?

          • Jesus had the power to see inside people’s hearts but we don’t have that power. So we do the best we can and we are fortunate to have Paul’s letters as guidance. Paul was commissioned by the Risen Christ to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, who were often lax in matters of sexual morality. The early Church had a dramatic impact on the Roman world. Unfortunately, we are now in danger of losing what was gained at that time.

          • “Jesus had the power to see inside people’s hearts but we don’t have that power. “

            Simple question. Which is now the body of Christ: the Church founded in the name of Christ or the letters of a fallible, broken, human disciple writing to a few of those churches in very different circumstances 2000 years ago?

          • Can I check Andrew: you are using the example of the thief on the cross to overturn all other examples in the NT and deciding that there is never any boundary-drawing around the life of discipleship…?

          • Andrew, you pose a weird dichotomy. If we want to know what it means to be part of the body of Christ then we will seek guidance from Paul’s letters. Won’t we?

          • Of course I’m not doing that Ian. What a ridiculous suggestion.
            I’m using the thief on the cross as an example of two things that are very surprising. One is that, as noted, Jesus sees when people are right in the heart, even though the evidence is otherwise. And of one piece of evidence, of which I have given several others too, of the gospel: that it’s the people who are not expected, but seem to be going in to the kingdom *before* the righteous people anyway. Righteousness isn’t what’s on the outside.

          • “If we want to know what it means to be part of the body of Christ then we will seek guidance from Paul’s letters”

            Oh yes. Of course. But as part of the body of Christ we will also be free to suggest that Paul was fallible and *might appear* to have got some general things wrong because he was addressing quite particular situations.

          • And Ian please note that all of this was a response to the claim made by Steven Robinson above that “So far as the NT is concerned, preserving the purity of the faith does involve exclusion and rejection”

            I’m questioning two things.
            1. Is preserving the purity of the faith actually a thing?
            2. If it is, the NT has many episodes suggesting that not very pure people are going into the kingdom before the people who seem to be pure.

          • ‘Paul was fallible and *might appear* to have got some general things wrong’

            You seem to confuse ‘Paul was fallible’ and ‘Scripture is not God-breathed and useful for teaching…’

            If you think the letters of the NT cannot teach us the truth about God, interpreted rightly, then you are stepping away from historic and current Anglican teaching. We always reach this point, which is why sexuality is an important presenting issue.

          • Not confused at all Ian. I definitely believe scripture is God inspired and useful for teaching. It’s no contradiction to then say Paul was fallible and might possibly have got some things skewed. Such a position is well within Anglican teaching, and LLF makes that absolutely clear. It’s also exactly why a tiny number of Pauline texts can’t be relied upon as clobber verses to eliminate any discussion about sexuality.

          • I’m questioning two things.
            1. Is preserving the purity of the faith actually a thing?
            2. If it is, the NT has many episodes suggesting that not very pure people are going into the kingdom before the people who seem to be pure.

            What you’re doing, in fact, is equivocating on the word ‘pure’ in the sense of ‘purity of doctrine’, ie, ensuring that the church does not contain false teaching; and what we might call the sense of ‘purity of heart’, that is, an individual’s state of repentance.

            These are not at all the same thing — an impure church could contain pure people, and vice versa — and you need to distinguish between them when making your points.

        • I dont think you can really use the thief on the cross to demonstrate whether or not repentance is required to enter the kingdom of God. He was literally hanging on a cross, about to die. But he clearly has some recognition of who Jesus is by calling him Lord and referring to His kingdom, and the fact he recognises that Jesus is completely innocent. He knows he himself is not and deserves punishment. It seems to me he is throwing himself on Jesus’ mercy, which he grants.

          That reminds me of the story Jesus told of the self-righteous Pharisee (ie one who thought of himself as ‘good’ and saw no need to repent of his sins) and the tax collector who clearly recognised his own sin and fell on God’s mercy. Jesus was clear who went away justified that day.

          But the question is, if the thief had not been caught, met Jesus but refused to change his ways by not stealing any more, which is what repentance means, would he have been saved? Probably not.

          Peter

          Reply
  3. Questions 9 and 10 generate the most heat in the comments section and are the things on which the most ink has been spent.

    Answering questions 3 and 4 are the real goal of the LLF process though, and arguably the most important questions to answer should we wish to preserve unity within the CofE.

    These are the ‘battle lines’ of the conversation and therein lie all of the problems.

    It is my opinion that questions 9 and 10, or rather the answers to them, should really be prerequisites of questions 3 and 4!, but they’re not treated that way.

    We cannot reasonably expect to agree on an effective, realistically-implementable and authoritative (in the sense that it holds ‘episcopal weight’) pastoral framework for those experiencing SSA when we quite clearly (as proved by the myriad discussions on this blog, but many others too) cannot agree on the fundamental terms; where authority comes from, how it’s weighted relative to experience and identity /against culture and modernity. Consequently we also don’t know how to navigate through the past failures and (to be blunt) current hypocrisy of the established systems either, so the whole thing is a mess of people talking over others.

    There’s no way around it.

    Reply
    • I think you are probably right on this.

      And, if you take seriously all the material in LLF (rather than selecting one aspect only) surely no-one is really proposing that the answer to Question 10 is ‘Yes’, do they…?

      Reply
      • That wasn’t the job of LLF, and Andrew pretty much makes that clear in his three articles. The issue is that General Synod rejected staying with what we currently have. That’s why we needed LLF in the first place, if you recall the Archbishop’s speech at the conclusion of that debate. Just doing nothing is not an option.

        Reply
        • I agree that the job of LLF was not to answer question 10.

          But until we do answer it, and answer it in a way that is satisfactory for our collective conscience, we cannot hope to answer the others. In that critical respect LLF is irrelevant.

          It wouldn’t be fair to critisise it for failing to answer those questions, as it never set out to, but until something/some document/some bishops DOES, all we have is a better understanding of just how stuck we are, with no means to do anything about it.

          Reply
  4. “if we agree on what is said above about identity… ”
    Why do conservatives think the identity stuff is important? How many Christians before the 1960s mentioned having an “identity in Christ”? All of the scripture part in Section 2. above is still true without it. Why not discard the whole concept of identity (or deemphasize it) instead of making-up a pseudo-Christian version of it?

    “So, in relation to inclusion, how would those who hold traditional teaching respond to the following observation?… ”
    How about: So you say you are a transgender, lesbian of colour. That’s nice dear but why is that important? Here’s what our church encourages you to believe and then expects our members to demonstrate by their actions (refer back to scripture part).

    The response in Section 6. attempts to do that but it doesn’t knock back the identity guff. It leaves a person’s sense of self in its exulted place – which is also reflected in the phrase “identity in Christ”.

    Reply
    • We had a discussion in our church leadership team on this, and interesting we felt quite divided on this, some observing that we didn’t really believe in the ‘identity’ language at all…

      Reply
    • Joe, you talk of identity in Christ. The teaching of Christ is shown in the Bible. If anyone does not believe in Chrsit then a) how can they say they are Christian? … and b) how can they follow the teaching of Christ? …. or do you want to say that you can belong to the Church of Christ but not believe in Christ? Perhaps we should rename such an organisation as the Eccles!

      Reply
      • I realize “Identity in Christ” is a variation of “In Christ” but it contains a shift/nod to the modern pyschological concept of identity.

        Reply
        • Thank you – but no it doesn’t – even when I put aside the reality that it is a typo, and instead try to imagine what it could be, instead it is still just a typo.

          Reply
          • I’d be happy to read any Christian book or article using the term “Identity in Christ” that was written before the 1950s.

  5. Andrew’s final article here is another helpful round up of the questions that remain. However I think his conclusion is weak. He quotes Lee Gatiss, who says that LLF doesn’t make the case for change. LLF wasn’t really about making a case for change, but nonetheless the evidence it presents will enable some – maybe enough – to conclude that change is perfectly possible.

    Andrew also says this:
    “At one point in the process it was suggested that an analogy here might be the ‘umpire’s call’ in the DRS system in cricket: the assumption is to stick with the original umpire’s decision while asking if there is a good reason to overturn it. If this is the stance we are to take—that the burden of proof lies with those who seeking to overturn historic teaching and practice”

    This really is quite weak. Who is the umpire in the Church? Is it General Synod? Is it the bishops? (And I know bishops who are clear it is them). Is it scripture?

    Surely, we have found the question of ‘authority’ in the CofE so problematic over the last 150 years that to appeal to some kind of umpires decision is just plain naive. It was clear from the Feb 2017 General Synod rejection of the bishops paper that the current situation is just not tenable for much longer. There must either be some greater pastoral accommodation, or else some will have to depart and begin another church. Feb 2017 signalled a clear rejection of current teaching.

    Added to this, the C of E teaching is already changing. Laity and those laity who hold the bishop’s licence are permitted to enter active same sex relationships, and to marry their same sex partner.

    And – What of those churches in the Anglican communion who have already embraced change? The Anglican Communion Covenant was the proposed answer to deal with that situation and it failed very miserably.

    There is clearly considerable appetite for change. Andrew Goddard seems to underestimate this and doesn’t address it with any clarity. The Lee Gatiss solution is simply a Canute like one. The waves are already coming, as I’ve noted above.

    Reply
    • This really is quite weak. Who is the umpire in the Church? Is it General Synod? Is it the bishops? (And I know bishops who are clear it is them). Is it scripture?

      I thought it was pretty clear that the ‘umpire’, in this analogy, is those who have gone before. The point being made is that the onus is (as always) on those proposing change to prove that the change is necessary and right. Unless they can make that case convincingly enough, the status quo should be maintained.

      Another analogy might be the Speaker’s casting vote, which is always used either to continue discussion or, if that is not possible, to maintain the status quo, on the grounds that there should be a clear majority for change or it doesn’t happen.

      Or, perhaps even better, with the scientific process, in which the onus is on those proposing a new theory, such as the theory of relativity, to come up with experiments to show why the previous theory, such as classical mechanics, is either wrong or incomplete.

      Reply
      • Well tradition – or what has gone before – can never be a reliable umpire and that’s why the DRS analogy just doesn’t work. Tradition, or what has gone before, is not independent. It’s far too interested in the outcome. So I’m afraid that General Synod would simply repeat what happened in Feb 2017, and quite rightly. Just doing nothing isn’t an option, and that’s been clear for some time. That’s why the conclusion of this piece, and the Church Society option is no option.

        Reply
        • Well tradition – or what has gone before – can never be a reliable umpire and that’s why the DRS analogy just doesn’t work. Tradition, or what has gone before, is not independent. It’s far too interested in the outcome.

          Oh, I see your mistake. You think that ‘umpire’ is being used here in the sense of ‘the one who decides; the one who has the final word’.

          But that’s precisely what’s not meant. When a video-review system is used, whether in cricket or fencing or American Football, it means that the ‘umpire’ on the field is not the one who gets the final word.

          In this case, the ‘umpire’ is not the one who makes the final ruling but the one who makes the initial ruling, which can then be overturned.

          So in this analogy, tradition is ‘the ruling on the field’, the initial call, before the video is looked at. Then the appeal is made, the screens are wheeled out, the process begins of deciding whether the call will stand or be overturned.

          And if the umpire on the field has made a clear and obvious error, something the umpire missed in the heat of play — if there was a quick derobement around the parry, if the ball left the player’s hands before it crossed the line — then the umpire’s decision is overturned.

          But — and this is the point being made — the default position, the benefit of doubt, is given to the umpire’s initial call. If the video replay is ambiguous, then even if it’s highly suggestive the umpire was wrong, but not completely conclusive, the umpire’s call stands.

          So whereas you thought that tradition being the umpire meant that tradition should make the final call, in fact what is being said is merely that tradition provides the initial ruling, which can be overturned when looked at more closely— but only if the initial call is clearly and obviously wrong.

          Do you see your mistake?

          Reply
          • I understand that totally. The point is that there are no tv screens – no ‘third umpire’ to wheel out. There is no way of checking whether the umpires call is correct or not.
            Once again, tradition can not even be considered as the initial umpire. It is not a disinterested party in this case.

          • The point is that there are no tv screens – no ‘third umpire’ to wheel out. There is no way of checking whether the umpires call is correct or not.

            Yes, there is. In this analogy the ‘screens’ are the new arguments being made by those who wish to change the church’s teaching. The question is, are their arguments so convincing that it is clear and obvious to all that the traditional view is wrong? If so, then overturn the call on the field and change the teaching. But if their arguments merely cast doubt on the traditional view, just suggest that it might be wrong, but don’t conclusively prove in a clear and obvious way that it is wrong, then stick with the initial call.

            It’s about where to place the burden of proof, and how high the threshold should be. The point of the analogy is that the burden of prof should be on those who want change; and the threshold should be that it is obvious to all that the traditional view is wrong.

            If you disagree (and I guess you do), then where do you think the burden of proof should rest, and how high do you think the threshold should be?

          • It has already been proved that some kind of change is needed and the Feb 2017 General Synod had to accept that. That is another reason this analogy does not work. And fair enough, all analogies break down somewhere.
            And as I have already noted above, change has already happened. For laity, including those laity who hold the bishop’s licence, it is permitted to be in an active, same sex relationship or marriage.

          • It has already been proved that some kind of change is needed and the Feb 2017 General Synod had to accept that.

            But has it been proved that the traditional view is clearly and obviously wrong? I didn’t think it had.

            It may well be the case that it has been proven the structures need to change. But that’s different from the traditional teaching having been proved to be wrong, which is the point at issue.

            After all, if the traditional teaching hasn’t been proved to be wrong, then perhaps the structural change that is needed is simply to stop the accommodations and the blind-eye-turning, reaffirm the traditional teaching and take the consequences, be that a split, or enforced disestablishment, or whatever comes.

          • By the way, you didn’t answer the question about where you think the burden of proof for changing doctrine should rest, and how high the threshold should be.

          • Andrew Godsall wrote:
            “It has already been proved that some kind of change is needed….”
            ….but it has NOT been proved at all, it has been said and people have pushed each other around but it has NOT been proved.

            I have given a clear explanation that Jesus Christ himself tells us what marriage and I find very telling that nobody wanted to deal with that at all, and yet as CHRISTians we follow Jesus Christ. That is what makes us Christians.

            If you choose to dismiss that part of the Bible then you open the door to dismissing any part of the Bible you find inconvenient.

            Regardless of any Bishop, we follow Jesus Christ.

            On April 17, 1521, Martin Luther was summoned before the Diet of Worms near Heidelberg, and asked to recant his writings about abuses and corruption in the Roman Catholic Church.

            Luther asked for time to consider his answer and the session was adjourned until the next day.

            When he reappeared before the Diet on April 18, his decision was clear – unless convinced of error by Scripture or by reason, he would not recant. Luther is said to have declared: ‘Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.’

            After all this talk that is where I find myself: Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

          • Yes, the burden of proving a case for some kind of change is clearly on those who wish to present the case. But we are already past that point because change has happened and been approved of – the case of the laity, by far the majority of people in the church. And the case for no change was defeated in Feb 2017. The threshold will probably be, as is the usual case, a two thirds majority vote in the GS. But that will of course greatly depend upon what the GS is being asked to do. How the dioceses are asked to respond to any business the GS decides to send to them. What the HofB decides to do with the LLF outcomes. We are a long way off any of that yet. This will still all drag on for many years yet.

          • Yes, the burden of proving a case for some kind of change is clearly on those who wish to present the case. But we are already past that point because change has happened and been approved of – the case of the laity, by far the majority of people in the church.

            I wasn’t aware the Church of England had changed its doctrine? When did that happen?

          • Oh no change of doctrine yet S. don’t get too excited! Just an indication of acceptance when civil partnerships came in to being and when laity who were in same sex partnerships were allowed to hold the bishop’s licence. We are some years off change in doctrine I think.

          • Oh no change of doctrine yet S. don’t get too excited! Just an indication of acceptance when civil partnerships came in to being and when laity who were in same sex partnerships were allowed to hold the bishop’s licence. We are some years off change in doctrine I think.

            Okay so: upon whom do you think should be the burden of proof for deciding that doctrine needs to be changed (those proposing change, presumably, as per above) and how high should the threshold of proof for changing it be, if not ‘that it’s clear and obvious to everyone that the current doctrine is incorrect’?

          • Answered this above S. Thanks for engaging as always. I think we have dominated this debate so far so I’m stepping back now to give room for others to contribute.

          • I think ‘the change has already happened’ is a bizarre interpretation of the Synod vote and the issue of Civil Partnership. No such change has happened.

          • Answered this above S.

            Do you mean:

            ‘The threshold will probably be, as is the usual case, a two thirds majority vote in the GS’

            ?

            A two-thirds majority is quite a high bar. If that had been required in 2016, for example, we would never have been able to leave the European Union!

            So — forgive me — it seems that you are in fact backing the original metaphor of the video review: you are agreeing that the current, traditional doctrine should stand, unless and until it is proven that it is incorrect; and the burden of proof for arguing that it is incorrect should be on those proposing change, and that the threshold for changing should be that two-thirds of the synod are convinced by their arguments that the current doctrine is incorrect.

            Is this not what you have said?

            So — again, forgive me — as you appear to in fact agree with the analogy, what was your problem with it again?

          • S: you are forgiven and not to worry, this is the C of E so quite nuanced. 🙂 iI will try to explain again.
            Worth reading my initial post, where I say that I find the analogy rather weak, and then further down say that the analogy breaks down – in this case rather quickly. The idea of using the current tradition as umpire doesn’t work as it favours those who are arguing that we need to make ourselves much plainer about the issues of same sex relationships, and not allow any further changes. I also explain that the idea of authority in the C of E is, and always has been very complicated. So appealing to some authority as an umpire is not really possible.

            In terms of burden of proof: if the C of E wants to make major changes, and a change to doctrine would be considered major, it normally asks for a vote in Synod to achieve a two thirds majority. This happened in the case of the ordination of women. Even though a very clear case had been presented decades ago, we have only very recently got the two thirds majority that allow women in all three orders.

            In the case of same sexual relationships, we are not yet at the stage of needing a two thirds majority in any votes. There is nothing being debated that demands that kind of burden of proof. Where we are is considering pastoral provisions, and what has been called pastoral accommodation. The C of E has already made changes in that direction: for several decades now the laity in same sex relationships are not required to be celibate or to be asked questions about their lifestyle. That is clear. And more recently, laity in that situation have been allowed to hold a license for ministry from their bishop. Pastoral change has been made.

            Further to all of this, the House of Bishops presented a paper to General Synod in 2017 restating the ‘traditional’ position on matters of sexuality. Synod voted that paper down and asked the Church to think again. That’s what brought about LLF.

            So, I stand by my opening comment. I think Lee Gatiss is wrong in his ‘challenge’, for reasons I have given here, and I think the analogy that Andrew Goddard uses is a weak one and doesn’t help us all that much.

            Added to all of this, I find Daniel’s comment below really helpful in clarifying why the analogy – and your particular take on it – is weak.

            I hope this helps clarify things. The case of pastoral accommodation has been made. LLF considers that, along with the traditional position. We are now at the stage of general discussion, and Andrew Goddard helps with that by proposing his ten questions.

          • The idea of using the current tradition as umpire doesn’t work as it favours those who are arguing that we need to make ourselves much plainer about the issues of same sex relationships, and not allow any further changes. I also explain that the idea of authority in the C of E is, and always has been very complicated. So appealing to some authority as an umpire is not really possible.

            Okay this is a bit frustrating as I thought we’d got this sorted out. In the analogy being used the umpire is specifically not being appealed to as an authority, but is the source of the initial judgement with is the thing then being appealed.

            I thought you’d understood this; cf https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/how-can-we-engage-well-with-living-in-love-and-faith/comment-page-1/#comment-393281

            Why now are you writing as if you are continuing to make the same mistake that I corrected and that you gave us to understand you had understood was a mistake?

            In the case of same sexual relationships, we are not yet at the stage of needing a two thirds majority in any votes. There is nothing being debated that demands that kind of burden of proof.

            Is the recognition of same-sex marriages not being debated? Would that not be a change in doctrine, and therefore require that kind of burden of proof?

          • I’m not making any mistake S. The analogy is simply weak. The umpire is not the authority – we agree there. The umpire simply makes a judgment according to the book of rules. My point – which you are not grasping – is that we are by no means clear what constitutes the book of rules. The ‘tradition’ is not the book of rules. It is simply the way things are currently done.

            And no, we are not debating same sex marriages. Those are one aspect of a much wider debate – which is going to go on for some time yet. I suspect you have not actually read LLF or grasped what it is about.

          • It seemed obvious to me at the time that acceptance of civil partnerships was a gamechanging Rubicon – effectively the adoption of a whole different worldview. If the idea is to have formal recognition of friendships I and many others would be massively in favour. As I sit light to denominations, I find myself observing it as a headshaking outsider endlessly regretful (for their sakes) of the time and money being wasted by others on a question that seems to me non-controversial: ‘Shall we or shall we not compromise, in the direction of present social conformity, on things that are good in the first place?’.

          • It is a reference to your large comment above 22.4.21 (1.59).

            You say ‘the waves are already coming’ ‘and ‘there is a considerable appetite for change’.

            This sort of mass emotion such as one gets in crowd movements are what we are trying to avoid here, in favour of reason. Those who care will emphasise this point strongly, as I am doing.

            Crowds do not know best. Not even remotely. They are liable to be carried away and become sub-rational in the heat of the moment.

            Father does not know best. Not even remotely.

            Evidence knows best.

            That is debate 101, and this is a debate blog.

          • ‘Waves’ was a reference to King Canute, Christopher. I assume you know that tale? It wasn’t a reference to crowds, or any mass movement, or popular culture.

            Evidence, of course, is open to: interpretation; to being presented so as to skew the outcome to the presenters wishes and prejudices; to being partial; to being loaded; to appearing statistical but actually simply being an ideology. If you make evidence your sword, you are very likely to die by it. Evidence is something, but not everything.

          • Yes, the Canute/Cnut story is well known. I had heard that one possibility is that he was showing thereby the limits of royal power.

            So you are saying that crowd pressure is inexorable. Too right, scarily so. Unfortunately that has nothing to do with the question. What the crowds are pressing for will sometimes be beneficial, sometimes harmful, and almost always emotion-driven. Which is why it is irrelevant to mature rational people.

            Evidence is not everything? It is everything in decision making, but not in other spheres.

            How do we know you would not just bow to (fickle) mob rule?

          • “I had heard that one possibility is that he was showing thereby the limits of royal power.”

            Exactly so. That God is rather more powerful than any King.
            If this is of God, it will succeed Christopher. If it isn’t, it won’t.

            Trusting evidence alone can cause very poor decision making. Instinct, experience and wisdom have a place as well. All are marks of mature, emotionally intelligent people.

          • For example, on protest marches, the typical chant is ‘What do we want? X. When do we want it? Now.’ Hopeless – unless X is a good thing. They are still at the baby level of ‘I want it and I want it now, ”therefore” I should have it.’

            On ”pro-choice” demos there is often a lot of chanting (never any argumentation, which is restricted to the more mature). They have got beyond babyhood to learning rhymes. Rhymes have unquestinable authority because they rhyme (!). Pre-school and playground.

            In primary school people begin to learn to structure an argument.

          • I’ve seen quite a lot of chanting and playground behaviour on pro-life rallies, sadly.
            You are making emotional points again Christopher. Take care……

          • People who show very strong emotion in support of points that have been first arrrived at rationally are people who care.

            Who would want to be an emotionless person who did not care?

            But equally who would base their argument on emotions? It would not count as being an argument if it did so.

            I am not taking about what pro lifde people do but about the comparison between pro life and pro ‘choice’ people. This can easily be seen when they are at the same site simultaneously.

            I have not missed any of the front-of-Parliament ones in the last 15 years except for the 2017 one when I was in Parliament square instead (where pro-choice thought force was an argument). The next Parliament square one they thought singing was an argument (see Ruth Rawlins’s account). Then there was the ‘Battle of Bedford Square’ in March about 8-9 years ago.
            Each time the prolifers had prayer and argument, the others had violence (in the shape of people riding bikes at full tilt and stopping only inches away), singing and slogans, together with Press who used egregious dishonesty to try and get a picture of an indignant prolifer reacting to that dishonesty. You can probably read my detailed account of the Battle of Bedford Square still online as it was in the Catholic papers.

          • But the main point is that those who have got their heads round the evidence have been ignored and the govt has sided with the mere chanters (who show contempt for human life to go alongside their more mindless approach).

            Are you recommending that govt continues supporting the more mindless and conscienceless at the expense of evidenced and caring people?

            You want might is right, the pressure of force and numbers?

          • That is true but irrelevant. Mere force of numbers counts for nothing at all. Giving it authority is dangerous. So why does it count for something to you.

          • I’m not talking about numbers or giving anything authority Christopher, I’m talking about having faith in God.

          • That reminds me of the Sunday School where ‘Jesus’ was the answer to every question even the one about the squirrel.Or of the people who reply to questions about biblical history ‘All you need is love’.

            As I said – irrelevant. Having faith in God is exactly what is needed in all situations, but it completely fails to answer most specific questions that one might pose. These need specific answers. E.g. do you believe in force of numbers or do you not believe in force of numbers?

          • That depends entirely upon the specific question Christopher. You are making vast generalisations once again.
            I don’t believe trust in God is entirely irrelevant here.
            But….This has gone on quite long enough.

          • No – it’s quite an easy one-word answer, and I have observed often the way that people unilaterally close off such awkward questions that might expose their position. Sometimes things go on long for that reason: that the questions are not being addressed – if they were, they would have gone on shorter. The question being: ‘Do you think that force of numbers alone is ever *sufficient* to bring about policy change?’.

          • A one word answer would be a vast generalisation. It entirely depends upon the policy in question. And may also depend upon the threshold of numbers you are proposing.

          • Those things are obvious. But so far as I can see ‘the tide of history is going inexorably in direction X’ is 100% independent of whether that direction is a good thing or not. Clearly it is logically independent. Is it 100% independent in your way of looking at things?

          • Let’s take a real example. White people and people of colour were required to use different bathrooms routinely in the USA in the 1960s as a matter of policy. Tell me why *force of numbers alone* would not be sufficient to change such a policy?

          • Sheer madness. Are you saying that *justice* should not be the reason for this change of policy? You have actually excluded justice by saying ‘force of numbers *alone*’.

            Justice is the reason. Even if zero people supported it, then the policy should change. While if everyone supported it, the reason for the change would be justice not their support.

          • Oh dear. Have you never seen the film Selma Christopher? Justice should never be excluded, but sadly history tells us that again and again justice is denied.
            Glad we have got there in the end but sorry it kept you up until 3am. I am exactly saying justice *should* be the reason alone. But when justice is denied, force of numbers has to be the sole reason.

            So – and this really is the crunch question isn’t it – what do you think people should do when justice is denied?

          • We saw ‘Selma’ once when it first came out.

            You are defining ‘justice’ as the mechanisms of justice, whereas I am defining it as actual justice.

            Second, it is not possible to oppose justice to force of numbers in this instance since this is one of the instances – which sometimes occur -where they were on the same page.

            Third, the reason that the civil rights reforms were right was justice/equity, not that lots of people supported them. Not at all. After all, lots of people support many things, some beneficial and some harmful. People will typically support whatever is in their self-interest, and that includes both things that benefit the common good and also things that do not.

            It did not ‘keep me up till 3 o’clock’. I typed one comment at 3 o’clock having not consulted for the previous many hours.

          • The difference, I think, is that you are talking about theoretical justice, whereas I am talking about actual justice. The reason President Johnson persuaded Congress to allow the votes of people of colour was because of the continued force of numbers marching. Justice was delayed many times. The reason It was done eventually was solely because of the force of numbers.
            We could go on with examples. Sadly, as we have seen in the news all too recently, justice is still denied. People of colour have their necks pinned to the floor – literally. Donald turned the clock of actual justice back. I expect force of numbers will have to advance it.
            We could even talk about the cry of Moses of ‘let my people go’.
            Justice – actual justice, not just the nice polite theoretical kind – is sometimes not possible to achieve other than by force of numbers, and force of numbers alone.

          • You seem not to have read a word I wrote. My previous comment began that you seemed to be defining justice as the mechanisms of justice, whereas I defined it as actual justice or equity.

            To repeat: On that occasion (Selma) the marching myriads were on the side of actual justice. On other occasions they may be on the side of selfish advantage.

            Therefore the numbers per se count for nothing, and the implementation of justice counts for everything.

            The idea of theoretical justice appeared nowhere in what I wrote; you imported it.

          • Christopher: I read every word. You were simply wrong.
            What you describe is a theory – hence your talk is of theoretical justice.

            Justice was only granted after ‘Selma’ because of the weight of protest. The numerical weight.

            You are I might judge that justice equated with it all along, but it took the weight of numbers alone to get the policy changed.

            You may of course claim otherwise. In which case, we shall simply have to differ in our conclusion.

          • Why would I differ on the history? The history is common knowledge. But our topic is not what causes things to change but what rightly causes things to change. Weight of numbers is neutral, and could bring about either no change or good change or bad change. Implementation of actual justice and equity by contrast is always a good thing.

          • Weight of numbers is never neutral when justice is excluded. If it was neutral the world would be claimed by dictators.

          • I’m not making any mistake S. The analogy is simply weak. The umpire is not the authority – we agree there. The umpire simply makes a judgment according to the book of rules. My point – which you are not grasping – is that we are by no means clear what constitutes the book of rules. The ‘tradition’ is not the book of rules. It is simply the way things are currently done.

            Okay, no, you are mistaken. Let me explain one more time, slowly:

            Let’s start with the situation being used as an analogy. I don’t know much about cricket so I will transpose to a different sport, I hope without too much of a loss of generality. In American football, a player grabs the ball and runs for the opposing team’s scoring area. Just before he reaches the line, he is tackled form behind and falls across it. As he falls the ball comes loose from his hands and bounces into the opponent’s scoring area.

            Now, if the ball came loose form his hands after it crossed the line, he has scored points for his team. If it came loose before it crossed the line, he has not.

            The umpire on the field rules that he has scored. But the rules are that every score must be reviewed by video. So the screens are checked. I there is clear and obvious evidence that the ball left the player’s hands before it crossed the line, the ruling will be changed and the score annulled.

            But if it is unclear whether or not the ball left the player’s hands, the score will be upheld. There does not need to be clear and obvious evidence in support of the umpire’s decision. There needs to be clear and obvious evidence to reverse it.

            Note that the same applies if the umpire had ruled that the ball was loose before it crossed the line, and that there was no score. In that case if the player’s team appealed to the screens, there would need to be clear and obvious evidence that the ball did cross the line for a score to be awarded. That is, the burden of proof would be reversed, from having to prove that the ball was loose, to havign to prove that it wasn’t loose.

            So then to outline the analogy:

            The question at issue:

            ‘was there a score?’ ==> ‘What should the church’s doctrine be on same-sex marriage.’

            The initial call:

            ‘the umpire on the field says the player lost the ball before it crossed the line’ ==> ‘tradition says that same-sex marriages are not valid’

            The appeal:

            ‘the team’s coach claims that in fact the player had control of the ball as it passed over the line’ ==> ‘the progressives claim that in fact same-sex marriages are valid’

            The appeal process:

            ‘the screens are examined for evidence that the call should be changed’ ==> ‘the progressives make their case for changing doctrine’

            The standard of proof:

            ‘the video shows clear and obvious evidence that the player was holding he ball as it crossed the line’ ==> ‘the progressives’ arguments show clearly and obviously that same-sex marriages are valid.’

            The result of any ambiguity:

            ‘the video suggests that the player might have been holding the ball as it crossed the line, but it isn’t clear and obvious, resulting in the umpire’s decision of no score standing’ ==> ‘the progressives’ arguments suggest that maybe same-sex marriages are valid, but don’t prove it clearly and obviously, resulting in the traditional doctrine remaining unchanged.’

            As you can see it’s a perfectly good analogy.

          • If this is of God, it will succeed Christopher. If it isn’t, it won’t.

            While this is true, things that are not of God can do a lot of damage before they inevitably fail; just ask those sent to the gulags. So we should actively fight against things that are not of God, not just wait it out and let God sort it out in the end.

          • “As you can see it’s a perfectly good analogy.“

            I’m afraid not. You may explain as many times or as slowly as you wishes but I stand by my original view that It’s a perfectly weak analogy. There is no agreed ‘book of rules’ on this issues at present as I have explained already, and there is no umpire to make a call by those rules. Still less is there any ‘third umpire’ or any screens to review this by. Do use the analogy if you find it helpful, but I’m afraid I don’t. On this matter, we shall simply have to disagree.

          • Weight of numbers is never neutral when justice is excluded.

            Do you believe that it is ever possible for weight of numbers to bring about an unjust change?

            Or do you think that weight of numbers will always be on the side of justice?

          • There is no agreed ‘book of rules’ on this issues at present as I have explained already, and there is no umpire to make a call by those rules.

            That’s because — as you persist in failing to understand — in the analogy the ‘call’ which is challenged is exactly what the book of rules ought to be.

            Still less is there any ‘third umpire’ or any screens to review this by.

            Of course there is. The screens, in the analogy, are the arguments made by either side, which show the case for changing the call (ie, doctrine) from various angles.

          • Weight of numbers is never neutral when justice is excluded

            Imagine, for example, two marches, each with the same number of people. One is calling for granting civil rights to ethnic minorities; the other for establishing a monoethinic state and cleansing it of all those who do not fit in, Balkans-style.

            Presumably you agree that the first change should be made, and the second should be resisted. But the weight of numbers is the same for each.

            If you do, you are agreeing that mere weight of numbers is not relevant in determining whether a change should be embraced or resisted.

          • Don’t you love farce?
            My fault, I fear
            I thought that you’d want what I want
            Sorry, my dear!
            But where are the clowns
            Send in the clowns
            Don’t bother, they’re here

            (Stephen Sondheim put it so well….)

    • As G. K Chesterton wrote:

      ‘Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.’

      Reply
    • What is the relevance of ‘waves’ that are merely a popular crowd move to get what they want? Who is denying that there is such a move? Who is assigning authority to it? Of course people always want to get what they want – we all do – but so what? Is what they want good, and is it coherent? I might want a 6ft tall ice cream sundae. What on earth has that mere *want* got to do with the question of whether it is good or not for me to get one?

      Reply
      • No idea what you are referring to or who you are replying to here Christopher but it looks like an entirely emotionally driven outburst. What you are saying that you want is that people should not get what they want, but what is good for them, and that you will decide what that is. Father knows best. Let’s take any voice away from the people. Democracy is no good for them, and even if it was they aren’t intelligent enough to know what’s good for them are they?

        Reply
        • My reply to this appeared above by mistake. (Neither crowds nor father knows best. Evidence knows best. Crowds are not people any more than father is a person.)

          Reply
  6. Thank you Andrew for the devoted time you have spent on this; it is clear you feel it important and are being very gracious.
    I have read the whole LLF document and annotated it. I have read your 3 treatises here. But I am not really any the wiser as to what LLF hopes to achieve. If I tried to articulate what has been written in this series, it would be that LLF is trying to make us aware of how we differ. But unless views significantly change how is any progress to be made?
    One example might be the inference that we all agree that being a Christian involves growing in holiness. I can’t see anyone disagreeing with that statement except that no definition of what comprises holiness is offered. I have heard what I thought very strange ideas about what holiness is: ideas I could never accept.
    I am very concerned for the CofE; now we also have a politicised report on issues of race within the Church and suggestions for positive discrimination. Are we lukewarm? Are lampstands being removed?

    Reply
  7. I’d like to thank Andrew Goddard for an interesting set of three articles, and for his perspectives on this process: especially for his positive encouragement to engage with LLF. I think these are a broadly reasonable set of questions – I might nuance one or two, but it is a fair place to start.

    On the last part: the “burden of proof”. Setting aside the fact that this isn’t the main purpose of the LLF exercise, I’m minded to reflect on this demand. Truly, how many parts of my faith do I think I could prove to a skeptical audience? Proof is a tricksy thing, even in the hard sciences, never mind in a faith that is based on texts, and history, and community, and on the tentative listening for the God who stands behind it all.

    I wonder (and this is a genuinely interested question asking for thoughtful, honest answers): if the burden of proof was set the other way, so that the traditional position was the one which required proof, how far could you get? What prior assumptions would you require of your listener in order to make your case?

    It also occurs to me that we are talking about acting as judge: assessing the guilt or otherwise of certain choices in the lives of real people. In the court of law, at least, the burden of proof lies the other way, with those who seek to accuse required to prove the case, not those who seek to defend. [although, it is true that the accusing and defending can sometimes be the other way around in this debate].

    I also wonder whether demanding the burden of proof is not just a power play, demanded by those who know it can never be fulfilled, one way or another.

    But, again, thank you to Andrew Goddard for a thoughtful engagement with LLF. I hope and pray that others may follow, and that ultimately the church will be blessed through this exercise.

    Reply
    • Daniel. I want to thank you for your particularly enlightened post here. “I wonder if the burden of proof was set the other way, so that the traditional position was the one which required proof, how far could you get? What prior assumptions would you require of your listener in order to make your case?” This is a very shrewd question and a highly principled approach to exploring conflicted issues. When teaching I used to require it as a good way of understanding opposing theological viewpoints.
      I also agree that “we are talking about acting as judge: assessing the guilt or otherwise of certain choices in the lives of real people … [and your asking if] “demanding the burden of proof is not just a power play” … Power, and the use of it, is a very significant factor in these debates.
      None of which requires one viewpoint or other – it is about the gospel integrity in our processes of doing theology together. That explains the shape of the LLF process and content.
      I too am very grateful for Andrew’s typically gracious and open engagement with the LLF issues. But I remain concerned by some approaches to the discussion here (as I have tried to express elsewhere). You are helping me articulate why.

      Reply
      • David: I meant to say, thank you for your encouragement. I think we are likely quite close in opinion on this. But, I’ve tried to keep constructively engaging, where I can, and I hope that in the end many will “Engage Well”, as the title of the blog post suggests.

        Reply
    • It also occurs to me that we are talking about acting as judge: assessing the guilt or otherwise of certain choices in the lives of real people.

      But really ‘judge’, because we’re not talking about individual cases but general principles. More like, in this analogy, acting as legislators attempting to set out correct law.

      Reply
      • Thank you for the reply S!

        I think, probably, on reflection you might not want to set us up as the Legislator/Lawgiver in this metaphor!

        There may be some high level of judge who makes decisions on the extent to which laws given are clear and can be prosecuted, without having the defendants standing right in front of them. Within the metaphor, at least, I think the burden of proof would still lie with the prosecutors.

        Reply
        • I think, probably, on reflection you might not want to set us up as the Legislator/Lawgiver in this metaphor!

          In a natural law philosophy, which I assume is what we’re operating with here, the legislators aren’t law-givers but law-codifiers, trying to make the law reflect the natural law. That’s a metaphor I’m happy with.

          There may be some high level of judge who makes decisions on the extent to which laws given are clear and can be prosecuted, without having the defendants standing right in front of them.

          I’m not aware of such. Could you explain which legal system you are thinking of? Maybe it’s one I’m not familiar with. Certainly it’s not one with the modern more-or-less-strict distinction between legislature and judiciary.

          (Are you maybe thinking of the Law Lords, pre-Blair’s constitutional vandalism? I suppose you could claim those were judges who were involved in passing laws. But they weren’t acting as judges when thy passed the laws, they were acting as legislators. There was still a distinction between the legislative and judicial functions, even if some of the same people happened to occupy both rôles).

          Within the metaphor, at least, I think the burden of proof would still lie with the prosecutors.

          Now I’m really confused about your metaphor. Prosecutors don’t argue what the law ought to be. Prosecutors argue mostly about facts: that the accused person actually did the acts of which they were accused. Occasionally also they argue the interpretation of the law: that the acts they did fall inside the meaning of the law. So in a rape case, the prosecutor will argue that (a) the accused had sex with the witness in a given set of circumstances, and (b) that the circumstances are such as fall under the definition of rape.

          A prosecutor would never argue that rape ought to be illegal, and would never argue (in court, anyway) that the definition of rape was wrong and ought to be changed.

          Of course outside court, the prosecutor might well argue that the definition was wrong and needed to be changed. But then they are taking part in the political process, not the judicial process, and attempting to influence legislators, not a judge or jury.

          So again I’m very confused by your metaphor. In what legal system to prosecutors argue in court for what the law ought to be, as you seem to be suggesting they do?

          Reply
          • Dear S:

            I am not a lawyer, as will be readily apparent. But, my simplistic understanding is that UK parliament (both Commons and Lords) legislate to create laws. So, they are the law givers. Courts don’t make laws, they interpet laws, e.g. in:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_United_Kingdom

            it says:

            “The Supreme Court is also the final court (in the normal sense of the term) for interpreting United Kingdom law.”

            I’m sure it is likely more complicated than that.

            I had in mind that, in order to achieve a conviction in a delicate case, the prosecutor would (1) need to establish that someone did such and such a thing, but also (2) that the thing done was clearly against the law. The judge could in principle rule that (1) was true, but that (2) was not.

            with blessings,

            Daniel

          • … so, to be clear on the metaphor, I am thinking that:

            God is the Law giver. What we have of his Law is what we have written in the Bible. Ultimately God is also judge… but that judgement is not happening now.

            We are acting here as either judges or prosecutors: either we are trying to interpret the law as given (and trying to do so fairly, as judge we might ask ourselves whether it is clear what the law says); or we are to make a case that some people have clearly transgressed the law, in a way that is convincing to the judges listening in.

          • God is the Law giver. What we have of his Law is what we have written in the Bible. Ultimately God is also judge… but that judgement is not happening now.

            God is the law giver, but Parliament is the law setter. So for example we know from God’s law that murder is wrong, but the job of the legislature is to set out what exactly constitutes murder, what sot of things might be defences to murder (diminished responsibility, etc). We know that rape is wrong, but the job of the legislature is to determine what counts as rape (which has changed over the years). And in both cases the legislature should try to as closely match God’s law as possible.

            And we know that sexual immorality is wrong, but the question that we are currently engaged in is working out exactly what counts as sexual immorality. And again try to as closely match God’s law as possible.

            We are acting here as either judges or prosecutors: either we are trying to interpret the law as given (and trying to do so fairly, as judge we might ask ourselves whether it is clear what the law says); or we are to make a case that some people have clearly transgressed the law, in a way that is convincing to the judges listening in.

            No, again, we are not acting as judges or prosecutors, because the job of a judge is to determine whether a particular person has transgressed the law, and the job of prosecutors is to make the case that a particular person has transgressed the law.

            That is, the job of judges and prosecutors is to apply the law to individual cases.

            Which is exactly what we are not doing.

            So your analogy of us as being judges falls down on the fact that none of us are presuming to pronounce on individual cases.

          • Dear S:

            Two initial points:

            1) In a metaphor, you certainly should not move elements between the world of the metaphor and the real world – that only confuses how the metaphor works.
            2) The UK is not a theocracy. The UK parliament is free, in principle, to make laws that are different from God’s law, and/or without any reference to God whatsoever. Indeed, one may argue that they often do this at present, for a variety of reasons.

            All of this means you can’t have God being “law giver” in both the metaphor world and the real world. Here are the elements of both “worlds”:

            **Metaphor world of law**
            -Parliament: law gives/law setters.
            -Judges: interpreters of law both in general terms and in individual cases, judge on whether burden of proof met
            -Prosecutors: burden of proof is to prove guilt beyond resonable doubt
            -Defence counsel: burden of proof is to prove there is reasonable doubt
            -Defendants: the people who might be found guilty or not.

            **Real [church] world**
            -God
            -The church (including e.g. groups within church)
            -Individuals in church

            Our job is now to draw lines between elements in the real world and elements in the metaphor world. I propose:

            God —- parliament
            In the metaphor world, parliament are the ones who give or set the laws. In the real world, the giving or setting of laws belongs ONLY to God. I object (very strongly) to your interpretation because if you are proposing that the church sets the laws, it is placing the church far too high in the hierarchy. It is not the church’s job to set laws. Only God sets laws.

            Individuals in church —- defendants
            Here, I think we both agree.

            This leaves the roles of judge / prosecutor / defence council to various elements in the church.

            We act as judges when we are trying to interpret the law God has given us. We can do this either when deciding on an individual case, or in a more general sense of work out what the laws given us to God mean in practice. In the metaphor world it is open to a judge to rule that the law is ambiguous on a certain point; if a law is ambiguous he/she should give any defendents the benefit of the doubt.

            We act as prosecutors when we accuse individuals, or groups of individuals of breaking the law. Here the burden of proof is to prove guilt beyond doubt.

            We act as defence counsel when (others of us) try to defend individuals or groups from that accusation. Here I think the burden of proof is only to proof that there is reasonable doubt the law has been trangressed.

            (here you can see there is potential confusion: I think the Evangelical wing of the church is trying to claim the role of BOTH judge and prosecutor, which is something that should raise eyebrows in any court of law).

            I think the metaphor works perfectly: it clarifies exactly where burden of proof should lie, and how. It is far better than Andrew’s cricket / umpire metaphor. We are not playing a game where everyone gets to go to the pub and enjoy a drink together afterwards. We are talking about real people and decisions that affect their lives.

            I believe that to argue that we don’t need to worry about individuals when we are making general deliberations about the law is to duck the point in the most neglectful way. In the metaphor world everybody [from parliament to judges to lawyers] needs to concern themselves about how the rules affect individuals, ESPECIALLY when they are making general rulings.

            With blessings

            Daniel

          • 1) In a metaphor, you certainly should not move elements between the world of the metaphor and the real world – that only confuses how the metaphor works.

            Do you mean that the same thing should not appear in both the original and the analogy (I think we’ve moved far beyond ‘metaphor’ here and we’re talking about full-blown analogies)?

            If so, rubbish. To give a simple example, if I were to say, ‘a school without a headmaster is like a headmaster without a brain’ then the same element, the headmaster, appears in both the original and the analogy, in different roles, and there’s no confusion, because we are not idiots.

            2) The UK is not a theocracy. The UK parliament is free, in principle, to make laws that are different from God’s law, and/or without any reference to God whatsoever. Indeed, one may argue that they often do this at present, for a variety of reasons.

            Actually I think you’ll find that they do, for the most part, try to make laws which match God’s laws, as they are written on our consciences, though they may instead call them ‘natural justice’ or somesuch rather than God’s laws’. But we know what they really mean, don’t we? Even if they don’t know what they are talking about, we do.

            God —- parliament
            In the metaphor world, parliament are the ones who give or set the laws. In the real world, the giving or setting of laws belongs ONLY to God.

            Um… how do you think the real world works? I think you’ll find that in the real world God creates the world according to certain laws, and then Parliament (or equivalent) tries to translate those laws into statutes.

            I object (very strongly) to your interpretation because if you are proposing that the church sets the laws, it is placing the church far too high in the hierarchy. It is not the church’s job to set laws. Only God sets laws.

            Clearly, yes. But I think you misunderstand. I never said the church sets the laws, just like Parliament doesn’t make murder wrong. God makes murder wrong, not Parliament. Parliament expands on and explains the laws that God made. So does the church. (This doesn’t need to be an analogy, it’s just how things work).

            Individuals in church —- defendants
            Here, I think we both agree.

            Not at all. A defendant is someone who has been accused of a specific instance of a specific crime: ‘that on the 3rd day of March 2020, you did murder Joe Bloggs’, and is on trial to determien if they did in fact commit that crime on that date. That is in no way analogous to individuals in church, who are not, in general, accused of specific instances of specific crimes.

            This leaves the roles of judge / prosecutor / defence council to various elements in the church.

            Again, no. Because those roles only come into play when a specific person is accused of a specific instance of a specific crime. They do not exist when discussing generally what things are crimes and what the definitions are of various crimes. Those discussions do not occur in courts; they occur in Parliament, or equivalent, when a bill is being debated.

            We act as judges when we are trying to interpret the law God has given us.

            Only if we are faced with a specific person accused of a specific instance of a specific crime, because that is the only time judges get involved. If instead we are trying to work out what things should be crimes or what element define a crime, we are not acting as judges, but as Parliamentarians, because that is what Parliament does when it debates a bill: decides, without reference to specific cases, but in the abstract, what things are crimes and what those crimes consist of.

            We act as prosecutors when we accuse individuals, or groups of individuals of breaking the law. Here the burden of proof is to prove guilt beyond doubt.

            Yes. Finally, at last, this is the only point on which we agree. But nowhere in any of these discussions have any specific accusations been levelled against any specific individuals, so nobody is acting in this role.

            (here you can see there is potential confusion: I think the Evangelical wing of the church is trying to claim the role of BOTH judge and prosecutor, which is something that should raise eyebrows in any court of law).

            But you are wrong to think that, so eyebrows can remain unraised.

            I think the metaphor works perfectly:

            Your judge analogy? Again, you are wrong about that, because it would only work if there were accusations against specific individuals. There aren’t, so there is no one setting themselves up to act as a judge.

            I believe that to argue that we don’t need to worry about individuals when we are making general deliberations about the law is to duck the point in the most neglectful way.

            This is true. But we must also make sure we don’t get too caught up in individual cases, because, as I’m sure you’ve heard, hard cases make bad law: metaphorically as well as in reality.

          • Dear S:

            Without going through the whole thing, I would say our disagreement is probably encapsulated in the phrase:

            “Parliament expands on and explains the laws that God made. So does the church. (This doesn’t need to be an analogy, it’s just how things work).”

            I disagree with the first part because I find that Parliament frequently doesn’t do this. And, presumably you would say that when parliament approved the laws for same-sex marriage that they explicitly were not doing that.

            I disagree with it as applied to the church: not the “explains” bit, but the “expands on” bit.

            If we expand on the Law (especially in this context) we are being like the Pharisees, inventing new rules to prevent people coming into the Kingdom of God. We shouldn’t do that.

            When we “explain” the law, then what we are doing is interpretation… which is what judges do (really… it is true that judges interpret the law as well as try specific cases).

            Anyway, I suspect we could go back and forth a long time. Maybe your argument is that when we “explain” the law we shouldn’t worry about how it plays out in individual circumstances. I think we should worry about that.

            Blessings

            Daniel

          • I disagree with the first part because I find that Parliament frequently doesn’t do this. And, presumably you would say that when parliament approved the laws for same-sex marriage that they explicitly were not doing that.

            True; I was setting out what Parliament ought to do. Often it falls short.

            If we expand on the Law (especially in this context) we are being like the Pharisees, inventing new rules to prevent people coming into the Kingdom of God. We shouldn’t do that.

            Okay, that was bad (ambiguous) phrasing on my part. I didn’t mean ‘expand on’ like ‘add to’, but in the sense of ‘flesh out the details of’. Like if I were to say, ‘that is an interesting idea, could you expand on it?’ I wouldn’t mean ‘could you invent new ideas’ but ‘could you go into that in more detail’.

            When we “explain” the law, then what we are doing is interpretation… which is what judges do (really… it is true that judges interpret the law as well as try specific cases).

            No it is not. You may keep saying it but that won’t make it true. Judges, when acting as judges, try specific cases. That is what judges do.

            Some judges are also legal scholars, of course, and they write about the law. Jonathan Sumption, a high-ranking judge, gave a series of Reith Lectures the year before last that are well worth seeking out and listening to, on the colonisation of politics by law.

            But when he gave those lectures he was not acting as a judge, but as a legal scholar.

            Anyway, I suspect we could go back and forth a long time. Maybe your argument is that when we “explain” the law we shouldn’t worry about how it plays out in individual circumstances. I think we should worry about that.

            Depends what you mean by ‘individual circumstances’. We certainly shouldn’t make a law which targets certain groups specifically. The law should be blind and apply to everyone equally. You have read the Road to Serfdom, of course.

          • Dear S:

            Thanks for continuing with this. OK, look, I don’t like your insistence that the church is like parliament in the metaphor, but let’s suppose that I accept it.

            So, let’s suppose that Parliament thought and legislated as follows (I truly hope they don’t, but I think they could have power to do so and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility, indeed it seems to be the fear of many):

            ************
            Parliament: We believe that equality is a morally important thing to uphold, indeed equality is one of our highest goals. With regards to marriage, we believe this means that same sex marriage is morally equivalent to marriage between man and woman. So, we rule that all institutions that conduct marriage ceremonies are not permitted to discriminate between same sex marriage and marriage between man and woman: they must perform both ceremonies, or else have their licence to conduct marriage ceremonies revoked.

            We will make exceptions for religious organisations, but only if they can prove unambiguously that same sex marriage is against their religion. If there is any doubt on the matter, we require that they conduct same sex marriages. The burden of proof lies with the religious organisation.
            *************

            I guess you would say that parliament were acting badly and that they were wrong to rule this way. I would agree, but perhaps for different reasons. Nevertheless they could do it, and in doing so they would only be expanding on/explaining the natural law as they interpret it.

            Parliament could further argue that they see the same concern for equality in our own scriptures, and that the small number of passages that seem to rule out same sex behaviour are really very ambiguous, and apply only to specific kinds of same sex acts. And, in and case, many Christians in fact do believe that same sex marriage is allowed. So far as Parliament are concerned, their ruling is consistent with our scriptures, and it is up to the religious organisation to prove otherwise.

            And, parliament might argue that, yes, there are some individuals who will be upset by this ruling: but we must also make sure we don’t get too caught up in individual cases, because, as I’m sure you’ve heard, hard cases make bad law.

            The thing is, it seems to me that this is almost exactly how Andrew Goddard is proposing the church should act, and how you are arguing too.

            I’m almost certain you reckon that I haven’t read the Road to Serfdom! I haven’t, of course.

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • I guess you would say that parliament were acting badly and that they were wrong to rule this way. I would agree, but perhaps for different reasons. Nevertheless they could do it, and in doing so they would only be expanding on/explaining the natural law as they interpret it.

            I would agree that they are acting badly, and I would certainly if that happened vote for any party pledging to repeal such totalitarian legislation.

            The thing is, it seems to me that this is almost exactly how Andrew Goddard is proposing the church should act, and how you are arguing too.

            I don’t understand what you mean by that. The difference between the church and Parliament is that membership of the church is voluntary, and membership of a particular denomination even more so.

            The reason it would be wrong for Parliament to pass a totalitarian law that forces people to speak and act against their conscience is that people would have no choice but to obey or face consequences. By contrast, a denomination taking a firm position doesn’t force anyone to do anything because they can always simply leave the denomination if they disagree with it, and either leave the church altogether or find (or start) a new denomination that does agree with them.

            I mean, if ultra-liberals want to leave the Church of England, the URC is right there.

            I’m almost certain you reckon that I haven’t read the Road to Serfdom! I haven’t, of course.

            You should. Not because of anything you’ve written, of course, it’s just that everyone should. It’s not very long.

          • Dear S:

            So, to summarise: they are being “totalitarian”, we are merely “taking a firm position”. And, if people don’t like it they can either put up/shut up or “simply” leave.

            Except that, in the hypothetical example, no-one is forcing anyone to hold marriage ceremonies of any kind. You can “simply” stop holding marriage ceremonies if you don’t like it, and let other institutions conduct them instead.

            And, I’m just trying to imagine my vicar’s face if I told him that I’d decided to follow your advice and simply leave… Or, indeed, the face of my friends in the congregation. It’s not simple like that. But, here we are getting back to a discussion on a previous thread, should we simply split or not?

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • So, to summarise: they are being “totalitarian”, we are merely “taking a firm position”. And, if people don’t like it they can either put up/shut up or “simply” leave.

            Well, yes. Because you can’t be totalitarian if you don’t have any power to enforce your edicts. That’s kind of a basic foundational part of the definition of totalitarianism.

            Except that, in the hypothetical example, no-one is forcing anyone to hold marriage ceremonies of any kind. You can “simply” stop holding marriage ceremonies if you don’t like it, and let other institutions conduct them instead.

            Yes, and we may well get to the stage where churches have to stop conducting legal marriages altogether, and we move to a system as they have in various places such as Germany, where the legal marriage is always conducted in a public office and the real spiritual marriage, in church, has no legal significance whatsoever.

            And, I’m just trying to imagine my vicar’s face if I told him that I’d decided to follow your advice and simply leave…

            I doubt his face would do anything very interesting. People leave churches all the time when they disagree with the direction things are going. I’ve done it myself. If you find the idea shocking you must have led a very sheltered life.

          • Dear S:

            I’m now not sure whether your accusing Germany of being totalitarian or not.

            Anyway, first let me re-emphasise that the above example is not how I hope the government would act. But still, it could, and it would not be being “totalitarian”. They would not be forcing anybody to do anything, but they would be restricting the choices available to the church: either (1) you hold marriages, but equally, or (2) you don’t hold marriages. Restricting choices is something that governments do all the time. They do this if they perceive that the choices they remove are ones that would cause some harm to the rest of society in some manner: if your freedoms result in harm elsewhere then your freedom should be curtailed. In the above example, the perceived harm has to do with discrimination (I’m not going to get into an argument about whether it is actually harm or not, but that would be the government’s reasoning).

            And, in fact, governments also do force people to do things against their wishes, like paying taxes, or stay at home in a pandemic. You can’t cry “totalitarian” every time a government does something you don’t like.

            Nevertheless: I would not like it if the government did the above, because it would seem to me to be not giving churches the benefit of the doubt in the moral case the government was making. They would be taking a hard line on “equality”, to the detriment of other things.

            On the other hand, you seem to suggest the church doesn’t have power here to enforce its edicts. Of course it does! At present, no same sex marriages can officially happen in church; blessings of such marriages can’t happen; in principle the C of E could remove vicars from office if shown to be engaging in active same sex activity (that they typically do not is a mercy!)… and so on. Yes, there is power here.

            Your comments on people leaving church leave me with nothing but sadness. I wouldn’t call my life “sheltered”… but I’ve led a faithful life in my local suburban church, where I’ve served for nearly 25 years leading music. If I left every time I disagreed with the vicar over something, I’d have left 25 times already. But, I don’t think I could ever treat leaving a church as lightly as you suggest.

            With blessings, Daniel

          • I’m now not sure whether your accusing Germany of being totalitarian or not.

            That may be a problem, then, because I’m not sure how much clearer I can be. Still, let’s continue and see if we can get past any issues in reading comprehension.

            Anyway, first let me re-emphasise that the above example is not how I hope the government would act. But still, it could, and it would not be being “totalitarian”. They would not be forcing anybody to do anything, but they would be restricting the choices available to the church: either (1) you hold marriages, but equally, or (2) you don’t hold marriages.

            Not true, if we’re talking about the Church of England, which is under a legal obligation to hold marriages. So in fact your (2) is not an option for the Church of England. So in the situation you describe, unless it was also accompanied by disestablishment, the government would be forcing the Church of England to hold same-sex marriages.

            And, in fact, governments also do force people to do things against their wishes, like paying taxes, or stay at home in a pandemic. You can’t cry “totalitarian” every time a government does something you don’t like.

            No, but you can when a government does something totalitarian, like forcing the population to stay at home (a strategy which was adopted form the unambiguously totalitarian Chinese Communist Party).

            On the other hand, you seem to suggest the church doesn’t have power here to enforce its edicts. Of course it does! At present, no same sex marriages can officially happen in church; blessings of such marriages can’t happen; in principle the C of E could remove vicars from office if shown to be engaging in active same sex activity (that they typically do not is a mercy!)… and so on. Yes, there is power here.

            No, the Church of England has no power to enforce its edicts. The Church of England has no power to stop same-sex couples from getting married in a church: the URC is right there.

            Your comments on people leaving church leave me with nothing but sadness. I wouldn’t call my life “sheltered”… but I’ve led a faithful life in my local suburban church, where I’ve served for nearly 25 years leading music. If I left every time I disagreed with the vicar over something, I’d have left 25 times already. But, I don’t think I could ever treat leaving a church as lightly as you suggest.

            Obviously no one suggests leaving over ‘everything’, or treating it lightly. But if you honestly, sincerely believe the church is wrong about something foundational, and isn’t going to repent, then surely the only thing you can do to be true to your own conscience is to leave?

            And clearly it’s not that uncommon or unthinkable: you only have to look at the number of people who have swum the Tiber (in both directions).

            Do you, like Andrew Godsall apparently also does, idolise the Vicar of Bray? I don’t think he was supposed to be a role model…

          • Dear S:

            I think your methodology seems to be always to pick at details, so as to obscure the big picture. No metaphor (or almost no metaphor?) can survive the picking at details like this. And, it leads to very long discussions.

            So, briefly:

            – yes, it would involve disestablishment or removal of requirement to conduct weddings. No one is being forced to do anything against their wishes.
            – Church of England has power to prevent same sex marriages in their churches; churches exercise power to prevent same sex couples from exercising leadership roles (lay or ordained)… there is power here; not universal power over all churches, but power exercised within a particular domain.
            – No, I don’t idolise the Vicar of Bray (had never heard of it until now). I advocate maintaining engagement with the church community even when there are differences.

            And look: it was you that wanted to say that church was like parliament… not me. But then you didn’t like where that ended up, so, apparently church is not like parliament any more? How am I supposed to proceed?

            Is it just that you’re happy to make rules or restrictions for other people, but not to have rules or restrictions made for you? And if you don’t like it you move on, or opt out where you can?

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • I think your methodology seems to be always to pick at details, so as to obscure the big picture.

            My method is to pick at details because details are important. They are where the truth lies. If your ‘big picture’ is wrong in the details, then it is wrong.

            – yes, it would involve disestablishment or removal of requirement to conduct weddings. No one is being forced to do anything against their wishes.

            Okay. You didn’t make that clear.

            – Church of England has power to prevent same sex marriages in their churches; churches exercise power to prevent same sex couples from exercising leadership roles (lay or ordained)… there is power here; not universal power over all churches, but power exercised within a particular domain.

            It’s not power over people, though, if the people are free to go elsewhere to get what they want. That’s the key point.

            And look: it was you that wanted to say that church was like parliament… not me.

            No. I was merely pointing out you were wrong to say the church was acting ‘like a judge’. And you are. The church is acting closer to Parliament than it is to a judge, but still not exactly.

            But it’s not acting like a judge at all

            But then you didn’t like where that ended up, so, apparently church is not like parliament any more?

            It’s more like Parliament than it is like a judge.

            How am I supposed to proceed?

            By admitting that you were incorrect in comparing the church to a judge. That would be a good start.

            Is it just that you’re happy to make rules or restrictions for other people, but not to have rules or restrictions made for you? And if you don’t like it you move on, or opt out where you can?

            I don’t see what you’re getting at here. The issue is not what I am happy with — my happiness, or your happiness, or anyone else’s happiness, is irrelevant. What matters is the truth, and getting doctrine as close as possible to the truth. The truth may well be somthing that makes me very unhappy indeed. No matter: it is still the truth, and I will just have to put up with being unhappy.

          • Dear S:

            I think we should all be very relieved that you were not around when Jesus was telling his parables. The stories would never have survived (I imagine you saying, “But Jesus, it’s not exactly like that…”).

            So, yes, we are all interested in the truth. And if the truth is unambiguous then the case is closed, we all know what we must do.

            But (if I dare to remind you) the original context of this discussion was what we should do where there is disagreement about what the truth is, where there is potential ambiguity, and specifically where the judgements involve telling people that they are bad people for specific actions. Andrew Goddard used an analogy/metaphor from cricket, to do with umpires call, to suggest where the burden of proof should lie (how, I ask myself, would that cricket metaphor have survived the kind of forensic analysis you have subjected me to? Good grief!).

            No, a metaphor does not need to be perfect in order to make a point. Details of metaphors simply do not matter in the way you are suggesting. I completely reject the requirements you are placing on this.

            I am arguing that where there is disagreement, where there is potential ambiguity, and where the judgements involve telling people that they are bad people for specific actions, then those people should be given the benefit of the doubt in judgements or decisions that are made. There is good Biblical precedent for this attitude, for example in Romans 14. It is not nice to tell people they are bad, without good cause: it is hurtful and unpleasant. (And, I think what the church is presently doing goes far beyond merely telling people they are bad for specific actions, in quite painful ways – if you cannot see where power is being wielded here then it is because you are refusing to look).

            With respect to the illustrations I’ve tried to use to make this point:

            When a judge or jury decides on when someone is guilty or not then the benefit of the doubt is given. It is a good thing that the benefit of the doubt is given here.

            Thankfully, when parliament decided on the extent to which it would enforce equality in marriage laws, the benefit of the doubt was given to churches, even though many in society would say that the church is being bad in this respect. It is also a good thing that the benefit of the doubt is given here.

            Neither of these cases are an exact match for what we are discussing. But they share the features that there is disagreement, there is potential ambiguity, and the judgements involve telling people that they are bad people for specific actions. So, in the present case, of matters to do with LLF, my belief is that it would be a very good thing if the benefit of the doubt were to be given.

            I do fully agree with you that if the truth on these matters is unambiguous and clear (if it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt) then we should follow the truth whether or not it makes people happy. But, that was not the original context of this (now very long) discussion.

            With best wishes, and blessings

            Daniel

          • “Andrew Goddard used an analogy/metaphor from cricket, to do with umpires call, to suggest where the burden of proof should lie (how, I ask myself, would that cricket metaphor have survived the kind of forensic analysis you have subjected me to? Good grief!).”

            Sadly S didn’t understand this metaphor as, by his own admission, he doesn’t know anything about cricket, and about how the umpiring works. He can’t say what the umpires are represented by in the analogy, or what rules they are following.

          • And if the truth is unambiguous then the case is closed, we all know what we must do.

            The truth can’t be unambiguous. Or ambiguous, for that matter. ‘Ambiguous’ and ‘unambiguous’ are terms which apply to language. A statement is ‘ambiguous’ is it has more than one possible meaning, or is open to more than one interpretation. But the truth doesn’t have a meaning or an interpretation: it just is. If a cat is sitting on my lawn then that’s not ‘ambiguous’, it just is true.

            What you may have meant to write is ‘if the truth is clear’. Oftentimes the is not clear what the truth is (in the nighttime, it may not be clear whether that is a cat, a dog or a fox on my lawn). But the true is not ‘ambiguous’; only a statement, or an image, say, can be ambiguous.

            Andrew Goddard used an analogy/metaphor from cricket, to do with umpires call, to suggest where the burden of proof should lie (how, I ask myself, would that cricket metaphor have survived the kind of forensic analysis you have subjected me to? Good grief!).

            Fortunately you need not wonder, for it explaining that analogy to Andrew Godsall I spelt it out in exactly that kind of forensic detail; see my comment ibid of 11:44am on the 26th of April, 2021.

            No, a metaphor does not need to be perfect in order to make a point. Details of metaphors simply do not matter in the way you are suggesting.

            Your ‘judge’ analogy was not imperfect, though. It was totally wrong and misleading.

            When a judge or jury decides on when someone is guilty or not then the benefit of the doubt is given. It is a good thing that the benefit of the doubt is given here.

            Yes. But again, that is when a particular person is accused of a particular crime. If a person is accused of a particular murder, then it has to be proved, beyond doubt, that they were there at the time, that they had the weapon, that they intended to kill. If there is any doubt in that — if, say, the witness isn’t sure that the defendant was the person they saw or if it could have been somebody else — then the benefit of that goes to the defendant and they are acquited.

            The ‘benefit of the doubt’ isn’t given — doesn’t really apply a a concept — when deciding whether an act is wrong or not. There’s no such thing as ‘the benefit of the doubt’ when deciding, say, that a particular act counts as murder (when discussing the legal doctrine of transferred malice, say).

            And as I keep pointing out, nothing about these discussions involves accusing particular individuals of anything. So the concept of the ‘benefit of the doubt doesn’t apply.

            Thankfully, when parliament decided on the extent to which it would enforce equality in marriage laws, the benefit of the doubt was given to churches, even though many in society would say that the church is being bad in this respect. It is also a good thing that the benefit of the doubt is given here.

            I don’t understand what you mean by ‘benefit of the doubt’ here. What ‘doubt’ was there, over what point of fact, that the church ‘benefitted’ from?

          • Dear S:

            Yes, I meant to write ” if the truth is clear then the case is closed, we all know what we must do”. Thank you for the detail.

            I checked out your “forensic analysis” of the cricket analogy (I’m tempted to write that if someone doesn’t understand cricket then they shouldn’t be allowed to comment on the C of E, but that would be flippant). Yes, I know how the analogy works. You discussed in great detail how it works. What you didn’t subject it to is any analysis of whether it is an appropriate analogy. It isn’t an appropriate analogy at all, because (1) in the case of a sporting contest, the aims of both teams are equal – both teams just want to win the game, and winning the game means pretty much the same thing to both teams, and (2) it is, after all, just a game.

            But, let’s alter the analogy a bit. Suppose one team will all be sacked from their jobs if they lose, but losing for the other team carries no consequences whatsoever. Would you still apply “umpires call” with a shrug of the shoulders? What if the first team came from an oppressive regime where there will be some horrible punishment for losing? Would you still apply umpires call? If the outcome for the two teams is different, you might not consider it a good idea.

            Umpires call is what you apply when there is no significant (moral) difference between the outcomes of (team 1 wins/team 2 loses) and (team 1 loses/team 2 wins). This certainly does not apply in the case of LLF.

            In contrast, whether or not the judge analogy lines up exactly in all particulars is hardly the point. What matters is that it reminds us that the decision one way could have a particulary negative and continued impact on a group of people. “Winning” does not mean the same thing for both teams. And, where your decision might have such a negative impact on one group, then you should give the benefit of the doubt.

            You continue to insist on this clean distinction that first we decide on whether a particular act is right or wrong, and then we might “judge” whether any particlar individuals have crossed the line – as if we make the first decision in a purely abstract, academic sense, and then worry about the individuals later. Nonsense. Nobody makes laws like that. You cannot absolve yourself from the consequences of decisions in this way: your attitude seems to me to be a deriliction of moral responsibility. Lawsetters (if that is what we are) are very much responsible for the consequences of the laws they set on the people they set them for, not in some abstract sense, but in the sense that they do affect the individual people next door.

            And, when the decision of whether a particular act is right or wrong resides in the exact interpretation of the contested meaning of texts written in a different language, in a culture substantially removed from our own then, frankly: I say yes, benefit of the doubt absolutely does apply. Or do you propose that we can reason right and wrong in the LLF topics on the sole basis of abstract ethical principles, as would be the case in your (I think ill chosen) murder/transferred malice example?

            And, in case you forget, the “act” we are discussing is not some abstract act that someone might happen to commit, like exceeding the speed limit. We are talking about actions related to one of the deepest desires of someone’s heart. Alfie meets Charlie. They fall in love. Should Alfie crush his desires and walk away, or is there a way to align that love with the faithful love of God, for the blessing of themselves and those around them? Is the only option a chaste life? These are the questions we discuss, and Alfie and Charlie could be real people down the road. I will not – I will not – discuss these questions in the abstract and then worry about Alfie and Charlie later, whatever the outcome.

            You are so very wrong, perhaps not on the details, but entirely wrong in the big picture.

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • What you didn’t subject it to is any analysis of whether it is an appropriate analogy. It isn’t an appropriate analogy at all, because (1) in the case of a sporting contest, the aims of both teams are equal – both teams just want to win the game, and winning the game means pretty much the same thing to both teams, and (2) it is, after all, just a game.

            Yes, I know it’s just a game: the whole point of an analogy is to transpose form one domain to another. But you miss the point if you think it’s about ‘winning’. the point of the analogy is where the, as you put it, benefit of the doubt goes when deciding on matters of fact that are unclear.

            But, let’s alter the analogy a bit. Suppose one team will all be sacked from their jobs if they lose, but losing for the other team carries no consequences whatsoever. Would you still apply “umpires call” with a shrug of the shoulders? What if the first team came from an oppressive regime where there will be some horrible punishment for losing? Would you still apply umpires call? If the outcome for the two teams is different, you might not consider it a good idea.

            It makes no difference. The truth is the truth, regardless of consequences. If the ball came loose before crossing the line, it doesn’t matter what the results of that are: facts are facts.

            So yes, obviously I will still follow the same process regardless of results. To do otherwise would be to not follow the truth, wherever it leads.

            You continue to insist on this clean distinction that first we decide on whether a particular act is right or wrong, and then we might “judge” whether any particlar individuals have crossed the line – as if we make the first decision in a purely abstract, academic sense, and then worry about the individuals later. Nonsense. Nobody makes laws like that. You cannot absolve yourself from the consequences of decisions in this way: your attitude seems to me to be a deriliction of moral responsibility. Lawsetters (if that is what we are) are very much responsible for the consequences of the laws they set on the people they set them for, not in some abstract sense, but in the sense that they do affect the individual people next door.

            Whereas it seems to me like letting concern for consequences get in the way of pursuing the truth is precisely the dereliction of moral responsibility. You’ll disagree of course if you hold to a consequentialist conception of morality, but strongly disagree with consequentialist moralities.

            And, when the decision of whether a particular act is right or wrong resides in the exact interpretation of the contested meaning of texts written in a different language, in a culture substantially removed from our own then, frankly: I say yes, benefit of the doubt absolutely does apply. Or do you propose that we can reason right and wrong in the LLF topics on the sole basis of abstract ethical principles, as would be the case in your (I think ill chosen) murder/transferred malice example?

            I don’t think that the meanings are that contested. One side always seems to end up arguing ‘okay well it clearly does mean that but we can ignore that because the writer didn’t know what we know / the writer had some psychological hang-ups / you wouldn’t listen to this other bit either so we can pick and choose / etc’.

            And, in case you forget, the “act” we are discussing is not some abstract act that someone might happen to commit, like exceeding the speed limit. We are talking about actions related to one of the deepest desires of someone’s heart. Alfie meets Charlie. They fall in love. Should Alfie crush his desires and walk away, or is there a way to align that love with the faithful love of God, for the blessing of themselves and those around them? Is the only option a chaste life? These are the questions we discuss, and Alfie and Charlie could be real people down the road. I will not – I will not – discuss these questions in the abstract and then worry about Alfie and Charlie later, whatever the outcome.

            Alice meets Charlie. They fall in love. But Alice is already married to Bob. Should Alice and Charlie crush their desires and walk away? Yes, of course they should. Because desires are not that important. I know the modern world tells us that the indulging of the ‘deepest desires of [your] heart’ is the supreme end of life, but that is just wrong.

            Besides, you seem to have forgotten what’s at stake. To echo a phrase someone else used on this very web-site recently, ‘it’s eternity, stupid’. What does it benefit someone if they indulge the deepest desires of their heart in this short temporal life, but in doing so lose their immortal soul to eternal death in sin?

            You are so very wrong, perhaps not on the details, but entirely wrong in the big picture.

            It’s the details that make up the big picture. You can’t be right on the big picture if you are wrong on the details.

          • Dear S:

            Sigh. Where to start?

            “truth is the truth” / “facts are facts”: an the analogy/metaphor you’re confusing what can be established beyond doubt by the video, and what can’t. What we are discussing is what to do about the bits that can’t be established in such a manner. Even when you have video evidence, the facts are unclear, as is quite obvious to anyone who has watched “Match of the Day” at any point over the last two years.

            On discovering the truth, and on parts of the Bible being contested: If pushed, I would say that there is no part of the Bible that I am totally confident of. Likewise with science, which is my discipline… do I know any of it with absolute certainty? I would have to say, no. Truth is elusive, extremely difficult to establish. In all of our knowledge we deal with doubt, and with uncertainty, with limits on our confidence, with probabilities, and (yes) with faith. Bayes’ theorem is really important here: how can I become more confident in a thing? History is trickier than science, in this regard, likewise the study of ancient texts. This is not to say we can’t learn things, of course we can, but all such learning is provisional. So, even though I pursue truth with all my heart, I am not nearly so confident as you in basing my morality squarely on this thing called “the truth”, as though we could establish it without ambiguity in all cases.

            And, yes, there are multiple good reasons to doubt the meaning of certain texts relevant to this discussion, and especially as to whether we should attribute to them the kind of universal prohibition that you do.

            Alfie/Charlie/Alice/Bob: you missed the bit where I said “is there a way to align that love with the faithful love of God, for the blessing of themselves and those around them?” There are, or course, sensible ways to distinguish the moral consequences of following through upon different kinds of desire. I am not saying all desire is good, or that we should merely be led by our desires. I might desire more money and cheap clothes… is that good? Some conundrums are trickier than others… what if Bob is abusing Alice? But, you are wrong about desire…. desire is hugely important, a central part of being human, and (since we are in his image) a central part of God being God. What is it we are talking about in LLF, if not the proper regulation of our desires and of bringing all of our desires before God?

            No, I have not forgotten what is at stake. In the end, though, I think the issue here is that our big pictures are sufficiently different that picking at the details is an ultimately fruitless task. Here are some of the places I think we differ:

            – How to view the Bible. On the LLF 1-7 scale, you are clearly either 1 or 2. I am probably 5, with a hint of 4.
            – What is God like? I do not believe in a God who is trying to catch us out with arbitrary or ambiguous rules when deciding on our eternal fate.
            – How does final judgement work? See discussion below with Geoff. Is perfection required, or something else?
            – Our basic ethical stance, as noted in fact by you… I care about truth, but I also do care about consequences of moral decisions, yes.

            And, in the end, your stance is:

            “Sorry, Alfie. Umpires call. You lose.”

            If you cannot see that is wrong in this context…. well, I truly think it is impossible to discuss further.

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • “truth is the truth” / “facts are facts”: an the analogy/metaphor you’re confusing what can be established beyond doubt by the video, and what can’t. What we are discussing is what to do about the bits that can’t be established in such a manner. Even when you have video evidence, the facts are unclear, as is quite obvious to anyone who has watched “Match of the Day” at any point over the last two years.

            Yes. Exactly. And the point of the analogy is that you don’t change the ruling unless the facts are totally clear that the ruling was wrong. That’s how it works in sport; and that’s how it ought to work in this discussion. If there is clear evidence that the previous consensus — the traditional view — is wrong, then we throw it out and change the doctrine. If on the other hand the evidence that the traditional view is wrong is not totaly convincing, then we stick wit the traditional view.

            The onus is always on those who want to change to prove, beyond doubt, that change is necessary. Same as in politics. If you want things to change you prove that change is necessary.

            That is the point of the analogy. You want change? Then you prove, beyond doubt, that the traditional view is wrong. If you can’t prove it beyond doubt, then the status quo remains.

            On discovering the truth, and on parts of the Bible being contested: If pushed, I would say that there is no part of the Bible that I am totally confident of.

            I don’t even know what you mean by ‘confident of’ here. I guess you mean that there’s no part of the Bible that you are confident is in our current texts, as it was originally, given that we have no original manuscripts? I admit that is a valid concern, but people who have looked into the question have, I understand, quite high degrees of confidence that the variations in the manuscripts we do have allow us to reconstruct the originals to a high degree of accuracy, apart from a handful of bits, none of which have direct relevance to the questions at issue, so I don’t think you actually need to lack that confidence.

            Alfie/Charlie/Alice/Bob: you missed the bit where I said “is there a way to align that love with the faithful love of God, for the blessing of themselves and those around them?”

            I didn’t miss it.

            There are, or course, sensible ways to distinguish the moral consequences of following through upon different kinds of desire. I am not saying all desire is good, or that we should merely be led by our desires. I might desire more money and cheap clothes… is that good? Some conundrums are trickier than others… what if Bob is abusing Alice?

            What if? It doesn’t make any difference to the question of Alice and Charlie, only to the question of Alice and Bob. If Bob is abusing Alice then she needs to get away from him, possibly divorce him legally so that he no longer has any control over eg her finances, but she is still married to him in spirit so it’s not like she can marry Charlie even if she wants to.

            But, you are wrong about desire…. desire is hugely important, a central part of being human, and (since we are in his image) a central part of God being God. What is it we are talking about in LLF, if not the proper regulation of our desires and of bringing all of our desires before God?
            – How to view the Bible. On the LLF 1-7 scale, you are clearly either 1 or 2. I am probably 5, with a hint of 4.

            Are these numbers sections laid out anywhere that one can read without paying?
            – What is God like? I do not believe in a God who is trying to catch us out with arbitrary or ambiguous rules when deciding on our eternal fate.

            Neither to I, as it happens. I believe in a God who wants the best for us but who we, because of our desires, constantly spit in the face of.
            – How does final judgement work? See discussion below with Geoff. Is perfection required, or something else?

            Surely this one’s easy? What is required is sincere repentance.

          • Dear S:

            You clearly haven’t watched Match of the Day, have you? There is one sport, at least, where uncertain video evidence is used to overturn decisions.

            (All of which makes me wonder: you don’t understand cricket, you don’t get the Match of the Day reference… are you UK based, or from elsewhere?)

            Anyway, I already explained at some length why the sporting analogy is totally inappropriate, but you don’t get it, and I think you never will.

            Proof beyond doubt, in any matter where faith is concerned, is simply not possible.

            Re Alice: “but she is still married to him in spirit so it’s not like she can marry Charlie even if she wants to.” Wow. I doubt there are many who would agree with your moral judgement here, even on this site. My current vicar has married a divorcee, and my previous vicar was a divorcee. I don’t think either are repentant (nor should they be). Go figure.

            Re: the 1-7 scale of Bible reading in LLF… you can download the whole book as a pdf here:
            https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/living-love-and-faith/living-love-and-faith-book
            I think its chapter 13.

            Anyway, we are discussing proof etc. I’m going to start a new thread below on a possible methodology of assessing evidence in the face of what seems to me a huge amount of uncertainty (might not appear immediately).

            But for you. The Apostle Paul wrote, in a book which I take it you consider to be the very Word of God:

            “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

            Please consider this verse. Did Paul think he could establish truth beyond doubt in all matters?

            I was tempted to paste the whole chapter. I think it sheds much light on our conversation above.

            With blessings

            Daniel

          • You clearly haven’t watched Match of the Day, have you?

            Only accidentally.

            (All of which makes me wonder: you don’t understand cricket, you don’t get the Match of the Day reference… are you UK based, or from elsewhere?)

            Nosy.

            Anyway, I already explained at some length why the sporting analogy is totally inappropriate, but you don’t get it, and I think you never will.

            And I have explained at some length why you are wrong and it is appropriate. But you don’t get it. That’s okay. Debates aren’t conducted to change the minds of the speakers. Those reading can make up their own mind which of us is right.

            Proof beyond doubt, in any matter where faith is concerned, is simply not possible.

            Positive proof beyond doubt is not possible, but negative proof — proof that a given position is definitely wrong — is certainly possible.

            Didn’t you write above that your area was science? Well, it’s the same as science. Positive proof of a scientific theory or law is impossible, but falsification is perfectly possible. Same in theology.

            So if you want doctrine to change, you have to prove that the current doctrine is wrong, just like if you want to overturn a scientific theory such as classical mechanics, you have to falsify the theory.

            Re Alice: “but she is still married to him in spirit so it’s not like she can marry Charlie even if she wants to.” Wow. I doubt there are many who would agree with your moral judgement here, even on this site. My current vicar has married a divorcee, and my previous vicar was a divorcee. I don’t think either are repentant (nor should they be).

            They should be.

            Re: the 1-7 scale of Bible reading in LLF… you can download the whole book as a pdf here:
            https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/living-love-and-faith/living-love-and-faith-book
            I think its chapter 13.

            Thank you. I may have a look.

          • Dear S:

            Yes, sorry for being nosy. It is potentially relevant, I think, with respect to your comments on whether the Church of England should split, or whether individuals in C of E churches should look elsewhere. If you are a member of a C of E church, then I have no problem with this (and sorry for raising it!) but if you are commenting from outside the C of E then that’s a bit different, to me at least.

            Re: how science works. Yes, I know there is this idealistic viewpoint from Popper, on falsification and so on. And I can understand that you might think that how it works, after all it is often described so in popular accounts. But, if you talk to most real scientists, and if they are honest with you, you will discover that isn’t actually how it works in practice. It’s a lot more like “faith” than many care to admit. Theories survive apparent disproof, sometimes with modification. A bad theory is surprisingly hard to kill, in fact… many of them last years beyond their sell-by-date. Sometimes we stick with theories beyond apparent disproof because we like them… and sometimes it even turns out we were right to stick with them. Other times, we content ourselves with something that works, but only approximately, because actual reality is far too complicated to capture in a full scientific theory. In short, science is far more messy than the ideal picture Popper suggests. My opinion is that theology is even messier than science.

            So, yes, I agree there are many similarities between science and theology, but by no means in the manner that you want.

            Blessings,

            Daniel

    • “What prior assumptions would you require of your listener in order to make your case?”

      Badness is bad.
      Those things that the canonical Pauline Epistles call bad are bad.
      1 Corinthians 6 9-10 are in the Pauline Epistles that are in our Bibles.
      The list in 1 Corinthian 6 9-10 is a list of people types that it is bad to be.
      That list includes men who lay with men.
      The 20th centaury did not create a new way of man-laying unknown to the Roman world.

      Honestly, I think it’s the top of those which is the most controversial.

      Reply
      • Thank you Kyle.

        I’m not sure I was expecting a full proof, and I don’t propose to comment in detail. But, that’s quite a list: I think I’d agree that someone affirming all the statements would agree with you. Are you sure you need all of them? And, are there further assumptions underlying some of those assumptions?

        As it stands, I think I could safely affirm statements 1 and 3 without much comment (although 1 seems to have some subtleties if I think too hard about it). I do not think I could just wave through the others without clarification.

        But, as David Runcorn notes above, I wasn’t really asking you to make the case, more that you think about how the case you propose might be received by different listeners and why. Do you need them to be already fully on your side for them to affirm the truth of your case?

        With blessings,

        Daniel

        Reply
        • I had thought they were all indisputably true for the historically-informed Christian. Certainly, I am convinced that – with the exception of the last – all the Church fathers and the great divines and the etc. would agree with them.

          There can’t be underlying assumptions behind an assumption – that is what makes it an assumption. However, they could be broken down to find more clearly the nub of disagreement

          Reply
          • Dear Kyle

            I don’t really want to get into long exchange going through them point by point – it will waste both our times, and we won’t achieve resolution, not within a comment section of a blog. I don’t think they are indisputably true; I have been a Christian a long time; and I try to be historically-informed, to the extent that I can be. If it really was as simple as you make out then, let’s be honest, we’d have packed up and gone home a long time ago!

            If I was being picky: an assumption can’t be something that is indisputably true… otherwise why do we need to assume it? Surely we could prove it?

            But, I sense your frustration that something that is so clear to you is not clear to others. I also know this feeling! I’d return to what I implied in a comment on Andrew Goddard’s first post: it’s important to get out of our bubbles.

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • Although, even as I click “post” I realised I could probably be called out by Godel on things that are true but we nevertheless have to assume. Proof is a tricksy thing.

  8. Burden of proof is never a power play at law: it always falls on the on those making a claim, whether in criminal or cubical law.
    To describe it as power play is to buy into postmodernism and it’s Deco constructs and use of language. Indeed it is a power play to describe it as such! By seeking to categorise, and dismiss.
    There is one aspect of this post that I find intriguing and it is the reference to Holiness, sancrification: the question of Holiness.
    There is no mention of what it is and the determinants, what its source is, what it is set or measured against: not only questions of what, but of how and why. Even how it relates to Eternity and destination.
    Is the question of identity in Christ explored. What does it even mean?
    Does it mean, union with Christ and all that means in relation to holiness in Christian life, including desires, activities and sexuality, or is it a mere job description, akin to a conference name badge: ” Hello, I’m Christian Geoff.”

    Reply
    • Hi Geoff:

      One of the Pastoral Principles was that we should “pay attention to power”, as in where the power lies. So, by “power play” I simply meant a strategy, designed by those who hold the power, to set the bar at a sufficiently high level that no change would ever be possible.

      [But, then, who holds the power? It is a difficult one, I admit – I know that there are more apparently powerful forces than the C of E, and if government were to start requiring proof that being a Christian required holding to traditional teaching on this… well, I could understand that some are fearful of that; in fact I might even defend you under those circumstances]

      With blessings,

      Daniel

      Reply
      • Daniel,
        You used the phrase in connection with burden of proof, not pastoral principles, which should include fiduciary relationship, matters of personal relationship between staff and laity.
        It would include use of words and phrases pejoratively in one-to-ones.
        Maybe that pastoral principle wasn’t in Paul’s mind the gospel came with power at Thessaloniki to convert people.

        Reply
        • Dear Geoff

          With apologies, I genuinely don’t understand the point you are making. I read your post several times, but sometimes I am a bit stupid. Are you arguing that the pastoral principles are not reasonable? Or is it some other point?

          My post was, if you like, an admission that I should have explained better what I meant by “power play” because I admit that the term could be understood differently, depending on the context. I just tried to explain what it was that I had in mind.

          With blessings,

          Daniel

          Reply
          • Daniel,
            1 you suggested that the idea that the burden of proof was a power play
            2 I disagreed, saying, with reference to law -such as a claim of a crime or a claim at civil law-(I’m a former solicitor) that whoever makes a claim has the onus to prove it – that it is far from a power play. To extend this to LLF – the onus, burden, is for those claiming change
            to prove their claim, to set it out and then for those resisting the claim to respond, to set out a defence.
            3 Part of your response was that power play was a term taken from the pastoral principles.
            4 I implied, not that the pastoral principals were in error, but that the term power play had been misappropriated and misapplied to the idea of burden of proof.
            5 in addition, I suggested other aspects, such as fiduciary relationship , filial as it were, (in which *power* may be misused) that apply to pastoral principles.
            6 Ending with point that preaching the gospel, that converts comes with power. (Begging the question – is preaching to be seen as pastoral power play.)
            Hope that helps with understanding.
            Geoff

          • Dear Geoff

            Many thanks, that does indeed help with my understanding of the arguments you were making. Thank you for taking the time to explain.

            Yes, I can see your point that where the burden of proof might lie does depend on the previous history of the case. I can also see that it’s possible to discuss where the burden of proof lies carelessly. So, a couple of examples.

            Supposing I was trying to overturn a previous verdict of a court, for example trying to establish that a group of previously convicted individuals should in fact have been found not guilty. I agree that there would be a burden of proof on me in making my claim. But, what is the thing that I would need to prove? I might be naive here, but I imagine (and I hope) that the thing I would need to prove is that there was reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed by the people I was representing (so that the court should not have found them guilty in the first place). I would hope that I did not need to prove with absolute certainty that they did not commit a crime.

            If, on the other hand, I was bringing a claim against someone, arguing that they were guilty of a crime. In that case there would also be a burden of proof on me, but in this case I hope that I would need to prove that they were guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

            My point here is hopefully transparent. We are, in fact, arguing about whether a group of people are guilty or not. There is potential to propose a burden of proof being required on either side of the argument. But, there is – or should be – an asymmetry in the requirements of the proof being required. In the court, at least, the two parties do not need to prove the same thing: one party needs to prove there is reasonable doubt; the other needs to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

            I agree mostly with your points about power. Power is not in itself a bad thing, and the wielding of power can be for the good. But it would be wrong to assume that all uses of power are good; it can certainly be misused, either deliberately or inadvertantly. So, we do need to pay attention to where power lies, and how it is being used.

            I confess that, rather like Paul in the Epistles, I had switched in and out of metaphors with alarming speed. I was not thinking particularly of the court room when I (mis?)used the phrase “power play”. But, I think I could come up with a court room example. Suppose I was trying to establish that a group of people were not guilty. “Well”, says the judge, “you will need to prove it”. But, supposing the judge did not explain to me what it was I needed to prove, leaving me with the impression that I needed to prove with certainty that they did not commit a crime. Or, supposing the judge told me (incorrectly) that I needed to prove with certainty that they did not commit a crime. In either case, there would be a burden of proof, but I would have been misled by the judge: I only need to prove that there is reasonable doubt. In this story, the judge would be misusing his power.

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • 1 I’ve tried to steer this away from the criminal law, Daniel, while at the same time seeking to illustrate from the law.

            2 Nevertheless, as you continue with comment on criminal law, let me tease out some rudiments of the criminal law in England and Wales, without attempting to draw on its history. Then I’ll seek to sketch some comparisons with Christian theology/doctrine.

            3.1 A crime is an act, an offence, against the State (Crown -as head of State)
            3.2 Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
            3.3 There is a presumption of innocence, hence there is a right of the defendant to remain silent, and not to testify in Court.
            3.4 This based on the idea that it was more abhorrent that even one innocent person should wrongly be found guilty, than it was for a guilty person to go free.
            3.5 To simplify, by considering only indictable offences, tried by Judge and jury.
            3.6 The jury decides on questions of fact, the judge on questions of law of evidence.
            3.7 The judge does not make law.

            4 Appeals, against conviction. Generally, they are only available when there are grounds to appeal, when the conviction is considered to be “unsafe” – generally based on questions of law, for example in how the Judge (mis) directed the jury in the law. Again, generally, new, fresh evidence can not be adduced at the Appeal – it is not a re hearing. For a higher appeal, leave of the Higher Court is required.

            5 Switching this to Christian doctrine/law.

            5.1 God in Christ is head of the Church.
            5.2 Sin (a crime) is primarily against God.
            5.3 There is no presumption of innocence. In fact it is the opposite – guilty ’till acquitted by Jesus Christ, until we are made accounted right, righteous.
            5.4 An American comedian was asked what he’d say to God. His answer was, he’d ask for a second opinion! There is no second opinion, no higher Court of Appeal.

            6 We are all sinners. How far does LLF consider the question of Sin, what it is ? Particularly in sexual matters.? How can any of us stand, unrepentant, undefended before God? Self-defence will not succeed, will not secure acquittal and there is nothing to say in mitigation!

            7 I’ll end with requirement for, law of Holiness.
            No one has answered the question of holiness. Even from the time I’ve got involved in the comments sections on Ian Paul’s blog, no-one that I can recall, from the affirming side seeking change, has made any effort to consider what that means in living out the Christian life and that includes David Runcorn. Did you every read “Devoted to God”, by Dr Sinclair Ferguson David, if you are listening in?
            And I suppose the presence of JC Ryle would be an embarrassment in the CoE today, with his book, Holiness.

            Every blessing Daniel, in the name (person) of the Father, Son ans Holy Spirit.
            Geoff

          • One more thing Daniel,
            I get lost off a bit in the comments, but I’ve just seen your comment above about God not executing judgement now.
            Romans 1 is in fact God’s judgement an outworking of God’s wrath now, against ungodliness, unrighteousness and continuing; God “Therefore, gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts.” v 24. Here God’s present judgement is through giving us what we want. And verses 26-27 are highlighted.
            But the emphasis continues through v28-32.
            Deeply chastening, all of it, returning Christians to live in repentance in the light of v 16-17.

          • Dear Geoff

            Many thanks in persisting with your explanations of criminal law to me: I have found them really interesting! As you can surely tell, I am no lawyer.

            I think there has been a misunderstanding between us. I agree there is a final judgement (more of that below), but you are thinking in your latest post only in terms of that. I have been noting instead that there is rather a lot of judging going on here and now – not a final judgement by God, but rather a judgement here and now by the church. There is, for sure, Biblical precedent of judgements reached by the church. And the initial context of our discussions was about people asking for burden of proof, to be weighed by those in the church. To my mind, we have not so far been primarily talking about the final judgement, though it is always there lurking in the background of the discussion. So, that was the context, to my mind, of my previous remarks. I don’t think anything in your points about criminal law negate what I was trying to say there.

            Indeed, with regards to the “Appeal” (your point number 4): I had in mind precisely that it would be a question of interpretation of the law and whether law had been applied correctly, since I don’t think in this case there would be any grounds of appeal on the basis that the defendants hadn’t actually done the thing. It would be about whether the thing done was actually against the Law.

            In the end, what I am requesting is that when the church makes its judgement it does so in a just way, that pays full attention to the people it is making judgement over. That is the point I am making.

            But, you make some very interesting points about final judgement and how it relates to UK criminal law. I agree they are not the same, but my understanding of final judgement is different to yours. I think you would find (if you’ve not read it) Tom Wright’s book “Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision” interesting. You might not agree with it, but my current understanding of final judgement is based on that. I can only sketch briefly:
            – Wright claims (on the basis of Romans 2:1-16, Romans 14:10-12, and multiple other texts) that final judgement is on the basis of “works”, a life well lived! (i.e. not imputed righteousness, or some other scheme towards a verdict that we are in some sense “sinless”).
            – Sin, as in the power of sin towards death, has been decisively dealt with on the cross.
            – We are justified by faith in the present: that is, the verdict of “in the right” is pronounced upon us right now on the basis of our faith.
            – That present verdict will somehow wonderfully correspond to the verdict at the final judgement. When God judges us on the basis of a life well lived, he will find in our favour if we are indeed a people of faith! Wright’s account of how this can be is because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives: if we faithfully work with the Spirit, we will indeed become the virtuous and faithful people that God seeks.

            I doubt you’ll like it, but there we go, it is how I understand it. In this scheme sin seems both more and less important. Less important in that, clearly, we still do sin, but it is already forgiven. But it is also more important: if the final verdict is based on works, then we really, really must take our sins seriously – we can’t go back to the slavery of sin, we really must work with the Spirit to develop the good habits that avoid sin, and so on: we must work towards holiness, absolutely yes! But, the scheme outlined in Wright’s book is really quite different from the sketch in your points 5 and 6. I do believe that I will stand before God’s judgement seat, not as someone who has not sinned, but as a sinner who has already been forgiven and who is trying will all my might to work faithfully with the Spirit in developing into the person God made me to be.

            Your plea for holiness to be emphasised is a very fair and important one. I hope in the above I already indicated that I take it seriously. I would phrase it (following Sarah Coakley) as having our desires and how we act upon them brought into alignment with God’s desires, a process that surely takes a lifetime of devotion. And, desire is really what we are talking about here, isn’t it?

            I tried to write something about the tension between unity and sanctification in my blog post on LLF here:

            https://occasionalread.wordpress.com/2021/04/09/in-love-and-faith-and-unity/

            And, in keeping with that post, can I echo your gracious blessing? Every blessing Geoff, in the name (person) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

            Daniel

          • Geoff: I just saw your additional comment about God’s judgement now. I’m happy to concede that point. Indeed, I was sloppy in my original comment, I meant “God’s final judgement is not happening now”. Of course God does judge now as well.

          • Hello Daniel, Thanks for your considered response. This is from my phone, so thankfully to many, it will not be long.
            I’ve not read NT Wright’s book, but if I’ve read you correctly I certainly don’t agree with him. It seem to be suggesting, getting in is being save by faith, but staying in is based on works, that is eventually treating sanctification as a basis for justification, but not even sanctification only *works*.
            Does he ever deal with Holiness?
            And while I’ve read something of his new perspectives and justification, from reading as listening to Mike Reeves I’m unsure whether in his courtroom scene, he takes account of the Trinity. I don’t have any resources in from of me, but I don’t think I’m misrepresenting Reeves when he points out that Wright has not taken into account in his view of justification, a Christian’s union with Christ, died and raised in him, as righteous as He is.
            Where his works are ours, our sins his, in a Divine exchange.
            Now isn’t THAT GOOD NEWS.
            That has a huge bearing on holy living for Christians.
            And it seems that LLF draws attention to love and holiness, but I’ve mentioned this more than once on this site and I do again: God’s love is only ever Holy-Love for that’s who he is. (Thanks to David Wells books for that).
            Again and again, no one cares to discuss Holiness. Not works – the whole world of religion is saved by faith in works, measuring up!! And there, in that place of works, there is no full assurance, blessed assurance of salvation.
            Holiness would include fornication, sex outside marriage, a matter Richard Baucham and Christopher Shell are highlighting, below.

          • Dear Geoff

            Thanks for your reply. We seems to have got onto a different topic, but it’s probably relevant because it has some bearing on sin and salvation and how we view it. But, I’ll try to keep to statements for clarification, and to circle around back on topic at the end.

            1) I think that probably you should read Wright’s book, and decide for yourself, rather than basing opinion on my incomplete summary!
            2) Ultimately, I like what Wright is saying because it makes sense of all the key passages in Romans, Galatians, Phillipians, Ephesians and the Corinthian correspondence far better than anything else I have seen: this is the real test, for me.
            3) I should take care to clarify “works”. Wright does not mean that we work to earn it, or that there is some ladder we climb up with works, or a balance in which we weight good things against bad, or “measuring up”, or any of those things. He means that, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us, we then live lives that are faithful to God’s calling… not perfect lives, but faithful lives…. and it is on that we are judged. If I go on deliberately and consciously sinning, I am not being faithful, I am returning to a slavery to sin. With James 2:14-26: “faith without deeds is dead”.
            4) I am truly amazed that anyone could accuse Wright of not taking account of the Trinity!
            5) Wright does take account of, as you put it “his works are ours, our sins his, in a Divine exchange”. But, Wright rejects this, on good Biblical grounds. He does have a good deal to say about us being “In Christ” and what that means, and has a great deal to say about both GOOD NEWS and assurance of our salvation… but you need to read it.
            6) Speaking for myself, I like Wright’s scheme also because it makes a lot more sense to me. The “divine exchange”, however appealing to preachers the world over, has always been a bit of a magic trick in which God somehow convinces himself that we are sinless. Everyone in the courtroom knows that we are not sinless, we can all see the sleight of hand: it is not justice; it is not truth (and, I am convinced, it is not Biblical). In Wright’s scheme I stand before God as I truly am: as a sinner, but as a forgiven and penitent sinner. Forgiveness is not about pretending that the sin didn’t happen; it is about acknowledging that it did happen and that it hurts.
            7) Yes, absolutely, love is God’s Holy love. It is also His gracious love and His forgiving love, for those are also who He is. I don’t say this to reduce the Holy aspect of it. We lose out if we focus too much on any of these to the detriment of the others.
            8) And, yes, I am certain that we need to be very clear about sexual sin, and well as other sins, and about what holiness means in this arena. I mentioned in my last post, “having our desires and how we act upon them brought into alignment with God’s desires”. If our love is to reflect God’s Holy love, then how can our love include fornication, unfaithfulness, or abuse, or selfish gratification? Or, to put it a different way, if I have God’s Holy Spirit living in me, I am a temple of the Holy Spirit: should I then go and have sex with a prostitute, or some other unfaithful thing? Have I said enough to demonstrate the shape of my thinking here?

            Blessings again,

            Daniel

          • Geoff:

            I realised I could summarise in a pithy (but probably too simple) way.

            The question in the present day is “do you have faith?”
            The question on the final day is “did you live faithfully?”

            Clearly there is a correspondence between these questions, but they are not the same. And, this scheme really does emphasise that it is important how we live, because it does matter.

            Blessings,
            Daniel

          • Hello Daniel,
            1 It is with temerity that I say I think that Wright’s Court Room illustration is a caricature, overthinking.
            And it is set aside by a believers, union with Christ, whereby we are crucified with Christ (judged) died and raised in Union with him (Ephesians 1&2). Not magic, but a metaphysical, Spiritual reality.
            It also represents, I suggest, the Kingdom now, but not yet.
            Simul Justus et peccator.
            And sure the believer is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit. And that the same Holy Spirit, a partaker in Creation, and who raised Christ from the dead. Who brings us into union with Christ.
            I’ve looked at your occasional blog, thanks.
            It seems that you are a keen reader, time permitting.
            Books that have strengthened a belief of substitutionary atonement and union with Christ, which you might like to checkout, include, not in any particular order (though Dr Sinclair Ferguson has some online teaching on Union with Christ).
            1 The Whole Christ , Sinclair Ferguson (excellent)
            2 Devoted to God, Sinclair Ferguson – a book on holiness.
            3 The Good God, Mike Reeves
            4 Our Life in Christ, Mike Reeves (both highly commended, popular level,. by other Christians). He used to have a lot of teaching on the UCCF site.
            5 Pierced for Transgressions, Jeffrey, Obey, Sacks.
            6 Christ Crucified, Donald MacLeod.

            Nevertheless, I would also contend for a multi – factorial dimension to the Good News of the birth, life, death, bodily resurrection and ascension of Christ.
            Ferguson has emphasised that the offer is Christ Himself, you get God himself as Christian.
            Therefore, we are to live so as not to dishonour him.
            And while sanctification is a one-off, have been, it is also a process, a spiritual battle.

            And Tim Keller states, “Christ lived the life we should, but can not live, and died the death we should, deserved to die.”
            In Union with Christ we partake in his active, in life, and passive obedience on the cross, he was covenantaly, faithful as Go and as man, our substitute. This aligns with the OT, in continuity and discontinuity in fulfilment.

            Much else is the call, “must try harder.”

            BTW I was converted on an Alpha course in a CoE at 47, as an unbelieving lawyer some years ago now. Subsequent medical interventions were catalysts for an overhaul of largely charismatic theology, through self directed study and a déeper consideration of underpinning theology in the Methodist church where I was in local preacher training. The study led me away from the Methodist Church, to New Frontiers, then, more locally, back to an Anglican Church which does subscribe to the Creeds and 39 Articles. It is a young, family based church, largely professional, a joy to an older heart.
            Yours in Christ,
            Geoff

          • Dear Geoff

            Thank you for what appears to be a characteristically gracious response. I get the feeling that we might enjoy a chat about all of this justification stuff, it were ever to come to it. I know where you are coming from, and Ephesians 1-2 is a big favourite of mine too. So, I’m not going to argue further on it, not because there isn’t more to say, but because here is not the right place. In any case, I will not be able do proper justice to Wright’s arguments.

            (Except for a brief aside: did you ever play the game Rummikub? I find Wright’s book to be a bit like a complicated final move in that game… he moves all the pieces around, you start to think, “no please put them back, you’re messing it up” but at the end of the move all the pieces are placed on the table, even the ones you didn’t realise were important, and it all fits together and the game is done… most other accounts seem to me to leave some of the pieces unplayed).

            Anyway, you’ve given me a reading list. Thank you.

            I think, probably, the most interesting part of all this is that it seems that how you view final judgement can alter how you think about other elements of our faith too, and that is something to bear in mind.

          • Hello Daniel,
            No, I’ve not come across that game.
            I certainly have not done justice to the teaching on Union with Christ. It is teaching I came across after Wright’s publication 2009.

            And I was aware of the consternation Wright was bringing about, having John Piper’s book, The Future of Justification- A response to NT Wright (2008) having been challenged and influenced by Piper’s earlier books, The Pleasures of God and Desiring God.

            (Around that time (if I recall correctly) I’d also attended a three day lecture series on the Resurrection by Wright, hosted by a local New Frontiers Church (Reformed Charismatic). He is a marvellous communicator.)

            I did not take too well to what seemed to be an adversarial stance between Piper and Wright. Among those supporting Piper were DA Carson, and Peter J Williams Warden, Tyndale House, who on the cover of Piper’s 2008 book says this, “Piper both highlights and demonstrates the exegetical weaknesses in Wright’s system and the success of reading Paul using traditional categories. All who read Wright should read Piper.”

            I should think a suggestion from Peter J Williams carries far more weight than any of my suggestions.

            But, I don’t think Piper takes into account a believer’s union with Christ as a discrete topic. As a corollary, it would seem unlikely that Wright does too. In fact Mike Reeves, somewhere has said that it is an omission of Wright in his scheme of justification.

            One of the dislikes I have of a lot of podcasts, in fact it was a dislike I had with management meetings in the NHS, is that many seem to come unprepared. That would be a stumbling block for me, as I look to come properly prepared to a talk. I don’t think I’d be up to it today.

            And while it is wrong to say I’ve moved on from the doctrine, around the same time as above I came across on the internet a taught USA, D Min course on Biblical Theology, taught by Ed Clowney and Tim Keller, which I listened to.
            It sparked an interest in longitudinal whole canonical themes, types, shadows, patterns, echoes, which many, though not enough to my mind, have espoused, preached and taught, including Keller, GK Beale, DA Carson, Peter Leithart, Alistair Roberts, Andrew Wilson Richard Hays and a young (to me) contemporary CoE minister Glen Scrivener.
            Richard Bauckham endorsed a book that I bought that is technically (I don’t have the languages) beyond me, but was nevertheless edifying, “Commentary on the New Testaments Use of the Old” edited by Beale and Carson. It goes without saying there are detractors to this approach. It can be seen as going beyond systematic theology, but I see it as enfolding it in the whole canon Counsel of God.

          • Dear Geoff

            Sorry, I only just saw your reply!

            I agree it was a shame that the discussion between Piper and Wright became so apparently adversarial. But, having read both Piper’s book and Wright’s, my feeling on that is that a lot of the adversarial nature was not drummed up by Piper and Wright themselves, but rather by those cheering on from the sidelines. A bit like it is with playground fights, sometimes.

            So, yes, I did read Piper’s book. For me, it’s main weakness was that it didn’t really engage with the Bible properly. It picks a verse here, a verse there, maybe a passage here. In contrast, in the second half of his book Wright walks you through the chapters of Romans and shows how the whole argument Paul is making fits together. Likewise with the key passages of Galatians, and 2 Corinthians, and so on. If Wright is wrong, he is at least trying to base his arguments squarely on the whole of what Paul has written.

            Does Wright take Union with Christ seriously? It might not be a discrete topic… so far a I can tell, the theme of being “In Christ” and what that means is woven so tightly through the whole argument Wright makes. Wright does not feel that there is any need to go looking for something that we might call “imputed righteousness”, the transfer of something called “righteousness” from Jesus to us (because he thinks final judgement doesn’t work like that). But, if he was to go looking for it, I am almost certain he would use the “In Christ” terminology for it (that’s where I would go looking).

            I found this as part of the Wright book… it is an instructive passage:

            “Have we thus abandoned the wonderful good news of the gospel? By no means. Paul has a different way, a far more biblical way, of arriving at the desired conclusion. It is not the ‘righteousness’ of Jesus Christ which is ‘reckoned’ to the believer. It is his death and resurrection. That is what Romans 6 is all about. Paul does not say, ‘I am in Christ; Christ has obeyed the Torah; therefore God regards me as though I had obeyed the Torah.’ He says: ‘I am in Christ; Christ has died and been raised; therefore God regards me – and I must learn to regard myself – as someone who has dies to sin and been raised to newness of life.”

            And later on the same page:

            “All that the supposed doctrine of the ‘imputed righteousness of Christ’ has to offer is offered instead by Paul under this rubric, on these terms, and within this…. framework’

            So, I don’t think that Wright omits the theme of Union with Christ at all, rather is is absolutely central to the point he is making. And, he almost does what you seem to want him to do with it – but not quite. For Wright, Union with Christ is about our present and ongoing status: we have died, we have risen to new life. But it doesn’t include imputed righteousness, partly because he doesn’t think it’s needed.

            Blessings,

            Daniel

          • Hello Daniel,
            I’m finding this to be hard work keeping up with the comments, having to make a deliberate effort to go back over the comments to see if there is anything new.

            Apologies in advance. I am not shouting, its just that my keyboard skills are abysmal.

            You’ve cited Wright at greater length thanks, and I pick out this:
            ““Have we thus abandoned the wonderful good news of the gospel? By no means. Paul has a different way, a far more biblical way, of arriving at the desired conclusion. It is not the ‘righteousness’ of Jesus Christ which is ‘reckoned’ to the believer. It is his death and resurrection. That is what Romans 6 is all about. Paul does not say, ‘I am in Christ; Christ has obeyed the Torah; therefore God regards me as though I had obeyed the Torah.’ He says: ‘I am in Christ; Christ has died and been raised; therefore God regards me –

            I ask this of it: what exactly is reckoned in the death and resurrection of Christ unless it includes the purposes of Christ incarnation, life, death, resurrection, if it does NOT include the God’s judgement OF sin caused death, of on MY sin, the cancelling of the curse to coin a puritan phrase (the death of death in the death of Christ – John Owen) and the Resurrection justification/righteousness of a/ MY new life in (union with) him.
            And what does that new life include but a new right standing (righteousness/sinlessness) with God IN Christ, the LAST Adam and a new armour of God, which includes protective righteousness.

            And I presume that there is a typo at the end of this : ” therefore God regards me – and I must learn to regard myself – as someone who has dies to sin and been raised to newness of life.” that should be “has died,” not dies.
            Again, if I HAVE DIED to sin I am righteous, there is no way of getting around it

            To my mind he seems to be contorting the flow and thereby excluding simple conclusion and inclusions to make and maintain his point within his theological system.

            So if I have died to sin, I AM righteous and by weighty implication reckoned to have lived an obedient sinless life

            Thanks again Daniel, but am more persuaded of the great Good News of divine exchange. I have no hope at all without it, without new Holy Spirit birth resurrection, No Blessed Assurance.

          • Hi Geoff

            Thanks for your reply. At this point, I’ll just say: “please, read the book.” I gave the quote to illustrate that Wright does indeed discuss these issues, but not in any sense to explain fully how he does! Like you, I’m struggling to keep up with all the comments, and I judge this thread to have got sufficiently off topic now!

            With love,

            Daniel

  9. Thank you, Andrew, for three very wise articles. But you rather give the impression that the only areas of disagreement are over same-sex relationships and gender identity. Of course, these are the high-profile issues in our context, but it seems to me that actually just as important in our context are the differences over sex and marriage outlined on pp 256, 258. I have in mind here the first three views, each introduced by “Some of us…” (only the fourth such view introduces the same-sex issue). The first view is clear enough and the third is reasonably clear, but the second seems to me to be stated in a peculiarly obscure fashion. I take it is assuming that sex before marriage is appropriate and defining marriage as a later step. These differences are really significant in our society and surely merit exposition and discussion. My impression is that most people, certainly most relatively young people think that having sex is entirely appropriate as an early, or even as the first step in a relationship that may or may not become something more longterm and committed. They see no problem if it does not. This approach is normal life as portrayed in the media, films, drama, literature. Do all the views described in LLF as held by “some of us” rule out this broadly culturally accepted approach? If so shouldn’t this agreement be made very clear. It is highly significant for the way the church’s teaching should be presented to contemporary people, if there is not to widespread misunderstanding. But I wonder if the second “Some of us” position, that is so unclearly outlined, does in fact accept something like this approach?

    Reply
    • I think you’re absolutely correct about what is shown by the media, and even what young people have accepted as correct morality. However, – if I’m not mistaken, and I’m happy to be corrected – the statistics suggest that younger people have not been living like they believe it at least compared to how those that are now in middle-age acted, and in a quarter (which seems very high to me) comparing favourably to the now-elderly, and those that do act more like the telly report misery from it. This seems to me like something where Jesus has a better story to tell (I think in truth, we have a better story for every issue).

      However, the Church of England seems more interested on reaching a tiny percentage of the country – upper-middle class far-left social campaigners (their children, perhaps?) and to using all their institutional muscle on being presentable to that group, and who cares about those struck by the wake.

      Reply
      • Thanks, Kyle. I don’t know those statistics, but they are certainly interesting. I don’t agree with your second paragraph, but that’s another matter.
        My point is that for decades we have been discussing whether the traditional doctrine of marriage can be extended to include same-sex couples. These have been important, intelligent, necessary discussions. But have we had any discussions at all about heterosexual sex before marriage? Why does LLF treat this as though it were really quite a marginal issue?
        The recent scandalous revelations about abusive sex in schools seem to me to have exposed a moral vacuum in this area. The message to young teenagers, in response to these revelations, has been: Sex should be consensual and respectful. The availability of online pornography has rightly been discussed. I have not noticed anyone at all saying to young teenagers: You are too young to have properly committed relationships and so you should not be having sex at all. Schools won’t say this. It is too prescriptive. Young people have to decide such things for themselves, which really means that they are left to the mercy of social media.
        I am not even meaning here to a take a view as to whether pre-marital sex is always wrong. I’m just saying that this is an area of disagreement between the participants in LLF which surely ought to highlight (what are the arguments for or against the various possible views?) rather than marginalizing.

        Reply
  10. It is difficult to justify premarital/extramarital sex for several reasons:

    (1) It is nothing new for people to have more physical rather than more thoughtful instincts! So there is no justification for treating as a social change something that actually (quite the contrary) goes back to the year dot. What has changed is not instincts but social constraints.

    (2) People do not know beforehand what they are getting into. By that time, it becomes too late.

    (3) If sex is not linked to commitment, what are the chances of its ever being? But that automatically means broken homes. This is a point of stellar importance. Sex as a carrot for maturing and willingness to commit worked far better. It’s less a case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it than a case of if it’s far better why replace it with something that has a much worse track record? Why replace the successful method with the failing one, let alone see the failing one as default?

    (4) If sexual history is mucked up early on, it is not the easiest thing to fix – and as it is so central to one’s life history, this ends up that lives have been wrecked, without the help of Christ.

    (5) Long term commitment is dependent on the union being seen by participants as a major thing. It will be if the paraphernalia of marriage attends it; but it will not be sufficiently major otherwise, especially if it has been compromised by trial marriages beforehand. The bond will simply not be strong enough in that instance. That is both sensible predictable theory and (far more important) massively confirmed as statistical reality when one compares success rates of cohabitation etc and of marriage.

    (6) Talk of ‘committed relationships’ is inaccurate. Committed relationships that are not marriage, family or friendship do not typically/averagely exist. Provision for commitment has already been made in the shape of marriage.

    Reply
    • These are good arguments, Christopher. I don’t actually want to have a discussion of the substantive issue here. My question is a question about LLF that I would really like to hear Andrew Goddard respond to. Why do arguments like yours (Christopher) – and whatever others disagreeing would say – have no place in LLF? Why has LLF sidelined this issue, when it is evidently an issue on which participants disagreed and one that is hugely relevant in our contemporary context?

      Reply
      • Yes I am with you 100% on all angles of this. It is surprising that something so central should not be addressed. Even more surprising that assumptions should be made which cut across the Christian system, together with the further assumption that transient cultural norms possess intrinsic authority. I have however noted already that LLF (a long book which claims to be and often is multi-disciplinary) does not address central matters such as I tried to address in What Are They Teaching the Children? I think the same kind of essentially cultural but very question-begging shift happened with the new and not improved attitude post-1970 to desertion by a spouse – the C of E shift seems entirely to keep pace with the culture and to be explicable thereby – but does it not go without saying that mere cultural conformity is no sort of authoritative grounding? You’re making a centrally important point.

        Reply
        • You are spot on with your reference to cultural conformity. However I would go further by suggesting that over a considerable period of time, the Anglican Church has gone beyond conformity and entered the sphere of cultural collusion. For example, in relation to infant baptism: how often has the sacrament been observed even though the parents are not married? And even where preparation has been exercised, the theological “logic” undergirding of it is either (a) irrespective of the marital state of the parents, the infant “must” be baptized or (b) the occasion can be a “wonderful evangelistic opportunity.” Now this (i.e. [b]) may be true; but it can also undermine a biblical/covenantal understanding of the sacrament. And, moreover, it can erode any foundational grasp of the church as a divinely-inspired organism; discharging the grace of God, but equally exhorting its membership to a continual walk in that grace.
          Finally, in response to Richard Bauckham’s original point : perhaps those who wish to maintain a traditional outlook on issues of marriage and family should focus more on “running the race” and less on treading on tiptoe!

          Reply
          • Has it ever been Anglican practice to refuse baptism to a child born out of wedlock? That seems extraordinary to me.
            I can see it might cohere with a particular understanding of baptism, but surely that is not the Church of England’s official understanding of baptism?
            From the days when I did genealogical research, I am sure that parish registers regularly record the baptism of children born out of wedlock.

  11. Dear Richard,
    Perhaps it’s my fault for a lack of clarity in my post. However, I would humbly suggest that while the issues of “Anglican practice” and “geneological research” may have some bearing on present ecclesiastical concerns,I believe they do not actually fit in with in with present realities. The fact is that in the past children born out of wedlock (whose parents desired their baptism) would have been the exception; today they are the rule! Then, marriage was at least understood to be the norm!
    This surely does raise the issue of the practice of baptism. Given the radical changes in understanding and values in society as a whole and given that the biblical pattern repeateadly affirms the priority of preaching a gospel that leads to repentance as the basis of baptismal preparation and life: are we not colluding with current societal mores at a time when secular “principles” have become the cornerstone of contemporary living?
    My concern is not a desire for exclusion re infant baptism. My input here is simply to stress that this may be one of the factors contributing to (in your words) “why does LLF treat this as though it(heterosexual sex before marriage) were quite a marginal issue?” On the basis of this sentiment, I actually believe your concern to be utterly valid. In conclusion, and in conjunction with your anxieties, I would pose this question: what message are we communicating to a younger generation which wants “junior” baptized yet seems incapable of viewing marriage as a life principle; not one option among others?

    Reply
    • Colin, your original post seemed to suggest that it had been normal practice to require parents bringing a child for baptism to be married, and that the church was accommodating to social trends by no longer doing this. I think what you are in fact saying is that, in view of social trends, the church needs to change its practice and start requiring parents to be married.
      I think that what happened in the past, when marriage was the norm, was that most often the mother of an illegitimate child would bring the child for baptism. The father might well not acknowledge the child at all. The mother might be quite willing to marry, but the father, often married already, would not or could not. But I really do not think that any unmarried mother wanting her child baptised would ever have been refused.
      Of course, the situation is very different now (though closely equivalent circumstances do still occur). Most non-churchgoing parents don’t want their children baptised anyway. For those that do, surely the key issues are whether they understand what baptism is, do they realise the commitment to bring the child up in the faith, and so on. Not being ordained I have no experience of these things. But it seems to me such matters are big enough challenges. Should we really make marital status an additional requirement?
      Theologically I guess there is a fundamental issue about infant baptism: Is it something the church does for qualified parents, or is it fundamentally for the sake of the child, which means the shortcomings of the parents should be treated with generosity for their child’s sake.
      PS. I’m still holding out hope for an answer to my original question from Andrew Goddard. Only an LLF insider can really answer it.

      Reply
      • “Theologically I guess there is a fundamental issue about infant baptism: Is it something the church does for qualified parents, or is it fundamentally for the sake of the child, which means the shortcomings of the parents should be treated with generosity for their child’s sake.” – Richard Bauckham

        I guess Richard, that most of Ian Paul’s supporters here (including Christopher) would insist that parents of children to be baptized must themselves be practising Christians. This, of course, is the view of the ‘hardliners’ whose views on ‘purity’ may be properly compared with those Pharisees whom Jesus accused of ‘loading their followers with many burdens’ – a practice that Jesus himself seems to have abandoned. This is one reason, perhaps, why they did not interfere with the agency of his crucifixion. Jesus was obviously too ‘liberal’ for their tastes.

        When comparing the degree of ‘righteousness’ that Jesus thought was needed for a person’s redemption, one only has to read the parable of the Pharisee & the Publican. The Pharisee advertised his own righteousness, while the Publican acknowledged, humbly, the FACT that he was a ‘sinner’. Interrogating his audience, Jesus asked the question; “Which one, do you think, went away ‘justified’?” – Not, seemingly, the righteous Pharisee, but the self-acknowledged sinner’. (Amazing Grace is a virtue often sung about by Con/Evos, but rarely properly understood!)

        Have the ‘righteous’ ever wondered why God had to become a human being in the Incarnate Christ? Was it because God in human form had to become ‘one with sinners’ in order to provide the redemptive grace needed for ALL humanity to avail themselves of Christ’s divinity? (I am mindful here of the Catholic prayer of the priest in the action of mixing water and wine at the Eucharist: “By the Mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ – who humbled himself to share in our humanity!” My answer (both as priest and congregant) has to be a loud “AMEN”)

        Reply
        • But what if the Publican had *not* admitted he was a sinner? What if he intended to carry on doing the same thing? And what if many people were telling him that he didn’t need to change?

          Reply
        • I can’t believe that you have ever listened to the lyric’s of Newton’s ‘Amazing Grace’ nor even Pilgrim’s Progress. Indeed, it may be the knowledge of the wretchedness of our sin that we desire help in battling it, and would help others in battling it.

          Now, of course following God’s laws cannot be compared to the Pharisees. However, if you would like to consider the idea of feeling self-righteous on account of following the traditions of men rather than the clear teaching of scripture then I would not discourage you.

          Christ humbled Himself, so that we might be free. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” and the ‘were’ is crucial.

          Reply
        • When comparing the degree of ‘righteousness’ that Jesus thought was needed for a person’s redemption, one only has to read the parable of the Pharisee & the Publican. The Pharisee advertised his own righteousness, while the Publican acknowledged, humbly, the FACT that he was a ‘sinner’. Interrogating his audience, Jesus asked the question; “Which one, do you think, went away ‘justified’?” – Not, seemingly, the righteous Pharisee, but the self-acknowledged sinner’. (Amazing Grace is a virtue often sung about by Con/Evos, but rarely properly understood!)

          One of my favourite stories about that parable is of the person who, after preaching on it, began to lead the congregation in prayer: ‘Lord, we thank you that we are liek the humble sinner, and not at all like that awful Pharisee…’

          Reply
        • Share in our humanity, yet without sin!
          A Christian’s righteousness is not in the self, but in Christ’s righteousness.
          And it certainly does not rejoice in its own sin!! But humbly repents, turns from it. Like the woman at the well who was told by Jesus to turn away from her sin, give it up.

          Reply
  12. Something for the doctrinal hard-liners in the Christian Church to contemplate: todays message from the Bishop of Rome:

    TUESDAY, APRIL 27, 2021
    “Being Christian is not first of all a doctrine or a moral ideal; it is a living relationship with Him, with the Risen Lord: we look at Him, we touch Him, we are nourished by Him and, transformed by His Love, we look at, touch and nourish others as brothers and sisters. May the Virgin Mary help us to live this experience of grace.”
    Pope Francis

    This theology is one of reliance upon sacramental grace rather than the law (a biblical precept) which deserves a much greater humility than most Con/Evos, I’m afraid, are ever wont to understand.

    “God have mercy on me, a Sinner” is my constant prayer. This is my response to the B.C.P.’s Prayer of Humble Access: “If we say we have no sin the truth is not in us…….”

    I do, though, admire those of you who have done away with sin on your own account.
    I personally, have only the grace of Christ to sustain me in this wildernessof sin.

    Reply
    • To be a Christian is to be in a relationship with the Risen Lord. It is not (just) to be an adherent of a doctrine. But being in a relationship involves certain responsibilities. Is a Christian free to visit a prostitute? Never (1 Cor. 6:15)! We may assume that the same applies to homosexual relationships. To engage in them is to corrupt one’s relationship with the Risen Lord.

      You focus the debate on the alleged self-righteousness of conservatives as if this were the most important point. This seems unreasonable. The purpose of conservatives is not to vaunt their own righteousness but to take a stand against what they see as a deliberate attempt to promote sin.

      Reply
      • “We may assume that the same applies to homosexual relationships.”

        Not quite sure how you are using the word “we” at the beginning of the sentence but clearly not everyone assumes the same thing on this matter. That’s what got us into LLF. It was very clear at the February 2017 that the GS of the C of E could not assume that.

        Reply
        • The GS has not read up on the topic enough to have any worthwhile opinion on it, though a minority of members have.

          Reply
        • Andrew, perhaps we should also refrain from making assumptions about prostitution. What makes prostitution wrong? For one thing, it is sex without love or even affection. I wouldn’t deny that this makes it wrong but it is something that I generally assume, just as it has been traditionally assumed that sex should be restricted to marriage and marriage should be restricted to heterosexual couples.

          Another consideration is that prostitution is frequently an ugly business. This is something to take seriously but if we are looking at how prostitution works in practice then we are entitled to ask how homosexual relationships work in practice – overall, that is.

          Of course, there is no great campaign to make prostitution legal, much less socially acceptable. This is not an issue on which the Church would be tempted to conform to the latest social development.

          Reply
          • What makes prostitution wrong?

            Isn’t the answer obvious? It’s incompatible by definition with faithful lifelong monogamy.

            (Secondarily it’s also, I would argue, a form of simony)

            Of course, there is no great campaign to make prostitution legal

            It’s not a ‘great campaign’ by any means, but least two minor parties in the UK Parliament (the Liberal Democrats and the Greens) have legalisation of prostitution in their manifestos:

            https://www.libdems.org.uk/f9_towards_safer_sex_work

            https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/rr.html (RR550 et seq)

            So there are voices calling for the legalisation of prostitution and therefore it is something on which the Church of England may find itself having to take a stance at some point in the medium term future.

          • On the contrary, there are campaigns to legalise sex work, for laudable reasons.

            Not, of course, that there is any reasonable comparison between sex work and gay relationships.

          • Penelope, I am aware that there are campaigns to legalise prostitution (sometimes referred to by the unfortunate euphemism “sex work”). But they are unlikely to succeed. In this case even non-Christians realise that it is a nasty business.

          • David M.

            There are very good reasons for legalising sex work: the safety of the workers, for example; the waste of police time and effort. Though I do not support all such attempts. The Nordic model is not a good model.

            Christopher

            The illegality of some sex work does not make infidelity any more palatable to the betrayed spouse. And you are assuming that there is a spouse. Some clients are single.

          • Penelope, there are theoretical arguments for legalising prostitution. Basically, it is a case of “it’s going to happen anyway, so let’s make it safe”. I don’t agree with such reasoning. It seems to me like a surrender to immorality. On this particular issue your liberalism has outstripped even that of our decadent society, which has not gone as far as to legalise prostitution.

          • David Runcorn

            I would go further than that. These extended exchanges between just five or so people appear to me to be futile. I don’t know why the participants invest time in it.

            Neither side appears to be really listening to each other, and as a result no-one is persuaded.

            I would far rather than space was made for others to contribute. As it is the useful comments (from people like Mat Sheffield) just get drowned out.

            To the five (or so) apologies if that seems unfair. I think some of you do better than this—but no-one is moving on, so what is the point?

            IS this just a game of last person standing?

          • I’m glad my so-called liberalism outstrips the shabby mores of secular society. It’s called christianity.

          • I hope an explanation of my modus operandi helps:

            (a) If I see what seems to me an error of logic/coherence I will always step in and address it, because that constitutes progress, and all debate is intended to be progress closer to the truth.

            (b) We may rarely reach full truth, but I am eager to get as close to it as possible. For this reason, I absolutely want the last word, because I want to get closer to the truth than we have so far reached. The longer the discussion goes on, the more things get refined and sharpened.

            (c) But I also tend to want discussions to go on even longer than they do. For the clear reason that we would then get even closer to the truth still.

            (d) I have generally found it to be part (but not a universal or inevitable part) of the liberal modus operandi to declare (!) conversations closed unilaterally. I would be lying if I denied that this was often when points have just been made that it would be hard for them to answer.

            (e) Long drawn out conversations are often characterised as people not listening to each other – just like the ‘Communication Problems’ episode of Fawlty Towers. That is not the case for me, as I generally have long lists of points arising (a to e) which directly address what the other person has said.

            (f) Do my long lists consist in disagreements? Yes they do. It can be taken that I agree with anything that is not on the list. Gundry’s Mark proceeds at each minute point by analysing wherein he disagrees with other interpreters. This is only because he has already laid out, with arguments, what he sees as the best available interpretation, so it is clear that he must therefore disagree with others. It is then all the better that he does not merely ‘disagree’ but explain in detail wherein he believes his disagreement to be justified.

        • There are few enough people in the entire kingdom that overtly base their ‘opinion’ on cited science. The C of E has had opportunity for that because of its focus on the topic. But still the number of people who actually do that is small.

          Reply
          • But once again you claim that “The GS has not read up on the topic enough to have any worthwhile opinion on it”.
            Presumably you have evidence for this claim? Or is it just your biased opinion?

          • I would be very foolish if I based my moral and ethical convictions on ‘science’.

            Science would enable me to have a child post menopause. Science does not tell me whether that would be a good thing.

            Even if science could tell me why I am straight and others are gay, that would reveal nothing about the morality of my identity and behaviour, nor theirs.

          • I would be very foolish if I based my moral and ethical convictions on ‘science’.

            This is of course true. Science can tell you what is; it cannot tell you whether it is as it ought to be.

            However, does this mean that you will no longer be appealing to science (for example, the science of chromosomal disorders affecting sexual development) to support your opinions about any controversial matters?

          • If only a handful of people Christian or nonChristian anywhere in the UK has the science at their fingertips; if C of E is more than usually socially-conformist by Christian standards; if voting figures are as they are, in a socially-conformist direction; if I have been in the area long enough to recognise the names of those who can or ever do speak authoritatively on this – then it is possible on those 4 bases to work out approximately the general picture.

          • Of course, Penny. But that was not the aspect of science to which I was referring. I was just referring to the fact that, as an essential first step, one must be aware of the shape of the data.

          • Why must one?
            What can data tell us about morality?
            It matters not a jot (as I said) why one is as gay as a goose.
            What matters is how one lives one’s life.

          • Penelope, the data can guide our judgements on moral issues. You appealed to anecdotal data when you said that the same-sex couples known to you were faithful. That is not unreasonable but neither is it unreasonable to make use of statistical evidence. If, for example, the prevalence of STIs is especially high in a particular community, that is definitely something to take into consideration.

            I think you have also said that homosexuality is “natural”. Presumably, you are saying that a homosexual orientation arises spontaneously, that it is a natural development within the individual and not the result of some “corrupting” influence from outside. That seems like a scientific claim to me. To that extent you are basing your moral view on science.

            Of course, even if what you say is true, the fact that homosexuality is “natural” (in the sense defined) would not mean that it isn’t immoral. We can imagine other orientations which may also be “natural” but which no one would wish to defend.

          • I know you said it did not matter, but your saying something does not make it true. Am I incorrect in that?

            Second when you say ‘what matters is’ you are saying that only one thing matters. That is vanishingly unlikely. Usually more than one thing matters.

            Third, the way that seeks understanding is almost always going to be better than the way that blocks it! How could it be otherwise?

            Fourth, when people block or censor that always raises questions about their selectivity, possible bias, degree of honesty. Maybe they know what ‘conclusion’ they want and are cooking the books. Such questions raised will then spill over into other interactions.

            Some of these points I have already made, with no response.

          • David M.

            The prevalence of STDs, for example, may be available from a social scientific study and may be useful in determining health policies. It is a complete red herring when brought to a debate about monogamous SSM. Unless you or Christopher are claiming that fidelity is impossible in same sex relationships and that all gay people, including lesbians, catch STDs. I think you wrote above that you are not claiming that.

            Same sex activity is observable in nature, so I suppose that s based upon scientific observation. I did not claim that because it is natural, it is good. As you will see if you read my comments.

          • Christopher

            I am not trying to block or censor you, or anyone else’s research on the aetiology of homosexuality (though I think it is a fond thing, vainly invented). What causes any sexuality, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with the morality of sexual relationships.

            Why one is as gay as a goose is unimportant unless you want a career in eugenics or reparative therapy.

          • Christopher: seeing as data is very important in assessing how we should move forward in this matter, and seeing as you are one of the vanishingly small number of people familiar with the data, would you kindly give me the data on a few of the relevant issues?

            1. What proportion of sexually active homosexual Christian men practise anal sex?
            2. What proportion of sexually active heterosexual Christian couples practise anal sex?
            3. What proportion of sexually active homosexual Christian men practise oral sex?
            4. What proportion of sexually active heterosexual Christian couples practise oral sex?
            5. What proportion of the clergy in same sex couples are sexually active?
            6. What proportion of the clergy in same sex couples are faithful to their partners in sexual activity?
            7. What is the balance of lesbian to gay clergy who are in same sex couples?
            8. What are the rates of STI amongst lesbian sexually active partnered clergy?
            9. What are the rates of STI amongst gay sexually active partnered clergy?

            Your sources would be useful to know as well please.

            I realise these are 9 questions but as you have all of the relevant data at your finger tips I hope it would not take long to answer these questions.

          • That is not what is being said. What is being said is that with homosexual activity society-wide, there comes high average promiscuity levels. That has always been the case – I have never heard of a counter-example.

            Therefore if there is to be acceptance of homosexuality, then there is effectively acceptance of promiscuity. What? The very thing that should be rejected is accepted. Families society-wide suffer from such unnecessarily reversed norms, and the promiscuity that is thus offered to homosexuals can not then reasonably be withheld from heterosexuals. What chance then of family life (families are man+woman = child, and have never been formed in any other way; it is obviously illegitimate to put social engineering as more fundamental than actual biology!) or stability for the children?

          • Christopher

            You seem to have answered Andrew’s questions with another comment full of vague generalities.

            Firstly, that ship has sailed. Homosexuality is widely accepted (and legal) in western democracies. That is as it should be and the Church of England was a shining light in the movement for legalisation of male homosexuality. Unfortunately, our societies and churches still enshrine homophobia and gay people still suffer persecution.

            To accept the equality of gay sexuality (though it is not ours to ‘accept’; it is queer and it is here) is not to accept promiscuity. Seeing heterosexuality as both natural and God given does not mean condoning promiscuity and infidelity, though both are common.

            Secondly, families have only been man + woman = child for a very short modern period (and, again, predominantly in the developed world). Families have always been larger, more expansive, more flexible, more porous than your very modern equation suggests. Look at the examples in the Hebrew Bible. Most gay spouses I know do not regularly rape their partners’ slaves!

          • “That is not what is being said.”
            Complete non-sequitur I’m afraid Christopher. I’m asking some specific questions about the data – and you have said that you are aware of all the data and how important it is. These questions have very clear answers that will surely help people make their minds up. Please tell me the answers?

          • Penelope, STI rates are not a red herring when we are considering homosexuality in general. In theory, a monogamous same-sex couple may not have to worry about STIs but the emphasis must be on the “in theory” bit. If all you know is that someone is a (male) homosexual then you cannot say, “Well, that’s not a problem if he is in a monogamous relationship.” If he is gay then his risk of infection is greater than that of any randomly chosen heterosexual.

            I have heard the argument before that homosexual activity occurs among animals and is therefore not unnatural. I think it is a weak point. Firstly, even if anal intercourse occurs among animals (I’ve heard that it does but I don’t know if that’s true), it would still be unnatural. In this case I would define “natural” in terms of natural function rather than in terms of what is observed in a natural environment.

            Secondly, paedophilia is observed in bonobos. This might make it “natural” in some sense but it could hardly serve as a model to be imitated.

          • “In this case I would define “natural” in terms of natural function rather than in terms of what is observed in a natural environment.”

            David would you class oral sex and masturbation as “natural” in that case?

          • Strictly speaking, Andrew, those activities could be seen as unnatural, but I would make a distinction between them and anal intercourse. The latter can seriously impair the natural function of the anus, whereas masturbation does not seriously impair the natural function of the hand or arm – tennis elbow aside.

          • David M.

            It is a red herring, used by those – like Christopher and yourself – who seek to de-legitimise same-sex unions. Heterosexual couples are not prevented, by church or state, from marrying because they have been promiscuous before marriage or are likely to be unfaithful during marriage.

            Second, did you miss my statement that because something is normal and natural, it’s not consequently moral? One natural use of sexual intimacy is PIV intercourse which may result in conception. Other sexual intimacies are natural. What (other commentators have heard this question before) is the telos of the clitoris?

          • Heterosexual couples are not prevented, by church or state, from marrying because they have been promiscuous before marriage or are likely to be unfaithful during marriage.

            They ought to be, though.

          • Penelope, of the various forms of sexual intimacy, there is one in particular that should be avoided: anal intercourse, which is an inherently risky activity. It is not the exclusive practice of (male) homosexuals but it is far more prevalent among them than it is among heterosexual couples. This is why the risk of sexually transmitted infections is so much greater among homosexuals.

            This is a serious matter. Furthermore, it is a matter that concerns society as a whole – just as the spread of any disease concerns society as a whole. I don’t believe that homosexuality should be proscribed by law but I do believe that society is entitled to take a stand on this issue – especially since we are supposed to be a Christian country. Allowing gay marriage was an obviously retrograde step.

            So it is not a question of trying to “de-legitimise” same-sex relationships. From a Christian perspective, such relationships never had any legitimacy in the first place.

          • Andrew, our comments coincided (1.23 and 1.28) so that when I started writing mine, yours had not appeared.

            Both you and Penny just assume that my 1.28 was answering Andrew’s 1.23. That is an unwarranted and incorrect assumption.

            When I said ‘That is not what is being said’ I was trying to make you see what my main point was: that the acceptance of homosexuality is not just one topic but something that has tentacles everywhere.

            Once the comments get to their thinnest width it is no longer possible to see what is a reply to what, though nobody’s fault.

            To my knowledge none of the 9 things you ask has been researched, and all would be difficult to research.

            But rather than preferring the inquisitorial role of asking questions of those who have already supplied many statistics in published work (and requiring others to do the spadework is something dead easy to do – wouldn’t we all prefer that role) let’s have a bit of equality in the supplying of stats, otherwise people will begin to wonder why such opinions can already proleptically be held by anyone who has not versed themselves in the data.

            Penny’s ”that ship has sailed” is not an argument. (a) Does she think people are unaware of the state of things? – is this new information? (b) Many ships have travelled far whose contents are still despicable. So to take such a position is fatalistic and (far worse) uncaring and apparently lazy. For example, the spread of pornography among schoolchildren could be called a ‘ship’ that has ‘sailed’. Not among half-caring people however. It is not relevant whether things have sailed at this point in history because all eras differ greatly from one another, and reformers in every age try to set things on a good track not a failing track.

          • David, Christopher, Kyle, Joe S and others … I find one of the most disturbing things across all three of these discussion threads is not ht you disagree with me and there. I expect that. It is that there are faithful Christians out there, who happen to be gay, who share the conservative bible conviction you do and are seeking to living faithful celibate lives – but they are invisible here. Not only unacknowledged, unloved and unsupported – the prevailing view seems to be that they are part of a wider distorted, untrustworthy, creation ‘disorder’.
            It is a familiar complaint from folk in ‘Living Out’ and elsewhere that even they are utterly committed to Christ and conforming to all the ethical behaviour conservative churches expect of them gay Christians are often still not trusted in leadership or ministry roles. Well they have my respect and prayers. I simply do not understand why these fellow, faithfully conservative men and women (and yes, women are totally ignored here) are so absent from your contributions here.

          • David R -That misrepresents the actual situation in several ways.

            (1) When you say ‘They are invisible here’ – I agree but how is that our fault? If anyone comes on here they will be interacted with, but they first have to come on here, right?

            (2) I have said several times that the whole idea of being ‘conservative’ (before one starts?) is a non-starter -anyone honest will be a truth seeker, eclectic and independent, and debate takes place between such people. Sometimes one would think people thought that those who follow certain biblical principles do so merely in order to be something called ‘faithful’ rather than because they could see those principles to be good and right.

            (3) If someone is SSA then Christians count that as a temptation, pretty similar to various other temptations. People who agree that it is a temptation are on the same page, so Living Out are on the same page as me there. (They are not on the same page as me in using gay or homosexual as a fixed classification, nor in their fatalism about that.) If they fail to fall victim to said temptation, moreover, that is a cause for admiration, least of all for shunning.

            (3)

          • Christopher: my questions are very very pertinent to your claims. What you are trying to say is that you simply don’t know the answers to these purely statistical questions. You would prefer to make judgmental generalisations, as per usual.
            Your willingness to only supply statistics that fit your personal judgments is what has always bothered me.
            With personal relationships science and data gets us so far. But there is another dimension, and you don’t seem able to appreciate, understand, or admit that at any level. It makes discussion with you completely impossible I’m afraid.

          • David M.

            I have no idea about the respective rates of anal sex in gay and straight couples. You would have to ask the Bishop of Buckingham.
            But if the act is consensual and adult, it is no concern of yours or mine where and when and how often it occurs.

            It is your view that SSM has no legitimacy. It is not the view of many, faithful, orthodox Christians.

          • Andrew, I don’t often use the word ‘rubbish’, but…:
            To repeat:
            The 9 things you list are not things that have been studied; that would be likely to be studied; that you would have thought had been studied in advance of asking the questions.

            You then say I supply stats only on things that suit me.

            That is a serious untruth. I supply stats on things that have been measured. Some things have been and some things have not.

            If you think these things have been measured, google it and find out. You will soon find that the questions you asked related to matters that have never been measured, so it was not entirely honest of you to ask the questions.

          • Christopher: I can only repeat that these questions have a huge bearing on the ability of people to make any assessment of the generalities you so often proclaim as science. Without the answers, your claims are quite spurious and misleading.

          • The subject matter is highly unpleasant and is a mismatch with the gospel. It is accurate for me to say that one should accept the data on things that have been studied. What is one supposed to do with things that have not been studied? It is well known that where there is no data, no opinion can be formed. It is hard to see why that should matter in this case, since most of the 9 questions are about things that should not be happening anyway, so the solution is not to do some number crunching but to do some repentance.

          • “It is hard to see why that should matter in this case, since most of the 9 questions are about things that should not be happening anyway,”

            That is where opinion differs. That is why we have LLF.

          • “The subject matter is highly unpleasant and is a mismatch with the gospel.”

            It is this kind of phrase, which you produce quite frequently, that makes me very sceptical about the kind of data you produce Christopher. It speaks of squeamishness and prudishness that is simply alarming. It’s an entirely subjective judgement masquerading as orthodox theology. One wonders if it wasn’t the entire message of the Iwerne set up that has caused such damage.

          • It is great to have and show emotions; it is worrying if people don’t. It is generally wrong to base arguments on emotions. It is right and understandable to get emotional about illogic.

            How could squeamishness be the entire Iwerne message?! Not that you would know anyway – but it is disappointing that you combine ignorance with Spitting Image style stereotypoing. They took campers through the Christian gospel main point by main point. So there were many aspects to their message. Emotionalism, analysts agree, was frowned upon there, both by Bash and by his successors. It can indeed be a sign of immaturity.

          • You entirely miss the point again Christopher. But it’s time to draw the line. We are way off the subject. Iwerne is seriously discredited in many ways and your defence is troubling.

    • Ron,
      Not sure whether you really don’t understand or are being deliberately mendacious.
      I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.
      As you press your liberal doctrine I don’t think we’d agree on your, unexplained, doctrine of grace, for salvation and sanctification, even as we agree on humble access to our Father, which I’m sure you are aware is subscribed to by those you pejoratively categorize, who would see self-righteousness as abhorrent and anathema.
      Can you even see a flash of self-righteousness in your doctrine inspired comments?

      Reply
    • I admire the Pope, and liked the first half of his prayer

      I certainly need to experience grace, be nourished by the risen Lord and transformed by his love
      but this is the work of the Spirit – how exactly can Mary help me to experience this grace?

      Reply
  13. Thanks once again for Andrew’s thoughtful labour of love in these three articles.
    I think there is one other important factor in this discussion that has not been addressed. In a way it is different subject – but let me offer it here if I may.
    It is not just the subject what is being discussed, it is the *way* it is being discussed.
    LLF is quite unlike anything the CofE has produced to explore its faith and discipleship.
    These have long taken the form of Bishop’s working group reports followed by discussions. Top down.
    And the earliest version of this project was going to be a ‘Bishop’s teaching document’.
    What has emerged is a completely different approach to leadership – a consultative and resource document designed for all in the church to gather round and debate together.
    I think that part of the unease of the conservative evangelical wing towards LLF is not just the subject. It is not its approach to leadership and teaching either – which has always tended to be more didactic, preached, authoritarian and top down (and male dominated). It is this approach to leadership that is currently under sharp scrutiny and criticism in the light of the Fletcher/Smyth scandals – and rightly so.
    Somewhere alongside the debate itself there is need for some critical reflection on models of leadership in the evangelical world.

    Reply
    • It is not its approach to leadership and teaching either – which has always tended to be more didactic, preached, authoritarian and top down (and male dominated).

      Really? Are not evangelicals the kind of Christians most likely to have a lively Bible study group session arguing over the exact details of the text, or to take up and argue a point with the preacher after a sermon, and the least likely to just sit, nod, and accept whatever they are told?

      Reply
      • I would think that most ‘Evangelicals’ of the kind who contribute to Ian’s Blog would hesitate to even pronounce the word ‘SEX’ in their Bible studies.Also, I wonder how much time they would spend on studying the ‘Song of Songs’ in the O.T. (Much too ‘sexy’ for ‘good’ Christians. And as for the story of David and Jonathan!!!

        Reply
    • David, I find that comment so strange, and I don’t really know where it is coming from.

      I don’t think I live a sheltered life in the evangelical world—but I had not so much as ever met or heard Fletcher or Smyth. If I ever came within a snifter of this kind of public school, authoritarian culture, I ran a mile because I found it so unpleasant—and completely unbiblical. The New Testament knows nothing of monarchical leadership, let alone authoritarianism.

      And I just have to mention Jean Vanier and Peter Ball, along with the AC idea that ‘father knows best’ to observe that no tradition has a monopoly on authoritarianism, charismatic powerful leaders, and manipulation.

      I think the main unease amongst evangelicals about LLF is that:
      a. it does not offer a clear enough explanation of why the Church has believed what it believed, though it promised to do so
      b. a lack of balance around how the biblical texts are interpreted (‘some say…others say…’)
      c. a failure to really explore how we have got to where we are in culture, for example with the rise of affective individualism
      d. on the course, the sharp juxtaposition of the biblical material with personal experience, and little guidance as to how these two might relate to one another.

      Reply
      • Greetings Ian. You have missed my point here almost entirely.
        Firstly, my comments are not aimed at you personally.
        Secondly, it is no adequate response to valid challenges to our own world to say – ‘but look at *them* (Ball and Vanier etc)’.
        Thirdly, I am not claiming that LLF was perfect and without challenge. Evangelicals are not the only ones questioning it and I understand why. But I am not discussing content here but process.Process is always part of content LLF is an open consultation and discussion resource – not the old style Bishop report setting out ‘orthodox’ faith and belief. The contrast between the approach of LLF and the CEEC video illustrates highlighted sharply contrasting approaches to leadership and teaching.

        I think LLF is modelling a new approach to leadership and teaching in the church. I see this is a challenge to leadership at all levels – episcopal, local and within the distinctive traditions in the church. So I, for one, welcome it and would like to see it discussed further. Can we agree on that?

        As to finding my comment ‘so strange, and I don’t really know where it is coming from’ … It may be true (so far as we know) that ‘the New Testament knows nothing of monarchical leadership, let alone authoritarianism.’ But the church does – all corners of it. And that is where we are discussing this. I assume you have read the review by 31/1 and the accompanying Independent Advisory Group on the Fletcher case? In which case I am genuinely puzzled that you do not see where my comments are coming from. I know enough to be aware how deeply shaken folk are by the findings of these reports – and there is more to come. The reports strongly highlight the need to address, and reform, how leadership is being exercised within the evangelical tradition.

        Reply
      • In my view what matters from an evangelical point of view is not the LLF book but how the process is taken forward. The only satisfactory way is an online debate open to all where the strongest arguments from all sides can be debated: on the right understanding of the Bible passages which are relevant, on page 318 note 318 of the LLF book, on the Fall and Original Sin, on concupiscence, on Article IX, on The Declaration of Assent etc.
        Phil Almond

        Reply
          • David
            It would have to be ‘hosted’ by someone who could be trusted to moderate the debate fairly without taking sides and who would be willing to request people to reply to points made. This online debate/disagreement would be something that when then crunch comes at General Synod could be studied by the GS attendees (hopefully).
            Phil Almond

          • David
            Further to my last post: At some point the strongest arguments from all sides must be in the public domain. Of course many of these arguments have been made over many years. But I think it important that we all have the opportunity to be challenged and to challenge others. The only satisfactory way of doing that is online debate, which could make reference to arguments already in then public domain.
            Phil Almond

          • Philip. “It would have to be ‘hosted’ by someone who could be trusted to moderate the debate fairly without taking sides and who would be willing to request people to reply to points made.” That is exactly what LLF is training facilitators to do around the country.
            Online debate suits some well but not others. I, for example am hearing impaired and need to be with people to hear and participate fully.
            You appear to believe that there is, somewhere, recognisably, and in fact, one ‘right’ view that we must all come recognise and accept.

          • David
            Trained facilitators will not enable a direct engagement of everyone to challenge and be challenged. There is no adequate substitute for written down views which we can all read and challenge and have our own views challenged. Only in this way can the strongest arguments from all sides be studied and assessed. And, yes, I do believe there is one right view about the sinfulness of same-sex attraction and practice and such is a result of the Fall. It remains to be seen whether the Church will be persuaded that this is the right view or whether I can be persuaded that I am wrong. That is the point of making all the strongest views from all sides visible and challengeable in the public domain.

      • The Iwerne camps did help form Stott, Eddison, Ruston, H Chadwick, Sheppard, Lucas, Green, Watson, MacInnes, D Fletcher, Ashton, Cornes, Gillingham, Perkin, Palmer, Gumbel, Hastie-Smith, Bethell, and in not a few cases were a/the crucial element in doing so. For that much we thank God.

        Reply
    • David,
      What a straw man you build, maybe a one that looms large as Wicker Man fearful worship in the minds of some.
      Unles you are indeed saying that the CoE is run by, dominated by, a middle class, public school educated, cohort. Some coming in later years from prominent management positions bringing with the their words of seeking to remove “top down management” .
      Now that is a huge topic in itself. Fine words that don’t work out in practice and could point towards inability incompetence; form without substance: decision making and taking is reserved or renounced.
      People are led no matter which methodology is adopted. It is the direction and destiny that matters, or to use another favoured phrase, “direction of travel.”

      Reply
    • Morning David.

      “What has emerged is a completely different approach to leadership – a consultative and resource document designed for all in the church to gather round and debate together.”

      I agree with the second half here, as I’m sure many others do. LLF (for good or ill) does represent a novel way of allowing the church to discuss and frame the ongoing debate. It’s refreshing, and as I’ve said before, valuable for that alone.

      However I think you’re stretching a bit to suggest it represents a “completely different approach to leadership”. Can you expand on that?

      Mat

      Reply
      • Hi Matt Thank you for your open and gracious engagement here. I acknowledge again this is a different topic and this discussion belongs somewhere else.
        ‘Completely different’? Well have we ever done it this way before? Comprehensively consultative, collaborative, exploratory, including, local. This is dispersed and gathered leadership. It is already asking for courage and new skills of local church leaders to facilitate this discussion in a diverse church. What kind of leadership will be needed to lead the church into the next stage of its life and faith in the light of this? We won’t be able to put the lid back on. So actually it is more likely that we do not know yet how much of a change this is. I am thinking aloud so forgive the ramble.

        Reply
        • Appreciate the response, and again, I find myself in part-agreement.

          On the one hand I also think there should be more emphasis on church leaders taking responsibility for actively using this material to facilitate discussion in their own contexts, just as I also accept that this is likely to be challenging for them (for a whole swathe of reasons, not least fear of controversy). I would have liked to see some sort of ‘formal’ obligation on churches in that regard…

          But on the other hand I don’t think that this represents a new way of ‘doing leadership’. What LLF is trying to do is good and worthy, but surely you’d recognise that all biblical models of leadership involve at least some element of discerning a way forward (through an issue/idea/decision) and then a commitment to act towards that end. The discussion alone, while vitally important, is not the type of outcome required here..

          I think you’re right that this is probably a conversation for another time. 😉 I said my piece further up at the top of the comments, and much else has been said since that is repetitive. Your comment seemed a different angle that hadn’t been discussed.

          I’d be interested to know what other though too. Is LLF a new way of doing leadership, and/or in what way can it lead us? is an interesting conversation to be had.

          Reply
          • Thanks Matt. That would be a very interesting discussion – don’t know where don’t know when … “All biblical models of leadership involve at least some element of discerning a way forward”. Of course. What do we learn from them? That would be part of the discussion. Clearly not all think LLF is itself a ‘biblical model’ of leadership at all. Your comment on wishing involvement in LLF to be more obligatory: Well I don’t believe people learn or engage well when they don’t want to be there. But I recognise that a significant number of conservative churches have opted out of being part of it at all (though it may be dawning on them that they can hardly expect to contribute to the outcome at the end in that case. But I also know conservative leaning churches have joined in and really valued it). In terms of leadership models it would be interesting to know what decision-making process led to any churches opting out.

          • “Your comment on wishing involvement in LLF to be more obligatory: Well I don’t believe people learn or engage well when they don’t want to be there.”

            Haha, absolutely.

            I wasn’t envisaging a mandatory-attendance training session of some kind, but more an expectation that churches at least do something with the material. It could be bespoke, and appropriate to the context, but the big missed opportunity would be doing nothing at all.

            “But I recognise that a significant number of conservative churches have opted out of being part of it at all..”

            Indeed. To their loss.

          • Not only to their loss, but to the loss of the church.

            During our diocesan day yesterday, one couple started off by saying ‘We just want the church to change its teaching on marriage’. Then they saw the video of Luke at Trinity Bristol and were bowled over; they had never come across the idea that a gay person might recognise that the teaching of Jesus and the NT called them to celibacy, and what that meant.

          • Ian,
            This is a question for Ian Paul arising from his comment, 29/04, 12:23pm not sure where this will appear.
            Did it become evident what the couple based their initial stance upon, what/who had influenced them (inside/outside church) and what their understanding of Christian theology was?

            But if the content of the discussions of LLF were at the discretion of those leading them, in a different diocese, the initial view may not be countered. There may be no balance if there are no core essentials.

            To extend this comment to Matt and David do I take it correctly that there would be opposition to any form of catechism, maybe extending to pre-baptismal lessons, even pre-marriage?

          • I think, as with many people, their previous stance was based on a completely unreflective emotional impulse.

            One of the things I am becoming keenly aware of is that there is a small group of us who have debated this to death—but the vast, vast majority of the C of E have not thought about it seriously at all!

            So I am slightly hopeful that LLF might get some people to think!

          • Btw David R, whatever LLF models or doesn’t, I have never really believed in ‘top down’ leadership in the way it is usually practiced.

            Leadership in the NT is *always* plural, and discernment is with the body of Christ listening to the Spirit, as per Acts 13.1–3.

            But in the NT, there is no doubting that the Spirit speaks, through people with spiritual gifts, as it is soaked in the Scriptures, and it would not be possible to decide anything contrary to God’s word written. That just might be the point where the C of E on the ground has an issue…!

          • Ian,
            I agree, it is so easy to get embroiled in our small worlds or guilds, including Church circles and CS Lewis’s Inner Rings.
            I think you comment of 9:28 is spot on and it is where the revisionist train hits the buffers and where the movement of the Holy Spirit is discerned, necessarily tested.

          • Ian Do you actually know why the couple wanted the church to change on marriage? They may have a child who is gay for example and have wrestled with this? Why do you assume they have not given it any thought? ‘a completely unreflective emotional impulse’ seems rather a heavy put down to me. I agree that hearing the testimony of someone choosing celibacy is important and could also be very significant. But it is hardly common in the church so it is not surprising if it was a new idea to them. So I am reading here that Luke shared his story – but not that they had a chance to share theirs?

            I strongly agree with all you say about NT leadership not being top down. But we both know that top down is found within our evangelical world and, not surprisingly, it has not produced good fruit.

            I also agree with all you say about spirit and word – but for me, and others, as you know, that leads to a conviction of the full welcome and inclusion of gay folk and their relationships.

            If the ‘David’ in Geoff’s comment is me, I’m afraid I do not understand his reference to catechism or pre-baptismal lessons.

          • These comment thread become tricky to navigate rather quickly, don’t they.

            RE Geoff’s question about catechising people…

            You are right Geoff; there would be resistance to this and rightly so. I suspect all three of us would object to it, though probably for different reasons. Whatever the routes through this current impasse on SSM are, it’s extremely unlikely to come from whatever the CofE equivalent of the Pope’s extraordinary magisterium is.. (hint, there isn’t one, much as one might wish there were), or in some sort of mandated system of teaching prior to…well, [Insert position here].

            RE Ian and David’s further comments about leadership….

            I agree with them both. The church discerns the will of God together, directed (rather than controlled) by those recognised as having authority to do so. The Baptist union, of which I am a part, also recognises this and shares a very similar theology of leadership wherein the decision-making body is not a single ordained person of sufficient gravitas, but the whole people of God together.

            We might occasionally look over to Rome with slight jealousy, but only for a short while.

            RE general positions of the laity on these issues….

            I’m much more inclined to agree with Ian than David I’m afraid. Most people I’ve spoken with at any length on the subject don’t really have a well-formed opinion on the matter, have never picked up a book dealing with the issues (from any perspective) and are simply quite content to reflect back whatever they’ve been taught/assumed/assimilated from the people around them. I don’t think that’s any more true of one position than the other.

            More than anything else it’s a testament to just how slow the church (of all stripes) has been to react to the changing cultural landscape of sexual ethics over the last 50 years or so…

            Mat

          • Ian

            It is possible to believe both in same-sex Christuan marriage and to honour those who believe themselves called to celibacy.
            Both are holy paths.

          • How does asserting something is a holy path make it so? To grant authority to one’s own assertions is of the same pattern as the comment ‘What I say goes’.

          • Christopher: where is your evidence for celibacy being/not being a holy path? What’s the stats on it?

          • Penelope, you talk about those who “believe” themselves to be called to celibacy. The implication is that you consider such people to be mistaken in their belief. In fact, one must assume that you do consider them to be mistaken. If a gay person commits himself to a life of celibacy on the grounds that same-sex relations are wrong then, from your point of view, this is a mistake – perhaps even a “tragic” mistake.

            So you can’t really “honour” such people; you can only pity them. Ironically, I do honour them. I respect them for not taking the easy way out. They live in a society which believes that people should live “authentically”. Society is giving them the green light but they are ignoring it. That really is honourable.

          • But we both know that top down is found within our evangelical world and, not surprisingly, it has not produced good fruit.

            Again: in my experience evangelicals are the most likely kind of Christian to contribute forcefully to a Bible study rather than sit quietly and accept the explanation given; or to challenge a preacher on a point after a sermon.

            Do you not find that?

          • Andrew – have you ever heard of holiness of all things being measured in a statistical survey?

            People are, I am sure, noting the unreasonable nature of your statistical requests – do please supply the data yourself as you are just as able to do so as I.

            I was referring, as I’m sure you know, not to what Penny said about celibacy but to what she said about SS’M’.

          • Christopher: I have said, a number of times, that stats and data only give us a part of the picture. By contrast, you have kept saying that science and data are everything. My questions are designed to point out, very simply, that you are wrong in your claim. We don’t have/can’t get stats and science on things like holiness.
            We will agree, I am sure, that marriage is a holy institution. We might agree that celibacy is a holy institution – though I remain unconvinced about that. The question of whether SS Marriage might be included is one where we differ. But I’m afraid your claim that you have science and data on your side is simply rubbish. I asked 9 questions that relate to this very question about SS Marriage, and you can’t supply science or data for any of them. Your claims are very weak.

          • David M.

            Of course they believe they are being called to celibacy. I believe that belief is being made in good faith and I honour it. Just as I honour a person’s decision to marry. It us not for me to say they are mistaken.

            Sometimes, as when I read Ed Shaw’s book, I question that belief, but it is not up to me to do anything like describing it as ‘tragic’.

          • Andrew says that science and data are not everything. This point of his needs to be more clearly expressed. What else is there that will help us to come to accurate rather than inaccurate positions? There is opinion, and opinion is only beneficial and good insofar as it is in accord with data. Science and data are by definition the most accurate representation of reality that we have; other representations are less scientific and therefore are superseded by the more scientific. And reality by definition *is* everything.

            There are things on which we have no data, and Andrew has picked out some of these. We already knew that there are some things we do not have data on and others that we do have data on. As soon as we have data on the former we can speak more informedly about them. But at present we can’t. That does not mean that the data does not exist; it just means that it has not been gathered. In many instances it is very hard to gather. But how does that change the principle that data-based positions will always be superior to positions that are not based on data?

          • Christopher: thank you for responding. This is clearly an important area for discussion. Allow me then to try and discover what you really mean – because it isn’t at all clear to me – by asking about data in two areas.

            Firstly, you asked, “How does asserting something is a holy path make it so?” My response was to ask, quite seriously, what the data would be to help determine or negate this assertion. That question remains. How do you, would you, indeed how have you or others measured what a holy path is, so that we can establish that with evidence and data?

            Secondly – and this is an area where we know you have expertise – how do you measure and obtain data on correct ways of reading scripture? What I mean – and I am being very specific here – relates to the 7 approaches to scripture identified in LLF. LLF suggests that the two extremes of these 7 positions are outside of the Anglican tradition, though you may disagree with this. But even if we just dealt with the remaining 5, what is the data that enables us to judge which is the correct approach? Or do all five have equal weight and people may hold any of them as equally valid?

            I am not trying to test you or anyone else with these questions. I am simply trying to understand how one obtains objective data on a subject where opinions seem to quite legitimately differ.

            Many thanks!

          • The first point was simply that assertion is worthless. Only evidence has worth. Assertion without evidence casuses suspicion of the asserter.

            On the second point: the very idea of setting something called ‘Anglican tradition’ up as the arbiter is a nonstarter. Tradition is entirely neutral, everything coming down to whether the tradition is beneficial, warranted etc.. And as for ‘Anglican’, why Anglican rather than anything else? Anglicans are not renowned for being the world’s intellectual leaders, or certainly not exclusively anyway. The way we get accurate information is by research and logic.

          • Christopher: you fail to engage at all with the questions I raise. Perhaps you could have another try?

          • Christopher

            How do I know it’s a holy path?
            I see its fruits. Evidence, if you like.

  14. On this subject it is interesting to read Martin Davie’s latest Reflection of an Anglican Theologian “Please don’t abuse abuse”
    Phil Almond

    Reply
  15. David Runcorn,
    I’ve just seen your comment of 28/04 at 6:38 and while I know next to nothing groups and blogs within the CoE why some people engage and some don’t, with comments, if what you have written is correct, it is a faithful, justified Godly rebuke.
    Even so you again, as always this set this up against those you seek to denigrate with your categorisation and if you continue in that vein it drives a wedge even further between people, with no attempt to find common ground. But it even more serious as it exposes the naked distrust, which I presume LLF was seeking to clothe.
    And as you were part of the LLF process are you able to answer Richard Bauckham’s query above? Has the CoE been so swamped by atheist sexual culture, that it is now nondescript: that Holiness plays no part in its life and sexual mores?

    Reply
    • Geoff. Thank you for agreeing with my concerns.
      I was not part of the LLF process.
      I do not in any way recognise the church I love and serve in, in your final sentence.

      Reply
  16. David R, you mention gay but celibate Christians. I would like to say that I consider them to be noble. Society is telling them that it’s fine to be in same-sex relationships but they have rejected that message. That shows great character. It would be unfortunate if they read the comments here and felt a sense of hostility from those with conservative views. However, I’m not sure that there is any way of avoiding this. Some of us believe that it is essential to take a stand on the issue and this will require the use of robust language.

    It should be remembered that people with same-sex attraction are not the enemy. But there are people who are actively promoting a sinful lifestyle and they (whether gay or straight) must be resisted. This is hugely important.

    Reply
  17. What is not being addressed in this thread is the fact that ALL human beings have the capacity for sexual thoughts and desires (unless they are retarded in this area). Sexual activity, for most people, is a normal reaction to the human condition. How our sexual attraction is ordered is, primarily, for most people; heterosexual. However, from scientific and social research, this has been proved not to be the case for every human being.

    One of the biggest problems in society – as it ever was – is the potential for unfocussed, random, sexual aactivity, which can lead to promiscuity. Promiscuity is the enemy of socially ordered relationships – whether hetero or homosexual. Before the State allowed a same-sex couple to be in a Civil Partnership (something approved of by no less that the Bishop of Rome), the discrimination against same-sex physical relationships militated against the recognition of faithful, mongamous couples in both society and the Church.

    In the event, it seems that the Church can deal with the problem of heterosexual promiscuity by the expectation of a mongamous relationship in marriage. However, the Church denies the need for faithful, monogamous relationships in marriage for same-sex couples on the grounds of their prohibition by the Scriptures, even though such committed same-sex partnerships are not spoken of in the Bible.

    Homosexual (people with exclusively same-sex attraction) Christians are expected to tame their ‘sinful’ sexual desires by abandoning them in a Vow of Chastity. Interestingly, Saint Paul urged all people to untertake the celibate life-style, BUT, he saw marriage as the ‘way out’ in order to conquer the problem of LUST (sexual desire!).

    Matthew, chapter 19, verses 20ff, deals with Jesus’ understanding of those with unfulfilled sexual activity which might lead to procreation, calling such people ‘eunuchs’ (whether male or female). The intentionally celibate life is covered by the eunuch who ‘is so for the sake of the Kingdom’. These are clergy or people in a Religious Order, or, in some cases’ consecrated virgins’. The Church has need of such intentionally celibate people for purposes of mission.

    However, the first type of ‘eunuch’ mentioned by Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel is the one who is so ‘from his mother’s womb’. In other words; in some way incapable of engaging in sexual acts which lead to procreation. To many scientific and theological scholars today, this category of ‘eunuch’ mentioned by Jesus describes those who are exclusively homosexual. If anyone is able, under any circumstances, to beget children, then they obviously are not exclusively homosexual. Rather, they are on a scale of sexual responses generally known as ‘bi-sexual’.

    This latter category can provide an explanation for those claiming to have been ‘converted’ from homosexuality to being ‘heterosexual’ – a class of people determined (mostly for their own spiritual comfort) to prove their willingness to conform to Con/Evo expectations.

    Nevertheless; LLF, if it is to fulfil its spiritual aims and objectives, will help ALL Christians to better understand the truth contained in the Scriptures – without clinging to the old and now discredited shibboleths that Jesus spent his time militating against, and for which he was given over to the Roman authorities to be put to death by the conservatives of the Sanhedrin.

    “God is love, and he who lives in love lives in God, and God in him”

    Reply
    • Yes, all people have the capacity for sexual desire, but not all desires should be acted on. Those who are exclusively attracted to young children should never act on their desires. In other words, celibacy is compulsory and the alternative is to commit a grievous sin. The purpose of mentioning such cases is not to offend gay people but to establish a principle. It cannot be argued that celibacy is optional. In some cases it is compulsory. The question is whether it is compulsory for homosexuals.

      Long-established Christian tradition is that homosexuality is not permitted. You say that the Bible does not mention “committed” same-sex relationships. Now, at best, you might have discovered a loophole. But it is not one in which you could have the slightest confidence. Does a person want his salvation to depend on a loophole? Should the Church be endorsing same-sex relationships on this basis? That would be utter folly.

      Reply
      • ‘Committed same-sex relationships’ (a vague term, and decent thinkers are not vague) include friendships, which all Christians are strongly in favour of, just as they are strongly in favour of companion housemates. One has often seen the dishonest splicing of these together with quasi-sexual relationships. But that is to meld chalk with cheese. Anyone who knows about true friendship knows how extremely close it is, and how any sexual element to it would absolutely ruin it and be utterly contrary to its beautiful nature.

        Reply
        • ” Anyone who knows about true friendship knows how extremely close it is, and how any sexual element to it would absolutely ruin it and be utterly contrary to its beautiful nature.” – Christopher.

          So then, Christopher, you are obviously not speaking of heterosexual marriage? Whereas, in fact, I am heterosexually married and there has never been a ‘sexual relationship’ (so no chance of procreation) and we are ‘best friends’. How does this fit with your so very neat theories?

          Reply
        • My truest and bestest friend is my husband. So, it is nonsense to say that sex ruins friendship.

          Reply
          • Nonsense! I can certainly say the same myself (‘my sister my bride’, ‘my sister my friend’). Spousal friendship is not what I am talking about. I am talking about close male friendships. They are so utterly different in kind from marital. Friendship is an utterly amazing bond in its own right. Very different in nature.

          • Nope, Christopher my male, gay married friends have spousal relationships, like those of straight couples. They are friends and lovers.

          • And it does not occur to you that there is any difference? One is biologically ratified, the other not. One is universally accepted, the other scarcely at all. One is at the top level for stability, the other at the bottom level. One is the basis for millions of years of intricate biological evolution, the other for nothing such. Bias is what sees the similarity and censors the differences. Just like with the biblical texts you accentuate the number and eliminate the gender though it cannot be seen from the actual texts that one is more or less a requirement than the other.

            Can males and females be friends? Er – yes.

            I think the healthiest society is where male and female friends (youngsters) as well as female-female, male-male can hold hands.

            Next healthiest is where only the latter can hold hands.

            Less healthy is where the mindset with regard to such affection is ‘relationships’ rather than ‘friends’. How lonely and needy.

            And worst and loneliest and most impoverished of all is where friendship seems scarcely to have been heard of at all, and any instance of loving anyone (outside your mum etc) must mean that you are so affection starved that you would be expected to establish a sexual relationship with them. (Just as RSE teaches the children: sometimes 2 males love each other, and the children think, Yes I have an experience of that because I love my friend, ergo I am gay). The society where people do not actually talk to strangers, but if they do then it is a come-on.

            A hierarchy from affection-rich to affection-starved.

          • Of course there is a difference between friends and lovers. My point is that spousal relationships are also, the best ones anyway, friendships.

            I’m afraid the rest of your comment appears to be evidence free. What evidence do you have for your assertion that RHSE teaches children to be gay because they are taught about gay relationships?
            Are they taught to be straight because they are also taught about straight relationships and experience them in their everyday lives?

  18. Sorry, I have lost the link. I am responded to Mat – again with gratitude.
    You write – ‘Most people I’ve spoken with at any length on the subject don’t really have a well-formed opinion on the matter … and are simply quite content to reflect back whatever they’ve been taught/assumed/assimilated from the people around them.’
    I recognise what you are saying (and this is probably true of a variety of issues don’t you think?). But I hesitate over ‘most’ and still more with ‘content’.
    Not having a well-informed opinion does not mean unthinking. There are people I know who want to think this through, find it daunting, are aware of intensity of conflicted views over it and simply do not know where to start. Other have convictions that need testing out with the insights of others. Oliver O’Donovan rightly notes, “The human race has often seen homosexual behaviour before … but it has not seen anything like this construction of it, with these sensibilities and aspirations … it is raising new and complex questions about the church’s understanding and response.’ This why we are needing time to think it through together and not finding it straight forward. This is why LLF is so needed.
    I think you are absolutely right to say, ‘I don’t think that’s any more true of one position than the other’. I know folk who have only been in churches where a very definite view on ss relationships was taught. Discussion was not expected or even thought needed. To ask questions invited suspicion. They now know they need somewhere to think though for themselves what they have so far only assimilated/assented to. This does not necessarily mean they will end up changing their view. But they will hold it with a more informed integrity. They too are seeking to come to their own faithful convictions before scripture and God.
    LLF is for all such people.
    Thanks again

    Reply
    • FWIW… I find your reply resonates with my understanding of what’s going on in some churches.

      There’s teaching on same sex issues (the content of which I *might* agree with) but there does not seem to be much, if any, connection with real people. One outcome is a total absence of any realisation that “people in the pew” are wrestling with this among their own families and friends. Eg How are they to handle this in their own families?

      Another is the absence of any pastoral caring for people who are same-sex attracted (other terms are possible and I’ve lost track of “acceptable”) beyond “it’s not right”.

      Reply
      • Yes, I think I agree with David too. Sexuality has become such a contested and toxic topic that many church leaders I know, of all positions in the debate, are terrified of tackling it.

        There are some exceptions though. St Helen’s Bishopsgate has had an active group for gay people led by Charlie Skrine, and now he has moved to All Souls, I expect they will be doing the same.

        Reply
        • “St Helen’s Bishopsgate has had an active group for gay people “

          If only St Helen’s were not so discredited……

          Reply
        • Goodness, I shudder to think what ‘an active group for gay people’ would be like at St Helen’s.

          Reply
          • Once more, a very sad and patronising dismissal that doesn’t belong here, and doesn’t belong in the Church’s discussion. Shame on you.

          • Goodness, isn’t one allowed to criticise a church which isn’t in communion with the CoE and which is led by an apologist for Fletcher?

            I don’t patronise it. I think it’s disgraceful.

  19. A thought occurred to me, which arose from discussions above about dealing with decisions in the face of uncertainty, proof beyond doubt, etc. Has anyone actually tried to consider a framework in which different types or domains of evidence might be weighed and allowed to contribute in the light of the uncertainty? What does reasonable doubt mean here?

    For example, the Traditional position will tend to focus mainly on the interpetation of specific relevant texts in the Bible (e.g. in Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6)… what is the most likely interpretation of that text taken on its own terms? There might emerge a “most likely” interpretation on the basis of the text alone, but other readings are surely possible, even if (perhaps) less likely. The Liberal might then bring in different evidence, from the rest of the Bible, or from outside (e.g. scientific, or modern cultural evidence, etc.) and then claim, on the basis of this new evidence, that we should favour a different reading of the Bible texts in question. How do we weigh this new evidence that the Liberal brings?

    I advance the following proposal tentatively, because I really haven’t thought it through in great detail. What we are dealing with here is questions of probability: what is “probably” the right judgement? And, in the field of probability there is a good way of discussing how extra evidence can be brought to bear on a discussion. It is called Bayes’ theorem, and it occasionally (but rarely) gets wielded in discussions on faith.

    (but the Theorem was unfortunately called “obscure” in a recent Guardian article, where it was used to discuss Covid testing).

    Before going further…. let me say: I do not think any of this can be discussed in an exact probabilistic sense, as though we can come up with a final number accurate to 4 digits. But Bayes’ theorem still provides a useful framework for assessing evidence and discussing the weight that we might give to different assertions taken in isolation, or taken together. I think it might be what is needed if people really want to talk about burden of proof in any rational manner.

    I started to write out a mathematical example, but it became a very long post, so I’ll probably put it in a blog instead. And, yes, I know: it’s maths, which is not everyone’s favourite topic, and maybe the LLF process can help in a different way.

    But I think Bayes’ Theorem might be an improvement upon just shouting “my argument is better than yours”, if you want to talk about “proving” something.

    Reply
    • Interesting comment, Daniel, but I’m not sure how feasible that approach would be. I can see what you are getting at. We might start by thinking that the conservative position is 90% likely to be correct. We then discover evidence that is sufficiently strong to overturn this initial position. Nice in theory, but how would it work in practice? Some might baulk at using scientific and other evidence to overturn the biblical position, particularly on a moral question. Personally, I think that there is a lot of non-biblical evidence that would count against the liberal view on homosexuality.

      There is another issue which must also be considered. The traditional view is that homosexuality is a sin. Suppose we carry out our Bayesian calculation and come to the conclusion that homosexuality is probably OK. If we have got the calculation wrong then we are in a very unfortunate position. We are then giving people the green light to do something that may lead them into great spiritual danger.

      This might he a case where it is better to be safe than sorry.

      Reply
      • Dear David

        Thank you for taking the trouble to reply. Yes, I could also imagine objections from the more Liberal end of the spectrum at using numbers to weigh moral evidence (“computer says no”!). So, if used, I think it would need to be used as a tool to aid discussion rather than as the decision-making tool (or at least it should not be used to make decisions without very careful thought).

        Here are three reasons why I think it could be helpful in discussions:

        1) It requires an acknowledgement that uncertainty is involved. This is no small step in discussions which are so often extremely binary. So, I was very pleasantly surprised and encouraged that you so readily and quickly volunteered a number (90%)… I wasn’t expecting that!

        2) It then facilitates discussions about the probabilities we assign to things. We could address questions such as: Why did you choose 90% rather than 95% or 80%? What evidence do you feel you’ve already accounted for in that estimate? [NB, I’m not asking you to answer those questions here.. but they would be good questions in a face to face discussion].

        3) It helps with honesty, especially as a check on oneself. Am I weighing the evidence consistently?

        [In fact, the first two of these could be constructively done without use of Bayes’ theorem at all… but having Bayes’ theorem there is probably a helpful check on the process].

        To answer your two points.

        – We all take the position that the Bible speaks into our world. So there is a link between evidence in the Bible and the evidence in the world around us, and in how we interpret both of those things. In some senses I think Bayes helps discuss and quantify those links. It might be that the traditionalist prefers to discuss it the other way, that is to use forms of evidence in the Bible to speak into how we “interpret” the world around us. But, it’s the same process, and I think can be reversed (although such questions in probabilty can be tricky!).

        – On safe rather than sorry: I’m not sure if it occurred to you, but if the Liberals are right there is a very real danger that you are sinning in this. Perhaps the most extreme version of this is to say something along the lines that you are misrepresenting God in the world, and so causing people to turn away from God. God’s name is being cursed because of you. (I think we two discussed already that the world sees the traditional position as morally bankrupt… well, what if they are right?).

        But, be encouraged. Here are two truths I hold dear (though I might be wrong of course). The first is that God wants us to seek truth, using whatever means necessary. The second is one I learned long ago from the theologian Adrian Plass, that “God is nice and he likes us”… it hasn’t served me wrong yet. My view is that if we have all already taken the important step of faith. If we now seek truth with honesty and integrity and faithfulness: we may get it wrong, but God will not hold that against us.

        With blessings,

        Daniel

        Reply
        • Hi Daniel

          It is often pointed out that Jesus never condemned same-sex relationships. That raises the question: what is the prior probability that a first-century Jewish man would condemn homosexuality? I think it would have to be close to 100%. So my 90% was being generous. But, you might object, Jesus was no ordinary man. We can’t really put him into any reference class. That’s true, of course, but where does it leave us? We know that the Church which emerged from the Jesus movement was opposed to homosexuality. So even if we could speculate about the possibility of a more liberal view on the part of Jesus himself, that would have been lost from the earliest stage.

          In answer to the point that you raised, yes, I do have some concern about being wrong, but I would say two things. Firstly, given the traditional position of the Church and the biblical evidence, I don’t think we could really be accused of being sinful if we stick to tradition. Secondly, I believe that Christianity is under attack in this secular age and I view any doubts I may have as weakness in the face of attack.

          Reply
          • David and Daniel The “safe rather than sorry” argument is fine if the issue comes at no personal cost to our options for love and marriage. It is rather pitiless for the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are gay (and whose lives, longings and sacrifices are once again being decided for them in their absence, as far as is clear here)?
            I find myself thinking of Luther’s injunction – ‘sin boldly’. His point being if we make our decisions on the basis of trying to avoid falling/making mistakes we are not be living by grace. I think I hear Lutheran echoes in Daniel’s comments.

          • Thank you David R, I’d not heard that quote from Luther. But, yes, it is along the lines that I think. I would rather be wrong but wrong for good reasons, trying to live out the love of God in generous love towards others, than to play it safe out of fear.

            David M: yes, you are absolutely free to discuss probabilities and why you choose them. I’m not sure I fully understood your reasoning, and I wasn’t trying to catch you out. Maybe you should have chosen 95% if you had thought about it longer. But, I would note that anyone choosing 100% or 0%, or something close to that, has already ruled out any possibility of changing their mind.

            With blessings

            Daniel

          • Daniel. Your pastoral theology is instinctively Lutheran! The full quote is “Be a sinner, and sin boldly – but trust and rejoice in Christ even bolder, who is victor over sin.” I think Luther is directly addressing even our most well- intended attempts to ‘stay safe’.

          • David M. Indeed. But staying with our interesting discussion, I would be interested to know what you make of Luther’s teaching here?

          • David, I can imagine different answers being given to that question at different stages of the last sixty years. If we were talking about legalising homosexuality then the principle of sinning boldly might hold sway. But by the time we get to gay marriage the principle no longer applies.

            You mentioned the “pitiless” attitude that would deny gay people the chance to have sexual fulfilment. The problem with modern society is that it places such a premium on “fulfilment” in general and sexual fulfilment in particular. Any sense of duty comes a poor second. I remember once reading a scornful review of the film “Brief Encounter”. The reviewer simply couldn’t comprehend how the wife chose in the end to put her marriage vows above the chance of happiness.

          • Dear David M:

            Are you married? If so, when you got married was it merely fo sexual fulfilment, or were there other motivations too? There certainly was for me when I got married.

            Maybe substitute “chance to have sexual fulfilment” with “chance to make a public declaration of their faithful love for one another, to exchange promises that they will remain faithful, and to take their place as a couple within the community of the church and beyond.” Or something along those lines. It’s not as short, but I believe it captures better the motivation so far as I can tell. Of course you may still disaprove, as is your right, but it’s less of a caricature.

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • Daniel, to be deprived of sexual fulfilment (and companionship) would be considered a tragedy by a great number of people in today’s society. To be deprived of the chance to make a truly lifelong commitment would, I suggest, be considered far less of a tragedy by most people. That is the way things are now. To some extent the Church is to blame. It has stood by while traditional values have been eroded. You might say that it has implicitly endorsed a philosophy of “sinning boldly”.

            I have sympathy for gay people. I don’t believe that they can ever be married in the eyes of God. But it does bother me to think of what it would be like to have no intimacy at all. Still, duty to God comes first.

          • David (and Daniel). Daniel is right to say the desire for marriage is for something far more than sexual fulfilment. But St Paul doesn’t minimise sexual desire either when he encourages people to marry if they live without sexual love – ‘you have not sinned.’ ‘Better to marry than to burn’. So marriage as a place for fulfilling sexual desire is clearly there in Paul’s theology.
            So I agree with you about the painful dilemma for gay Christians not allowed to enter marriage. The church is effectively telling them it is better for them to burn than to marry. How is that supposed to work? In the light of Paul’s positive recognition of the power of sexual desires and energies I still call that pitiless.
            By the way you are of course using ‘sin boldly’ to mean something completely differently from Luther and in our discussion.

          • David, if gay marriage has no reality in the eyes of God, as I believe, then gay sex is sinful whether or not the Church has given its (false) seal of approval. No form of marriage has been available to same-sex couples for nearly all of history and no spiritually valid form of marriage is available now.

            But my point still stands. The fact that gay people cannot enjoy sinless intimacy genuinely bothers me.

          • Dear David M:

            I want to say this as gently as possible, because in a heated and potentially emotional debate it is easy to type the wrong thing or imply the wrong thing, however inadvertently. I am sure I have messed up several times myself. But I would just say, please be careful in what you write.

            Yes, I agree that many in our society (of all kinds of sexualities) have the attitide you describe: that being deprived of sexual fulfilment (and companionship) would be a tragedy; whereas being deprived of the chance to make a truly lifelong commitment would be far less of a tragedy. And I fully share your concerns about this.

            Yet, you (either delibarately or inadvertently) seemed to imply that this was the case for all gay people. It is possible that I misread you, or misunderstood your intentions. But if you read your full paragraph it does come across that way: you wrote “deny gay people the chance to have sexual fulfilment”, and then went on to decry the prioritising of sexual fulfilment in society, and then gave the Brief encounter reference.

            To be clear: the issue of gays desiring marriage, and the issue of lack of commitment/desire only for sexual fulfilment are not the same thing. If anything, they are rather the opposite of each other, since (so far as I can tell) the first represents a desire for greater commitment, not less.

            To my mind it is not OK to label a whole group of people in this way and to make such generalised assumptions or implications about their motivations and desires. It makes it easier to condemn them, without really listening to them.

            Now, I fully apologise if I have misread you, or misunderstood your meaning. I know that you are concerned about falling standards of sexual ethics in society, and that in some ways you see both the push for equal marriage, and the growing lack of commitment, as two symptoms of this. I understand that. But I think it is important not to confuse the two things. I’m sorry to point this out, but I do feel it is important to be clear.

            To my mind it is a very good thing that there is a strong desire towards publicly declared and faithful commitment within the LGBT community.

            To David R:
            Yes, of course sexual desire is fully a part of marriage!! Just not the only part. And, I have been struck recently by an observation from Sarah Coakley, that the faithful commitment of celibacy and the faithful commitment of marriage are not so far from one another as we often make out. Any realistic appraisal of a lifelong, faithful commitment to marriage will recognise that there are times of effective celibacy, where health, pregnancy, or all sorts of factors lead to potentially long times of abstinence (Paul hinted at that too!).

            I would also say that I also find the phrase “sin boldly” to be a bit of a challenge… it is easy to see how it can be misunderstood. I agree with Luther’s sentiment, but perhaps not his choice of words!

            With blessings to both of you,

            Daniel

          • David M:

            I just saw your post may 1st 7.38pm… you must have posted while I was typing. I am glad to read that the fact that gay people cannot enjoy sinless intimacy genuinely bothers you. I would say you might consider trusting your God-given instincts, but I undertand also why you would find that hard. I hope that you can manage to find a group doing the LLF course, sicne I think it will help you think these things through.

            A further thing that bothers me is that LGBT couples can’t contribute to the life of the Christian community, and bless those around them, because of the lack of marriage. It is a fundamental part of marriage that it is a publicly witnessed declaration of commitment. From then on, the couple operate as a unit (and we all know of wonderful heterosexual couples who bless the church). That this is denied to gay couples bother me: I think it is us who are missing out.

            (and none of this is to minimise the wonderful contribution to the community of faithfully celibate people too… all have their calling in the body of the church).

            Anyway, that’s what bother me!

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • Daniel, it may be worthwhile to remind ourselves of the bigger picture. There has been a very successful gay rights campaign in recent decades, but it has been very largely a secular campaign. Some gay people may want to marry, but for most of them it has nothing to do with a sense of Christian duty. It is a secular demand for equality.

            I have said that I am bothered because gay people cannot enjoy sinless intimacy. The great majority of gay people (in our post-Christian society) would laugh at my concern. That is something to bear in mind. Does my concern point me towards a realisation of a greater truth? No, it is mere human weakness. And it is far from being the only issue on which I might baulk at the demands God places on us. God is as righteous as He is loving.

          • Dear David:

            The truth that I am trying to convey to you is that there are a substantial number of LGBT Christians who are interested in marriage for much more than sexual intimacy or for secular equality reasons. They largely share your values of public faithfulness, public commitment, and serving in the wider Christian community. I have been through the LLF course. In my group there was a gay Christian who expressed exactly what I am telling you. In the “Story Films” of the LLF course there are several LGBT people, both couples and presently single, who express exactly these desires – you can verify this for yourself. I do not think these people are alone, rather I think that these values are extremely common within the LGBT Christian community. There are others who see that their calling is to singleness and celibacy: these also share the values of public faithfulness, public commitment, and serving in the wider Christian community. In a sense, the wider secular picture is not relevant here, what we are talking about is the Christian community.

            So, believe that to persist with the implication that it is all about sexual fulfillment is to persist with an untruth – it can be demonstrated that it is not true by watching the story films of the LLF course (and I really do recommend you watch these). I would hope that you wish to avoid untruth, in all its forms.

            I was thinking a bit more about your “close to 100%” above. The basis was that “a first-century Jewish man would condemn homosexuality”. We are talking about interpretation of Biblical texts. I think that to place that interpretation squarely (100%) on what a first century Jewish man would think is to deny any divine action in shaping the text at all… it is (ironically) to forget about the “God breathed” part of it!

            (I’m not saying that the intentions and thoughts of the writer are unimportant in our interpretation…of course they are important! But, they are not so easy to access in practice, and in any case can’t be the sole factor in interpretation).

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • Dear David:

            The truth that I am trying to convey to you is that there are a substantial number of LGBT Christians who are interested in marriage for much more than sexual intimacy or for secular equality reasons. They largely share your values of public faithfulness, public commitment, and serving in the wider Christian community. I have been through the LLF course. In my group there was a gay Christian who expressed exactly what I am telling you. In the “Story Films” of the LLF course there are several LGBT people, both couples and presently single, who express exactly these desires – you can verify this for yourself. I do not think these people are alone, rather I think that these values are extremely common within the LGBT Christian community. There are others who see that their calling is to singleness and celibacy: these also share the values of public faithfulness, public commitment, and serving in the wider Christian community. In a sense, the wider secular picture is not relevant here, what we are talking about is the Christian community.

            So, believe that to persist with the implication that it is all about sexual fulfillment is to persist with an untruth – it can be demonstrated that it is not true by watching the story films of the LLF course (and I really do recommend you watch these). I would hope that you wish to avoid untruth, in all its forms.

            I was thinking a bit more about your “close to 100%” above. The basis was that “a first-century Jewish man would condemn homosexuality”. We are talking about interpretation of Biblical texts. I think that to place that interpretation squarely (100%) on what a first century Jewish man would think is to deny any divine action in shaping the text at all… it is (ironically) to forget about the “God breathed” part of it!

            (I’m not saying that the intentions and thoughts of the writer are unimportant in our interpretation…of course they are important! But, they are not so easy to access in practice, and in any case can’t be the sole factor in interpretation).

            With blessings,

            Daniel

          • Daniel, I don’t doubt that gay Christians are interested in more than sexual fulfilment and equality. So what can we do for them? In theory we can offer them Christian marriage. However, we can’t offer them that if we don’t have the right to offer them that. If we insist on allowing gay marriage without God’s authorisation then we will do great harm.

            I don’t agree that the wider secular picture is irrelevant. The way things are going is a concern. Is supporting gay marriage a way of improving things? I don’t believe it is. For one thing, I don’t think that society will listen. Society says that it’s OK to be gay. It also says that gay people should marry if they want to but not if they don’t. If gay people want to have sex without getting married, society says that’s fine. I can’t see that changing.

            On the Bayesian question. What would Jesus say about homosexuality? We can’t answer that question directly because there is no record of Jesus addressing the issue. But it would be reasonable to ask what any first-century Jewish man would say on the issue. I think that can be used to establish a fair prior probability. We can take other factors into account, but the prior probability is what is. If the other factors are compelling enough then the prior can be overturned but that would take some doing.

            However, this is not an argument that I would make. I am suspicious of this kind of reasoning.

          • Dear David

            Thank you for your acknowledgement that gay Christians are interested in more than sexual fulfilment and equality.

            Many of the rest of your points are complex, to do with the relationship between church and society… what would be best in terms of our witness? I personally beleive that we are missing an opportunity, to emphasise exactly the qualities of faithfulness, commitment etc. But I recognise that is open to discussion: exactly the sort of discussion LLF is designed to facilitate.

            Likewise, the question of what we are allowed to or should authorise will have a range of views, on both sides. Is there a form of words which would permit a blessing to be given, or a public recognition of the relationship, short of marriage. Would such a form of words need to state the “official” teaching as part of the form of words? (I would hope not, but I can see that some would only allow it through if such words were there). Do we need to call it marriage? (Sarah Coakley would say “no”). Again… this is part of the LLF discussions.

            Your point about what any first-century Jewish man would say on the issue is difficult to press, I think. As you rightly note, we have no record of Jesus commenting on the issue. We do have multiple records of Jesus breaking the norms of what any first-century Jewish man would say or do. A non exhaustive list includes:
            – The good Samaritan parable
            – Healing on the Sabbath
            – Speaking alone to the woman at the well
            – Teaching that all foods are “clean” etc.
            – Being known to associate with tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners
            To my mind, it would not be out of character for Jesus to have an interesting opinion on this topic, had he been asked about it!

            Blessings

            Daniel

          • Daniel, the discussions that Jesus had about the Law were characteristic of discussions that Jews were having at the time. Sabbath observance is an example. Some had stricter views than others. It seems that Jesus was more concerned with the spirit than with the letter of the Law. Jesus was also concerned to bring back the lost sheep into the fold. Once that happened, the lost ones would be forgiven but we may assume that they would be expected to stop sinning.

            However, I am not aware of any discussion from the time about the acceptability of gay sex. I cannot imagine any Jew suggesting that homosexuality was OK. In this case we really do have a very solid prior probability. If Jesus had gone against the norm on this, it would have been truly shocking.

            We must also consider that the Risen Jesus commissioned Paul to preach to the Gentiles. And Paul took a very firm stand on matters of sexual morality. Those advocating a liberal view on this really are in a quandary. In my view, the most they can say is that the world just wasn’t ready to accept what people now accept. Therefore some basis other than a biblical one must be sought.

          • Dear David

            Genuinely, I’m going to have to stop discussing this soon… I think it’s unlikely I’ll convince you even if we exchange 10 more posts; likewise I don’t think you’d convince me either. In the context of my original post on Bayes, I think the point still stands: it does allow us to discuss probabilities and certainty in a manner that might be helpful if we were exchanging views face to face.

            My thoughts on your last post are to restate that I don’t think you can presume to judge the thoughts of Jesus on the basis of silence and what a typical Jew would have said. That seems unreasonable to me. The Bible as we have it is what we have got.

            You are right that the question of faithful, committed LGBT marriage (or whatever we call it) is not at all one that was being discussed. This is why Jesus was not asked about it, and why we do not have his answer to the question. But, for me, this doesn’t make me feel in a quandary, because it also suggests to me that the thing that Paul was ruling out in his writings was not the thing that we are now discussing… which is exactly a point I would want to make, yes.

            But I do agree that Paul took a very firm line on sexual matters: he could not abide unfaithfulness in sexual matters.

            But, as I said, my original post was more on matters of methodology. In my comments, I’ve tried to avoid getting into long discussions on the rights and wrongs of different positions we might take on the actual LLF subject matter, because I think it’s better discussed face to face than in online comments. We can see these things are not fruitful. So, to conclude, I’d like to apologise for my part in turning our discussion in that direction.

            With blessings

            Daniel

          • Daniel, I’ll make this my final comment and you are welcome to have the last word. Jesus is a member of a class: specifically, the class of first-century Jewish men. If Jewish men overwhelmingly disapproved of homosexuality then there is a very high prior probability that Jesus had the same attitude. With that prior in place, we can now look at what the Gospels say. But if we ignore that prior and just look at the Gospels then we are discounting information that is vital to a Bayesian calculation.

          • David: a genuine thank you for graciously allowing me to respond.

            I see what you are trying to get at. You are proposing to make a Bayesian calculation on the specific question of “what would Jesus think on the LLF topics?”. I honestly don’t think that’s a fruitful line of enquiry because of the lack of directly relevant evidence. But if we were to try, I think I would reject your starting point, simply because the reason why we care at all what this particular Jewish man might think is because we have already come to the conclusion he was a particularly unique, special and atypical Jewish man. So, the question we are asking already contains some hidden information, and we need to factor that information in. Hence, it is not at all correct to start with “what did a typical Jewish man think?” to determine the prior: we have already decided he wasn’t and isn’t a typical Jewish man.

            David: please accept my blessings. I hope and pray that you continue to ponder these things, and that you will bring your perspective into discussions on an LLF course. I firmly beleive that all voices need to be heard here.

            Daniel

    • That video goes wrong from the start. It is stated that some people have an “intrinsic” attraction to those of the same sex. And if people have such an attraction, how could they be expected not to act on it? That raises the question: is it always wrong for an intrinsic attraction to be denied? The answer to that must be No. Those who have an intrinsic attraction to young children have no choice but to resist it. So the central argument being put forward goes straight out the window. A related question that was put was whether a just God would create people with an intrinsic attraction that they could never be allowed to satisfy. Again, the answer is one that does not support the case being made.

      None of this should be surprising. We live in a fallen world. Not only do bad things happen, but people can be corrupted at a fundamental level. If we want to think “seriously” on this issue then we must face up to this.

      Reply
      • Indeed… I recall the encounter of another minister with a woman leading a promiscuous life with the proffered defence that St Paul wrote “Make love your aim”

        Reply
    • (1) What kind of ‘love’ is God? ‘Love’ is not a perspicacious term with self evident meaning. Eros/erotic love; agape / self-giving love; storge / affection; philia / friendship are some of the options.

      (2) The quotation ‘God is love’ is from Scripture. So we see it is agape.

      (3) So, God is not inloveness, not erotic love, not indulgence or tolerance (both of which are actually unloving).

      This point has been made repeatedly – surely some progress beyond the elementary is in order.

      Reply
      • The very elementary mistake is to assume that words are accurate descriptions of God. This is learned very early on when discussing religious language. The Early Church Fathers made the point that words were helpful to man (sic) rather than descriptive of God. But unless we would remain silent, (and there was of course an apophatic tradition), we had no choice but to use words with all their limitations. The important thing was to be aware of such limitations.

        So the word love would not just be agape. It would include all the other aspects of love as well, and even then would hardly begin to describe what love, as it related to God, was all about. As Colin Morris once said, you can’t eff the ineffable.

        Reply
        • So in other words everything is in thrall to the English language which has a word ‘love’ combining various concepts: a word which may or may not map perfectly onto words in other languages.

          This despite (a) English not being John’s language; (b) the English translation being only one of 1000s of translations in 1000s of languages; (c) the English rendition postdating the Greek.

          Why the anglocentrism?

          And has this method of interpretation (go straight to an alien culture hundreds of years later) been witnessed before?

          Reply
          • Christopher, did you actually read my reply? It had abs outlet nothing to do with any anglocentrism. It was about the wisdom of the Early Church Fathers. Go and read again perhaps?

          • But the bit of your reply I was addressing was the idea that our interpretation of the word ‘love’ (which is nothing but a much later English word and therefore does not appear in the Bible in the first place) would have to embrace the precise and very particular combination of ideas that the *English* word combines. Why? Are there no limits to what the word means, and ought not those limits to be determined by the normal rules of hermeneutics which focus on the semantic fields of the original language Greek?

          • You are suggesting something I expressly avoid saying. I am making it quite explicit that no word could adequately express what love means as it applies to God. Even if it included the several meanings you identify, the word would not be sufficient.
            And I appeal to the wisdom of the Early Church Fathers to support this.

          • I ‘m sure that is right, but what makes you think that the non-agape types of love would be among what is included? More must be excluded than included, for coherence’s sake.

            And the interpretation of the word agape is something specific not vague. It is the province of NT scholars who are highly specific whereas apophatic theologians (whose province this is not) have it in their power to be cop-out merchants.

            Which Church Fathers?

          • From memory , Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom and the Cappadocians.

            Again you are missing the point here. Why would agape be accurate in describing a particular essence of God?

            Of course NT scholars have a gift for interpreting the text. What they are simply unable to do is tell us whether the text they have given adequately describes the particular reality. Divine truth is as elusive to a NT scholar as it is to a Cappadocian father.

          • If they with all tehir training are incapable of it, then how come you as a person of less training can somehow tell us that eros, storge, philia are all included in the love of God?

          • Really enjoying this exchange. Particularly the notion that NT scholars are sound where the Church Father’s and Mother’s were cop out merchants!

          • Christopher: once again, you are totally missing the point. I am not claiming that these other things are definitely included. I am saying that the word love in English, or agape in Koine Greek are by no means adequate in describing the reality and nature of God.
            So I return to the question you seem to want to duck. Why would agape alone be accurate in describing a particular essence of God?

          • And why would eros, storge, philia be *excluded* from the essence of God. Isn’t God the author of these things?

          • They aren’t excluded from the nature of God. They are excluded from the proper translation of ‘agape’. It is apposite to say ‘God is agape’ – i.e. pretty much an identity statement. It is unfounded to say ‘God is eros’ or anything else.

          • In a universe with many more stars than grains of sand on earth, and thousands of languages the idea that one word from just one of these languages might count as an identity statement for the creator of such a universe is rather far fetched. It’s a word that is a tiny bit helpful in our small efforts to describe what the essence of God might actually be. As Colin Morris said, we can’t eff the ineffable.

          • Interesting though that the Fathers and mediaeval mystics wrote of the erotic love of Jesus and God.

          • Yes – but if it is so hard to know the nature of God aright, how come you suddenly switch from agnostic to positively-sure when you say that God’s nature includes eros and the others?

            This sort of theology ties people in knots – best to stick to the proper discipline of NT studies. Because the premise was a NT verse ‘God is love’, which for some reason you are taking as authoritative. And then for a second unknown reason taking to mean something quite different from its apparent meaning. None of which adds up.

          • “ ‘God is love’, which for some reason you are taking as authoritative. “

            Christopher I don’t think you have actually read my replies. I don’t take it as authoritative at all. I take it as a stab in the dark.

          • Granted; but then you must explain why it is that you are taking it as a starting-point. It is an assertion expressed in language, so at least that delimits it. Your proposals seem to remove such delimitation, so that assertions do not mean what they seem to mean, which removes the possibility of understanding.

          • Hooray!
            Hence Tertullian says: “that which is infinite is known only to itself. This it is which gives some notion of God, while yet beyond all our conceptions – our very incapacity of fully grasping Him affords us the idea of what He really is. He is presented to our minds in His transcendent greatness, as at once known and unknown”

            And Cyril of Jerusalem:
            “For we explain not what God is but candidly confess that we have not exact knowledge concerning Him. For in what concerns God to confess our ignorance is the best knowledge.”

          • So Tertullian and Cyril say these things but are they true? Tertullian writes sensibly. Both suggest that we have some knowledge of God rather than none. Cyril gives a sweeping generalisation, and confession of ignorance by definition cannot be the best sort of knowledge (though it is an excellent starting point) because it is the sort that illuminates least of all and also supplies least information of all.

        • As for saying I am trying to duck questions – I take great pains to be honest, as mentioned. The only person who knows they are trying to duck things is the person themselves, who is the only person who knows their mind.

          Why would agape alone be adequate in describing a particular essence of God? Because the particular essence being discussed on this occasion is agape. Had we been discussing another essence it would be another story.

          I have not said anything disparaging about any church father or mother, Penny. If so, show me where I have. Any sentence beginning ‘the church fathers were…’ is a meaningless generalisation. The Migne-edited Church Fathers was a handy standby for those who wanted enough Desert Island Discs reading on their island, since it ran to some 150 fat volumes under a single title, I believe.

          I did say something disparaging about some forms of apophaticism. Why? Because ‘We do not know: it is beyond us’ can be repeated only so many times. It is a bald assertion. It makes no attempt at self-improvement. It could be uttered by a person with IQ 50. Normally people get nul points for saying ‘I don’t know’. This cunning branch of theology makes out in an ever so superior fashion that saying ‘I don’t know’ is a sign of extraordinary intelligence. Which of course it may be, if it is honest and specific-to-context and can explain in detail the reasons behind why ignorance turns out to be the best conclusion on this particular occasion, but not otherwise.

          Reply
          • And even if we don’t know, give pointers to how we may begin to know more.

            If you are so sure that you don’t know, then you are claiming that you *know* that you don’t know. Whoops – I thought firm claims to knowledge were supposed to be bad.

  20. And on the wisdom of the early church fathers, here is something touching upon it;

    “What does God intend that we know about him?

    All theology, as we have seen, begins with exegesis, that is, with attempting to restate in our own words the meaning of the biblical text. As we do this with many texts, we gradually build up a number of statements on a given topic that gradually coalesce into doctrines. Out of many texts on creation, such as Genesis 1:1; Psalm 33:6, 9; 90:2; John 1:1-3; Acts 14:5; Romans 15:17; Colossians 1:15-17 and Hebrews 11:2, we build up a doctrine of creation. As we contemplate the doctrine of creation, we deduce from what Scripture says the metaphysically pregnant doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. In contemplating that doctrine we arrive at a deeper understanding of Divine transcendence. As we contemplate the transcendence of God in the light of exegetical results dealing with the attributes of God, we discover the truths of Divine eternity, immutability, aseity and simplicity. At some point in the process, we find that we have moved, almost imperceptively, from biblical theology to systematic theology.

    Now things really get interesting. Having moved from exegesis to doctrine to metaphysics, we now have the beginning of a framework in place for describing the situation in which our further contemplation of the text of Scripture can take place. We have gained some understanding of who we are, who God is, where we are, and what we are dealing with in the Bible. We can describe this situation in metaphysical terms using the doctrines of God, creation, anthropology and revelation. But when we first started doing exegesis, we may not have had this metaphysical framework in mind. So, what was our starting point in doing exegesis? We picked up this book, read it and attempted to interpret it. But interpretation is never “presuppositionless” – we never start from nowhere. How can we be sure our exegesis was not discolored by false metaphysical presuppositions?

    The answer, of course, is that we cannot be sure. So, we need to go back to the same texts of Scripture and contemplate the exegetical results we attained first time around in what I refer to as a “second exegesis.” This time we do so self-consciously and deliberately from within the metaphysical framework derived from the exegetical results we obtained first time around. As we do so, we ask ourselves questions such as, “Given what I have learned so far, was I justified in making the assumptions about this text that I made in my first exegesis?” and “Would the meaning of this text change if I interpreted it from within the metaphysical framework I have learned?”

    Here I am ruthlessly murdering one of the sacred cows of the Enlightenment, which insisted that, above all, the cardinal rule of biblical interpretation is that one must never, under any conditions, approach the text from a position in which the creeds and dogmas of the church shape our hermeneutical presuppositions. They command: “Thou must not read churchly dogma into the Bible.” But this is exactly what we do in the “second exegesis.” And we do so because this “churchly dogma” came from the Bible in the first place and this is what it means to affirm that the Bible is “self-interpreting.” We take the second step in systematic theology by studying the Bible from the perspective of the creedal confession of the historic Church. We investigate how the various texts and themes of Scripture cohere and mutually illuminate each other.

    The practice of this “second exegesis” is a fundamental component of systematic theology, but it has been arbitrarily separated from Biblical theology in modernity. The Enlightenment was a rejection of all exegesis that is done from within the conceptual framework of the orthodox dogma of the Church. But not only did the Enlightenment reject orthodox dogma as the metaphysical framework for exegesis, it also smuggled a foreign metaphysical framework into theology; that is, one derived from the neo-pagan culture and not from the historic faith of the Church.

    Philosophical naturalism replaced the creedal tradition of historic orthodoxy in modern theology and the whole idea of a “second exegesis” was dropped. Increasingly, the work of systematic theology was separated from biblical studies. The biblical text was approached using the historical critical method, which means the interpretation of the text from within the constraints of modern philosophical assumptions about history and nature. Instead of seeking to correct the metaphysical framework by exegesis, the goal was to take the metaphysical framework for granted and never allow it to be questioned. Theology, in this situation, became increasingly revisionist and increasingly detached from the historic faith of the Church.

    This “second exegesis” is a specifically Christian way of reading the text of Scripture and it operates from within the framework of faith in the Word of God as it comes to us through Scripture…”
    Craig A Carter, abstracted from:
    https://credomag.com/article/how-then-shall-we-theologize/

    For far more on Early Church Fathers, it is readily searchable on the Credo site here:
    https://credomag.com/magazine/

    It includes much on the Trinity (which the source of the doctrine of the love of God; that God is Love; Holy Love.

    Reply
    • Geoff it’s very hard to take any article seriously that begins “Those that have heard about the fathers have been warned that they are Roman Catholic “. Do they and you delight in being offensive?

      Reply
      • I’d suggest you stretch yourself, Andrew, and read on. A touchy, knee jerk response isn’t a good look for someone in your position of influence.
        Unless, of course, your mind is fixed on your views of the teaching of the church Fathers, and know all there is to know. Or you only want to subscribe to unattributed views, that you assert to Christopher.
        Maybe, if you look further on the site you’d also be challenged on your views of the formation of the creeds, and able to give much further thought on our Triune God.

        Reply
        • Geoff: thanks. I studied the Church Fathers both as an undergraduate and a graduate, particularly on early Christian doctrine and the formation of the Creeds and I am sure that a magazine that exhibits such overt prejudice towards Roman Catholics is not going to be a source of balanced thinking on the matter. I have not suggested any unattributed views to Christopher but simply asked a pertinent question.

          Reply
    • I wouldn’t embrace all the thoughts of any theologian. But I do love the Church Fathers and Mothers. Especially the queer theology of Gregory of Nyssa.

      Contra the article you cited I would describe many of them as Orthodox, rather than RC.

      Reply
  21. Andrew,
    Are you asserting your higher authority over the articles, even as you have misrepresented, or misread the introduction, to come up with your initial response? That response doesn’t foster a trust in the outcome of your training. Indeed, the article encourages the opposite of your offence taking: it is an invitation to study the early church fathers.
    The article opens with these words:

    “Few Christians today have ever heard about the church fathers. Those that have heard about the fathers have been warned that they are Roman Catholic or untrustworthy exegetes, or both! However, there is a retrieval underfoot that is not so easily overcome by ignorance or lax acceptance of sloppy caricatures. Christians are now rediscovering the fathers for the first time. They are also noticing that many of the doctrinal missteps today could have been avoided if we had only paid attention to the insights the fathers offer. This issue of Credo Magazine is an entryway to the fathers, encouraging you to go deeper and read the fathers for yourself. But it’s more: this issue is a call to be humble and sit at the feet of the fathers as they admonish us for the sake of renewal in the church today.”

    Reply
    • Geoff

      I did read on, past the line Andrew cited. It doesn’t improve.

      Christians can’t discover something for the first time!

      Reply
        • Another slow knee jerk Andrew?
          I think it continues a shabby couple of comments. Nothing to write home about and undermines all your self-authorative learning in the topic.
          It is all ad hominem with a high handled waft of dismissal; it does absolutely nothing to address anything written in the articles and little for your credibility.
          And if you are representative of a number of those in positions of significant influence in matters of theology it doesn’t bode well. And from this abundance of knowledge at your finger tips, all the while you continue to not cite any early church fathers for your assertion as asked of you by Christopher Shell.

          Reply
          • I can only refer you to my post at 7.24am Geoff.

            “From memory , Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom and the Cappadocians.”

            And in think all the people involved in your mag are from that constituency aren’t they?

          • Geoff is right that Andrew didn’t cite any. He did no more than name names, did not give references. And even the names were ‘from memory’.

            The problems increase:

            Theology is a less precise study than NT studies anyway.

            In fact it is so imprecise that it has been questioned whether it is a proper subject, being after all so speculative.

            Also it is at the mercy of ideologues.

            If people know so little about God (would not the creation itself teach them something) and say that nothing can be said of him, how on earth can they, in their purported ignorance, somehow simultaneously be so sure of 2 colossal things which surely require supporting argument: (a) that there is a God, and (b) that that God is ineffable?

          • Whereas, of course, some NT scholars rely on the fact that the bible tells them what God is like and because it’s the bible it can’t possibly be wrong.

          • No, because if they thought that way they would not be ‘scholars’.

            NT exegesis is a pretty precise and exacting art. But it tells us only what the NT says, not whether the thing that it says is true.

          • Christopher has just swept all theologians, from Paul to Barth to Coakley under the carpet, cos theology isn’t a proper subject.

            They’re ideologues. Unlike biblical scholars who have no ideology. It is a well known fact that they live in a vacuum, entirely unaware of and uninfluenced by tradition and culture.

          • Theology (in the narrower sense, not in the sense of a wider discipline including biblical and historical studies etc) is in constant danger of not being a proper subject (for the several reasons stated: being open to ideology, being open to too much speculation, being unfalsifiable and rarely verifiable, lacking parameters, assuming too much unlike Philosophy of Religion, having an uneasy relationship with Philosophy of Religion and with biblical studies as to which is the driver).

            At its best however it is the Queen of the Sciences. All study ought to be systematic study of everything, for the reason that everything is interconnected. Theology at its best achieves this better than any other subject, through its multi-dimensionality which rightly reflects the multi-dimensionality of reality.

          • “NT exegesis is a pretty precise and exacting art. But it tells us only what the NT says, not whether the thing that it says is true.”

            Exactly what I said up the page. It is therefore of quite limited value.

          • But I argued for weaknesses in the apophatic approach, and also for the superiority of the biblical over the theological in getting accurate information.

          • I would not have had to make that point at all were it not to counteract your unnecessary 2.5.21 (10.02) – a classic case of the cap doesn’t fit so don’t wear it.

          • “also for the superiority of the biblical over the theological in getting accurate information.”

            What use is it if it gives us accurate information without any truth?

          • How can accurate information fail to be truth? The word ‘truth’ is used more widely, but there has never been any question that accurate information is or partakes in truth.

          • Christopher, this why I sometimes find your comments impossible to take seriously. You said – let me remind you exactly:

            “NT exegesis is a pretty precise and exacting art. But it tells us only what the NT says, not whether the thing that it says is true.”

            You are now trying to contradict yourself.

          • I can’t see where the contradiction lies.

            A: Accurate information is always truth or one centrally important kind of truth.

            B: NT exegesis tells us what the NT says not whether what it says is true.

            A and B are 2 undeniable statements between which there is not a lot of connection.

          • “NT exegesis tells us what the NT says not whether what it says is true.”

            And my reply stands then. What use is knowing what it says without knowing whether what it says is true? That’s the important bit surely! Maybe it doesn’t especially bother you, but where and how do you think we discover whether what it says is true?

          • And my reply stands then. What use is knowing what it says without knowing whether what it says is true?

            What use is knowing whether it is true if you don’t know what it says?

          • NB It’s obviously important to know what it says but my question to Christopher stands.

          • Hi Andrew

            You cannot possibly think ‘What does it say?’ and ‘Is it true?’ are the same question.

            Nor can you think that either is unimportant. Both are extremely important.

            How do you find whether things are true? In the normal ways, I expect – by whether they fit evidence, whether they self-contradict or not, whether they are attested by people otherwise reliable etc..

          • “You cannot possibly think ‘What does it say?’ and ‘Is it true?’ are the same question.”

            No, they are clearly not the same question and nowhere do I suggest they are. And nowhere so I suggest that either are unimportant. But in the case of the NT they are clearly related questions because the whole point of what it says is to make some truth claim upon the lives of real people. The kingdom of God is not a theory without some interest in whether it is true. Gaining accurate information is therefore not simply about discovering what it says. It is also about whether this accurate information makes any sense.

            And as you have already said, no real scholar is going to say that it’s bound to be true simply because it is written in the bible. So we use other forms of evidence like tradition, reason and experience, which will include the kinds of assessments you indicate. It must be accepted, however, that different people will make different judgments about the evidence. Finding which is correct will by no means be a straightforward path. Hence LLF and the different ways of approaching scripture identified therein.

          • And as you have already said, no real scholar is going to say that it’s bound to be true simply because it is written in the [B]ible.

            I think you’ll find that any real theologian will realise that if it’s what God is trying to tell us through the Bible, then it is bound to be true.

            For example, when Jesus says, ‘there was a man who went on a journey and was set upon by thieves’, what the story is meant to tell us about who our neighbour is, is bound to be true.

            When Paul writes to tell us that all have sinned, that, too, is bound to be true.

            That is what makes the writings which make up the Bible different from all other human writings throughout all of history.

            And that is why it is important to work out what it says; because working out what it says is the first step towards working out what God is trying to communicate to us.

          • What tells us these things are true is the evidence of scripture, tradition, reason and experience working together.

          • What tells us these things are true is the evidence of scripture, tradition, reason and experience working together.

            No, what tells us they are true is that God intended to communicate them to us, and God does not lie.

            To disagree either you must think that God does lie, or that the Bible is not God’s attempt to communicate with and reveal Himself to humanity.

          • “God intended to communicate them to us, and God does not lie.”

            A phrase that begs so many questions.

            God intends to communicate with us.
            God does not lie.

            BUT, neither of those assertions prevents the means of communication being limited. Neither of those assertions prevents errors in the communication chain.

          • God intends to communicate with us.
            God does not lie.

            BUT, neither of those assertions prevents the means of communication being limited. Neither of those assertions prevents errors in the communication chain.

            Indeed. To get there you have to also assume that:

            (a) God is capable of preventing grave errors getting into the communication chain

            (b) God does not want grave errors to get into the communication train.

            Do you think that God is incapable of preventing grave errors getting into the communication train, or do you think that God doesn’t mind grave errors getting into the communication train?

            Because it seems to me that a God who was incapable of preventing grave errors getting into the communication wouldn’t be God, and a Go who didn’t mind grave errors getting into the communication chain would be effectively a liar (because if you could stop people getting the wrong impression, but you don’t and instead let them get things wrong, then you are effectively lying).

          • Well, two things to say really.
            1. Whenever God uses humans, errors creep in. That’s evident in every episode that we can think of. The only person who didn’t commit errors was God’s son, Jesus Christ. This is all part of our tradition. So, as God has to use humans for this communication chain, errors are inevitable. (For further background reading on this point you might like to look up the free will defence).
            One very easy example where errors creep in is translation. Humans do the translations. Into a couple of thousand languages, in the case of the NT. Humans make errors when they do translation. And words are rather imprecise things anyway. Love in English is a loose translation of several words in Greek. So the capacity for error in this part of the chain alone is significant.

            2. Christians believe that the primary way God communicates with us is through his Son. We don’t have a relationship with a book, but a living, resurrected being. And because we are humans, that communication chain is also prone to error.

          • Whenever God uses humans, errors creep in. […] So, as God has to use humans for this communication chain, errors are inevitable.

            So you are saying you don’t think that God is capable of ensuring that no grave errors creep in (we’re not talking about misspellings or the odd dropped word here, but things which would have the effect of leading the entire Church to make significant errors of doctrine)?

            A God who is not capable of that seems like a very very limited God, if you don’t mind me saying. It seems implausible to me that the God who can cause the sun to stop in the sky, who can turn water into wine, who can feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, and who can raise us from the dead, cannot protect his words from error.

            (For further background reading on this point you might like to look up the free will defence).

            The free will defence is not relevant here, because we’re talking about inadvertent errors, not deliberately introduced lies. It doesn’t impinge on anyone’s free will to choose between good and evil, to guide their hand and eye when transcribing a manuscript in order to ensure no grave errors creep in.

            However, let’s run with it as a thought experiment. Imagine that someone did decide to try to maliciously produce a misleading copy of the Bible, containing erroneous doctrine, at a point where that would have been possible (that is, before there were so many copies that it would have been obvious that this one was not right).

            No you not think that God would have been capable of thwarting such plans by, say, ensuring that the misleading copy was, I don’t know, lost at sea, or trampled by animals, or destroyed in some other way?

            Christians believe that the primary way God communicates with us is through his Son.

            Maybe for you with your with time machine, but as I don’t have a TARDIS in my shed or a de Lorean on my drive I have never met God’s Son, so the primary way God communicates with me is through the Bible.

          • Your scenario only works with perfect human beings. Tell me, for example, what this says:

            GODISNOWHERE

            See if you can translate that accurately for me?

            Then recall that in translating things, scribes had to work out which vowels were being used, where the spaces between words went etc etc.

            So, I don’t believe that human beings are capable of accurately passing on what has been told to them. Just look at the debate between Peter and Paul in the early church. God is capable of anything. But human beings who have free will are never going to be perfect. Any number of errors will creep in.

            You don’t need a tardis. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ then you aren’t a Christian, so none of this matters to you.

          • Your scenario only works with perfect human beings.

            No it doesn’t, that’s the point. It works with a perfect, omnipotent God. the humans can be as fallible as you like, because it’s not their power that matters: it’s God’s.

            Tell me, for example, what this says:
            GODISNOWHERE
            See if you can translate that accurately for me?

            I can translate it perfectly:

            ‘Andrew’s being a prat’.

            See? I divined the meaning perfectly.

            Then recall that in translating things, scribes had to work out which vowels were being used, where the spaces between words went etc etc.

            They did, but this is irrelevant, because for most of the Bible we now have manuscripts in the original language than come from close to the time of original writing, and so we are not dependant on translations: we can examine the original source.

            And what we have found, actually, is that the translators throughout the ages generally did a good job, isn’t it? Hm, almost as if they were being guided…

            So, I don’t believe that human beings are capable of accurately passing on what has been told to them. Just look at the debate between Peter and Paul in the early church. God is capable of anything. But human beings who have free will are never going to be perfect. Any number of errors will creep in.

            And if such errors do creep in, do you think God is incapable of fixing them? Or do you think God doesn’t care about errors in His Word, and is perfectly content to leave them there?

            Because it seems to me those are the only two options: either you think that God isn’t capable of fixing any errors that were introduced into His word by fallible humans, or you think He doesn’t care. Which is it? A God so powerless He barely deserves the description, or a God so careless you have to wonder if He even cares about communicating with us at all?

            You don’t need a tardis. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ then you aren’t a Christian, so none of this matters to you.

            So… you’ve spoken to Jesus without a time machine? How did that work? Did He appear in your bedroom, behaloed and everything? Are you absolutely, completely sure you hadn’t just had too much cheese late at night?

          • If you think God can prevent errors in words but not stop tragic wars or prevent cancer then you have a very weird idea of God is all I can say!

            The relationship with Jesus is through the sacraments, through prayer, through the church….. the book simply bears witness to those things.

          • If you think God can prevent errors in words but not stop tragic wars or prevent cancer then you have a very weird idea of God is all I can say!

            Of course God can stop tragic wars and prevent cancer! Do you think He can’t?

            The relationship with Jesus is through the sacraments, through prayer, through the church….. the book simply bears witness to those things.

            So… Jesus has never actually spoken to you, that’s what you’re saying? You haven’t actually communicated with Jesus at all?

          • Why do you think the Church calls it Holy Communion?

            There are, evidently, a number of different approaches to the scriptures. Have you read that section of LLF yet? Which number of the 7 do you class yourself as S?

          • Why do you think the Church calls it Holy Communion?

            To commune is not the same as to communicate.

            There are, evidently, a number of different approaches to the scriptures. Have you read that section of LLF yet? Which number of the 7 do you class yourself as S?

            I don’t feel any need to define my views in terms set by the Church of England.

            You haven’t answered the question: do you think that God is incapable of preventing and fixing errors in His communication with humanity, or do you think He is just not that bothered if His Word gets mangled so that people are misled? Is He too weak or does He just not care enough?

            Because I really can’t see another option, unless you can come up with one?

          • S, yours is such a neat solution but, alas, all the evidence throughout history is against you.
            God’s preferred method to communicate with people was through the prophets. Those prophets misunderstood what God was saying so often, and the people did not listen to those prophets. Why didn’t God ensure that there was an override system for that? Simple – with humans, things are not going to be perfect and things will be misunderstood and go wrong.

            God’s chosen people did not not understand that Jesus was God’s chosen one, and misunderstood the signs. They still wait for their messiah. Why couldn’t God make sure they would understand? Simple – they are humans, and humans get things wrong.

            There are still many other gods and religions that people choose to follow. Why can’t our God ensure that people only follow the way of Christ? Simple – they are humans, and will choose to ignore and go their own way.

            There are so many examples of humans getting things wrong, and misunderstanding and God not finding some way to circumvent that. Why doesn’t God choose to do it? Simple – humans have freedom to follow their own way, and most of them do.

            With all these ways God has tried to communicate, why would God suddenly find some override switch when it came to the bible? Simple – God can’t make people free and then deny that freedom. That’s just impossible. When humans are involved, errors will always occur.

            There isn’t, as Christopher has pointed out, a scholar who will agree with you S. It’s a neat solution, but has no evidence at all to support it.

          • Those prophets misunderstood what God was saying so often,

            What examples are you thinking of?

            and the people did not listen to those prophets.

            Irrelevant. Of course people aren’t going to listen to God’s communication: people are evil sinners at heart. The point is that God communicates through His Word.

            God’s chosen people did not not understand that Jesus was God’s chosen one, and misunderstood the signs. They still wait for their messiah. Why couldn’t God make sure they would understand? Simple – they are humans, and humans get things wrong.

            Again, irrelevant. The point is that God communicated. If people didn’t listen, that’s on them, not God.

            There are still many other gods and religions that people choose to follow. Why can’t our God ensure that people only follow the way of Christ? Simple – they are humans, and will choose to ignore and go their own way.

            And again, you’re talking about people refusing to listen to God, not God allowing errors into His communications.

            There are so many examples of humans getting things wrong, and misunderstanding and God not finding some way to circumvent that. Why doesn’t God choose to do it? Simple – humans have freedom to follow their own way, and most of them do.

            Yes — but again irrelevant. People ignoring God after He has communicated is an entirely different question to your idea that God is either incapable of communicating properly, or that He doesn’t care whether He communicates or not.

            With all these ways God has tried to communicate, why would God suddenly find some override switch when it came to the bible?

            Because the Bible is His Word, his special revelation of His nature to humanity. Nothing else in history is like it; it is unique.

            Simple – God can’t make people free and then deny that freedom.

            He doesn’t. He communicates, and people are then free to respond or ignore.

            It would only be if He didn’t have the ability to communicate properly, or if He didn’t bother to do so, that people’s freedom would be compromised, because they they wouldn’t have the freedom to respond to Him.

            So again: You are suggesting that either God is incapable of communicating accurately through His Word; or that He doesn’t bother to do so.

            It seems you are tending towards ‘incapable’; that is you think that human frailty is so profound that it defeats even God.

            So your God, it seems, is less powerful than humans. Humans, in your view, can make mistakes which God is powerless to correct. God can make plans; but humans have the final word on whether those plans come to fruition, because their errors can ruin God’s plans in ways God simply cannot correct.

            It’s like you’ve inverted the old joke. ‘How can God make humans laugh? Tell them His plans.’

            Seems an odd view of God to me but if that’s what you think.

          • It’s not at all to do with my view of God. It’s about how humans are. Humans are involved in the chain of communication. Humans get things wrong.

            Tell me one scholar who will agree with you. As Christopher says, no real scholar will take your view of things seriously.

          • It’s not at all to do with my view of God. It’s about how humans are. Humans are involved in the chain of communication. Humans get things wrong.

            Yes they do. And in your view God is too weak to correct them. Your God is at the mercy of human errors.

            Like I say, odd view of God, that, kind of like you think of Him as a dottery old man who can do no more than peer at the world through a window, unable to make a difference, just hoping that things go His way, but if that’s your view, well, I guess at least people know where you’re coming from.

          • People can read the whole thread and see clearly what my view is so I’ve no concern about that. It’s a view about human beings and the way they are created.

            And the scholarship to support your view will be found where S?

          • Just out of interest though — how do you square your ‘powerless God’ idea with the God who can stop the sun in its tracks, send plagues of locusts, turn the sea to blood, part seas, send fire to burn offerings that have been drenched with water, turn water to wine, multiply a few loaves and a few fish to feed thousands, raise corpses to life, and strike dead those who try to lie about their offering?

            Surely a God who can do all those things could correct some transcription errors?

            I mean, you do believe the God did all those things, right?

          • Oh yes of course God can do all those things. But humans weren’t involved. Once you involve humans, you can’t prevent errors you see?

            So where is the scholarship to support your claim?

          • Good idea! This discussion is over anyway.
            Do check the LLF document about the 7 ways it identifies of viewing scripture S. it’s a helpful way in to the topic.

          • Oh yes of course God can do all those things. But humans weren’t involved.

            Humans weren’t involved?!? So the prophets of Baal weren’t human? The Egyptians weren’t human? Ananias and Sapphira weren’t human?

            As well as an odd view of God you seem to have an odd view of ‘human’.

            Once you involve humans, you can’t prevent errors you see?

            Obviously you can. Ananias and Sapphira made an error that, if left to stand, would have led to a wrong idea of what was acceptable behaviour.

            God corrected that error, didn’t He? So obviously it is possible to correct errors, even when humans are involved.

            And yet you think God is incapable of correcting errors when humans are involved… despite the fact that we know not only that He is capable, but that He has done it.

            Odd. Odd.

          • S you are struggling a bit with this one! What you asked was about “the God who can stop the sun in its tracks, send plagues of locusts, turn the sea to blood, part seas, send fire to burn offerings that have been drenched with water, turn water to wine, multiply a few loaves and a few fish to feed thousands, raise corpses to life, and strike dead those who try to lie about their offering”

            And I replied to say that these things were done by God, without involving humans. Which is to say that humans did not make those things happen. They were acts of God. Whereas with the bible, humans were involved in writing the stuff down. In translating it. In remembering it. In composing it. So, quite different to the things you were asking about. Nothing odd. Just a different category.

            Your own belief about the bible, as you describe it, is a form of Gnosticism – and that of course is way outside of orthodox Christianity. So we might describe it as odd.

          • S you are struggling a bit with this one!

            I think you’re projecting. After all, it;s you who are struggling.

            And I replied to say that these things were done by God, without involving humans. Which is to say that humans did not make those things happen. They were acts of God. Whereas with the bible, humans were involved in writing the stuff down. In translating it. In remembering it. In composing it. So, quite different to the things you were asking about. Nothing odd. Just a different category.

            Humans were involved in translating it, in remembering, and in composing it, yes. And at every step there was the opportunity for God to nudge things to make sure that the result was what He intended.

            Do you think the God who parted the Red Sea wasn’t capable of, say, causing an ink bottle to be spilt over a page that had been mistranscribed, meaning that it had to be done again — only this time without the error? Do you think the God who gave Moses courage wasn’t capable of jogging the memory of an eyewitness, ensuring that they got the important details right?

            Either you must think the God is incapable of these things, or you think God cares so little about communicating with us that He didn’t bother to do them.

            Which is it? Do you think God is powerless, or do you think He just doesn’t care about communicating with us? Is your God powerless or careless?

            Your own belief about the bible, as you describe it, is a form of Gnosticism – and that of course is way outside of orthodox Christianity. So we might describe it as odd.

            You don’t understand what gnosticism is, do you?

          • No, I don’t think God is capable of making robots out of human beings. Humans make mistakes. It’s that simple.
            And yes, I’m quite clear what Gnosticism encompasses, thank you.

            A God who can spill ink on a page but not lift a finger to stop someone like Adolf Hitler or help a child dying on inoperable disease is not God but a monster of your own making.

            Here is a passage from the C of E LLF document (which I remind you we are discussing here) that might help you understand how the bible works.

            “I want to stress the care we need to take in putting the pieces of biblical teaching together – and the danger of taking any part on its own. God has given us the Bible as a whole, expecting us to learn from the interaction of all its parts. Sometimes one text qualifies another, or shows that another was giving guidance only for a specific context, or helps us see that another was revealing only part of the truth. God invites us to the labour of reading all the relevant texts together. It is only when we do so – and especially when we read all of the Bible in the light of Christ’s work and teaching – that we will find the answers we are looking for. “

  22. I attended a Zoom on LLF in my Diocese this week. We had an overview and recruits were asked to apply to lead courses in the Deanery. From our highlights of video we were shown I comment as follows:
    Emotional manipulation
    No biblical input
    A parishioner attending won’t want to be the nasty person disagreeing
    Is no one interested in Matthew 19:4-6 “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the 2 will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
    Bishop Nazir Ali has spoken out about the C of E collapsing to Critical Race Theory. All these issue emanate from the same place. A new cultural revolution that uses race and sexual freedom to destroy Christian civilisation.

    Reply
    • It’s very interesting to hear that, Tricia. I would be particularly concerned about the emotional manipulation. There is a strong hint of that in the article with the talk about people feeling “rejected and excluded”.

      Reply
      • My sense corresponds with the abcd list given above, that the material does not give a framework of traditional Christianity, but that all opinions are valid. The prevailing culture is so soaked in anything goes sexuality that those parishioners who attend will fear being out of step with opinions of others. If this was really a course for discussion within a Christian framework, it may have a point in assisting people to navigate the world, but it is a talking shop of opinion which will be swayed to the liberal viewpoint.

        Reply
        • Tricia, your assessment is the same as mine. *If* Satan and his minions had come up with a strategy to *divert* time and resources and thereby block essential work, this would have been a master-plan. Because on the face of it it seems so reasonable – all opinions deserve an ‘equal’ hearing; ‘equal’ marriage and so on. Lacking are criteria that would enable people to sift strong arguments from weak and from bogus. It is the indaba spirit (always good as a preliminary, of course, so that we first understand what is being said); the spirit of good disagreement which thereby grants anything however preposterous a place at the table, which is exactly what they want. The spirit that says a view is a view is a view when some so-called views are hard-won research conclusions and others are wish-lists.

          Reply
          • Well yes they did come up with it and dressed it in fine clothes of compassion, love, kindness. The title itself “Living in Love and Faith” is a sleight of hand. If you are living in faith, then obedience comes close behind, but obedience is sidelined to love covering all. Well what sort of love – agape, wonderful – filial, great – maternal, excellent – Eros, ? I mean how unkind can you be to feel that love has to be restricted to 2 people, surely you spread it around.
            God does not bless sexual activity outside of one man, one woman in marriage. He knows us too well. We are tempted to sin. Boundaries are for our protection and for the protection of our children. The mess society is in is down to the destruction of those boundaries since the 1960’s.

          • Extraordinary sweeping generalisations about LLF, coupled with fantasy stuff about Satan and his minions. Rather than attend to three fund scholarly articles by Andrew Goddard, you both descend to hearsay and gossip coupled with sensationalism.

          • Christopher and Tricia

            As I have observed before, life was so much better and so much more ‘Christian’ before the 1960s. Before male homosexuality was legalised, before reliable contraception, before humane divorce laws, when I could have been raped by my husband, unable to get a mortgage or even take out a loan without my husband’s permission. I would earn less than a man for equivalent work. If black I could be discriminated against at work and landlords could refuse to rent a property to me.

            Truly, those were the days of gospel values.

          • But I said ‘*if* Satan and his minions’; it is however extraordinary that if Satan does not exist, things keep panning out the very way they would if he did.

            I have to pity anyone whose highlights, out of all the millions of highlights they could have chosen in this beautiful world are yucky things like contraception and evil things like d*v*r*e.

            It reminds me of Humanists UK who in today’s Observer pick out their 2 proudest achievements of all as abortion furtherance and SSM!! Death-wish and culture of death doesn’t do it justice. Negative people; who would have guessed from such inner incarceration how beautiful this world actually is?

    • Tricia, I agree with you that the way the stories are presented can feel very manipulative, and that, in some contexts, the sense of peer pressure could be very negative.

      However, some of the stories eg Luke’s are quite challenging in the other direction. And there are plenty of resources to help people eg on Church Society website and developing on CEEC.

      For this reason, I think it is vital that those upholding the Church’s ‘traditional’ understanding of marriage are fully involved in as great a number as possible.

      Reply
      • Thank you Ian for your optimism. The revolutionaries do not do disagreement – good or otherwise. The Episcopalian church in America shows the trajectory. They have got rid of the last orthodox bishop – citing that he was guilty of disobeying canon law (the law they had altered to suit the agenda).
        We now have a person in the second most senior position in the C of E who is on board the train. He told Rev Parker in Chelmsford diocese when he complained about ‘Mermaids” in the C of E primary school that he could get on board or leave – he left.
        The revolutionaries have their place men in senior roles.

        Reply
      • Hi Ian

        I fully agree that Luke’s story is an interesting and powerful one. There are several stories in the LLF films of a faithful celibate life, lived out as a blessing to the church community, and I am very pleased they were included. One of the things that I very much hope will come out of the LLF process is a proper appreciation of this partiular calling and of the blessings (but also the difficulties) involved. And, I say this as someone speaking (as you know) from a non-traditional position.

        I hope that if the pastoral principles are properly applied then it might avoid some of the dangers of manipulation and peer pressure. I’d also recommend engagement with the full set of LLF materials and not just the course itself. The course is good, but I don’t think it can cover everything in just 5 sessions.

        And, to the traditionalists: I say again, please, please do get involved, as many of you as possible. But please don’t do it merely from the motivation of getting your voice heard with as loud a volume as you can.

        Reply
  23. There is an issue that we need to be clear about. Should sex be reserved for marriage? If the answer is No then we should admit that we have surrendered to modern secular society. But if the answer is Yes then a couple of very pressing further questions arise. Are we really going to say that gay people can have sex but only if they get married first? Is that realistic? A small minority of gay people might think that but I can’t imagine how society as a whole would ever contemplate it. Basically, if we can’t sell that position to society as a whole, that in itself is telling us something.

    But let’s set that concern to one side and accept that gay marriage might be the “solution” for gay people. Gay marriage is a recent invention. It never existed throughout nearly 2000 years of Christian history. Why not? If Paul believed a) that sex should be confined to marriage and b) that gay sex would be OK as long as it was within marriage, then why didn’t he establish the institution of gay marriage? Why did no one else do that for most of the next 2000 years? Why was it OK for gay people to be deprived of the opportunity to marry for that very long period of time?

    In my opinion the answer is simple. Modern society and the modern Church have taken a wrong turn. The institution of gay marriage has been invented by a society that thinks you don’t need to be married anyway, that gay sex is fine without marriage and that Christianity is an obsolete belief-system. Unfortunately, the Church is going along with this.

    Reply
    • Hi David
      Your reply could be seen as acceptable if it was just the lie that we were first told ie “it is about 2 people who love one another”. This is about the demolition of Christian morality to make way for pansexuality. Those at most risk are children. PSHE and RSE in schools is well under way with anything goes. Confusion of young children about being boys or girls. What about children who are made motherless by surrogacy or fatherless by sperm donation? Paedophilia is a Christian concept – the s*xual revolutionaries like Foucault and Kinsey teach that children are being deprived their right to s+x pleasure. This has been planned for a long time. The other week Manchester University put out a statement that certain words were not to be used on campus – what could these awful words be – they were: mother father, son, daughter…. the destruction of God’s design for human flourishing.

      Reply
      • Tricia

        There is so much polemic in your comment, but I will note just one thing. Manchester University did not ban these words. They suggested using neutral terms like ‘parent’and ‘sibling’ in some contexts. Schools have been doing this for years: as in Parents’ evenings.

        Reply
        • Yes. Penelope airbrushing out God’s design for human living. A mother is someone like me who carried a child in their body for 9 months and then gave birth by strenuous effort. Followed by wonder and love for the new life in a son or daughter. I don’t intend to be airbrushed out by political diktat.
          Tricia

          Reply
          • But neither should you feel superior to those who, for whatever reason, are unable to, or have chosen not to have children. Parenting is a responsibility and a privilege – it does not make one a superior being.

      • I’m afraid that I have to agree with you, Tricia. The purpose of introducing gay marriage was not to allow gay couples to be together in a way that would be acceptable to God. Society no longer recognises any need to do what is acceptable to God. Some naive Christians have gone along with gay marriage, but they would be considered “useful idiots” by those pursuing a secular agenda.

        And this is definitely a case where we need to talk about the thin end of the wedge. As you say, there are attacks on multiple fronts. The advance of the transgender movement is a particularly disturbing development. My perspective on this has been influenced by my online interactions with atheists. What becomes apparent in such interactions is how utterly determined these people are to undermine Christianity. Basically, there is a war going on and our opponents will use every weapon at their disposal.

        Reply
    • Paul was an itinerant preacher. He had no authority to establish any kind of marriage and the idea of Christian marriage didn’t exist for centuries.
      Similarly, it’s extremely unlikely that Paul would have known what a gay person was.

      Reply
      • So what did Paul think a man should do if he felt an attraction to another man? Answer: the desire should be resisted. Paul would never have considered what arrangements might be made whereby two men could have a sexual relationship.

        You can try to argue that Paul didn’t know what we know now. That Paul had no idea of a homosexual orientation (although I believe that Robert Gagnon has disputed this). But that won’t work. We can’t imagine Paul believing that sex between two men is sinful and then changing his mind when he “discovers” that homosexuality is an orientation. If the case for gay marriage rests on such an implausible scenario then it has no credibility.

        Why not be honest? You’re just not that concerned about the biblical basis for morality. Modern society has decided that it’s OK to be gay and that is good enough for you.

        Reply
        • Apparently, it’s shameful to criticise St Helen’s. But it’s quite all right to insult my intelligence, my faith, my hermeneutic, my scholarship, my biblical exegesis, my experience.
          By all means, disagree with reading of scripture, my understanding of tradition, my experience of God’s love (that is why we’re discussing LLF), but please try to refrain from traducing my considered, prayerful, Christian views.
          Why not be honest David and admit that you don’t have a clue about history, hermeneutics, nuance and theology?

          Reply
          • The impression I get from you, Penelope, is of someone who is straining every sinew to make Christianity conform to the spirit of the age. It’s as simple as that.

          • David M

            Well, as I have suggested before, your impression is mistaken. If the spirit of the age is sexual license (I am not so sure about this, but you, Tricia and Christopher seem convinced), then, as I keep reminding people, Christian marriage is a conservative and traditionalist institution. It is surprising that gay people desire such an institution, but some Christians do desire Sacramental marriage and who are we to deny them God’s grace?

          • Penelope, sexual licence is part of the spirit of the age but there is more to it than that. If you could sum it up you might say that it is the age in which man takes command – with apologies for using the word “man”. Now, no Christian could consciously assent to this, so there is a mystery here. But the facts can hardly be denied. What else would you call it when people can (supposedly) decide their own gender? This is the ultimate case of the human taking control.

            You say it is surprising that gay people would desire marriage. Can you expand on that? It suggests that marriage is not actually a natural state for gay people.

          • Penelope, I agree that there is a pattern of your trying to make Christianity conform to the spirit of the age when in its essence and origin it offered something highly counter cultural. This may well be because very many people are socially incapable of standing against the flow and the crowd, however bad those flow and crowd be.

            However I do not, as you say, think the spirit of this age is sexual licence. That is human nature if unrestrained in any age, and is not specific to this age at all. The (or rather a) spirit of this age is the lack of social restraint upon sexual licence.

          • Ok David, I think you are staggeringly rude, but I’ll do my best.

            I agree that we live in an age of individualism. Which has negative as well as some positive aspects. It is a child of the secular Enlightenment and neoliberalism. But it is also a child of certain strands of Protestantism, originating from Augustine, or, rather, from mediaeval augustinianism.
            It certainly drives some selfish desires, which we see in the decay of politics and disaster capitalism.

            I do not believe that it informs what you would call ‘transgender ideology’. Talk to trans people. They do not decide which gender they want to be; they know which gender they are.

            I am somewhat surprised that gay people want to get married (especially secular gays), not because it is not a ‘natural’ state, but because it is an inherently patriarchal, compromised institution. I did think, at one time, that gay people might want to create a contract that was less troubled and more pristine. Some gay people (Munoz, for example) would still argue that gays wanting marriage are assimilationist and inauthentic.
            Anyway, I was very wrong. Perhaps I assumed that all gay people were radical – maybe revolutionary – when, of course, many are deeply conservative and traditional. Not all gay people desire marriage, but many do. I suppose that, like many straight people, myself included, they see marriage as a state which transcends its historical abuses. As a friend puts it, gays do not want to drink from a separate water fountain.

          • So marriage is an “inherently patriarchal, compromised institution”. The use of the word “inherently” is interesting. When we say that something is inherently wrong, we mean that the designer is at fault. If we say that something is inherently wrong with a car, for example, we don’t mean that it has recently been damaged in an accident. No, the design is faulty.

            That is unfortunate because in this case the designer is God himself. You object to my questioning your faith (and I do apologise for any offence caused), but your comments often given me a very uneasy feeling.

          • David

            Whatever God’s intention for marriage, and I am unconvinced that it is a creation ordinance, marriage has been, throughout millennia, an institution created and regulated by the state and, more recently, by the Church. It has never been (until, arguably, very recently) a contract between equals with equal rights and responsibilities.
            If God intended marriage as a relationship of equity and mutuality it is ironic that we have only just achieved this (in the West) and in largely secular societies.

          • How can marriage be counter cultural when it is and has long been the most popular of the available options?

  24. To Andrew Godsall
    As there does not seem to be a reply option
    I do not make myself superior to any woman who has been unable to conceive and I admire any woman who becomes an adoptive mother. The natural function of the marriage between one man and one woman is procreation.
    What I object to is the hijacking of language and I defend the right of every child to know their mother and their father.

    Reply
      • I’m still puzzled by the “parent’s evening” remark you have made twice. Perhaps a dull Bank Holiday has made me dull, witted today.

        I can’t see how it rebutts Tricias protest. I’ve never heard them called “Father’s and Mother’s Evenings”… Too clumsy and not inclusive enough ….

        “Procreator’s and Guardian’s evening” fits but does not run off the tongue easily… and still a nightmare for inverted comma placement…

        Reply
        • Puzzle not. I was pointing out tha gender neutral terms have been used for centuries before The Daily Mail/Spiked/The Spectator* started trolling Manchester University and the NHS.

          *delete as appropriate

          Reply
          • Thank you..

            But I think you have just made Tricia’s point for her. There hasn’t ever (?) been an alternative term so it was never a gender-neutralising change. It’s a practical collective word not a gender description or implication.

  25. A question for David M., Tricia, Christopher, and others.
    Did you read Acts 8 on Sunday?

    An African eunuch requests baptism (Philip does not offer this) and is baptised on the spot. He does not have to demonstrate his faith or his correct beliefs, he simply receives God’s grace through the Sacrament. A queer black man is incorporated into the Body of Christ. Philip is an enabler, not a gatekeeper.

    Be more Philip.

    Reply
    • According to your lights, surely that is mere myth!!! Nothing to build your dogma, doctrine on!!! It carries no authority!!!
      A clear demonstration of the infallible hermeneutic of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.

      Reply
    • Penny – what a strange question.

      (1) The only reason we would need to do that would be if we were unfamiliar with the Story of the Ethiopian eunuch. Do we strike you as the sort of people that are unfamiliar with the story of the Ethiopian eunuch?

      (2) The word Sacrament is nowhere near this passage.

      (3) Nor is it clear whether the greater or more fundamental change happened when he believed or when he was baptised or a bit of both. He clearly believed (pisteuo) so how did he not demonstrate his faith (pistis)?

      (4) What do you mean by queer? This is another weasel word like ‘trans’ that deliberately lumps together diverse categories so as to conform them all to the most extreme among them. He was castrated so as to serve the queen safely. What has that in common with being homosexual? Are the homosexual men you know castrated?

      (5) Why do you mention (irrelevantly) that he was so-called ‘black’? Because that is the cool colour. What a shame it would have been if he had been so-called ‘white’. The Bible knows nothing of cool, nor do mature people today.

      (6) Philip was clearly the sort of person who elevated queer and elevated black (?!) . He was a bit like the woke people of today. Thanks for your command to us underlings to be more like such a man.

      Reply
      • 1) you strike me as the sort of people who might be unfamiliar with this hermeneutic

        2) baptism is a dominical sacrament

        3) where did I write that the Ethiopan enuch was a homosexual?

        4) in the light of ‘Lament to Action’ and the way Jarel Robinson was treated, t is very relevant that the eunuch was black

        5) Philip didn’t elevate anyone, he simply understood the gospel of radical grace. I think he was woke. Which is a good thing to be.

        Reply
        • (1) It is hard to be unfamiliar with something one spends a lot of time opposing, since in order to oppose it you’d already have to know it existed. But an entire hermeneutic that focuses on peripheral issues that don’t even arise in most passages is a special-interest bias. Any candidate for the title of overarching hermeneutic has to be general enough to have relevance to all passages.

          (2) No it isn’t in biblical interpretation, because then a foreign concept is being imported. It has later been classified as such, you mean.

          (3) You called him queer, and thus lumped him in with homosexuals who often embrace such a designation, without his needing to be one. Imposing an alien modern way of looking at things, and so obscuring the first century reality.

          (4) One can and should lament, as he certainly does, a father’s abandonment, from which avowedly unhealed wound much else can follow.

          (5) Yes. Philip was woke. And yes. Woke is good. I wrote a section on his supernatural travel and I’m sure I made that penetrating point there.

          Reply
  26. *You people.*
    There have have it, woke superiority in dissmissiveness, and superior hermeneutic.
    High handed hand wafting away that maybe endemic in liberal CoE.
    Yet again using well known churchianity speak of *radical grace* without definition or content, nor any consideration that Christ is a fulfillment of OT scripture that calls for a radical repentance and baptism. An adult believers baptism.

    Reply
  27. Geoff
    The gospel of radical grace is right there in Acts 8. Have you read it?

    Adult believers baptism is, of course, not Anglican theology. And it makes mere humans gatekeepers of the sacraments.

    Reply
    • Have you read the passage? What was the context, within the overall context of Acts, with Christian conversions. and spread of the radical, specific Good News of Christ.
      Was it an adult believer’s baptism or not? regardless of the CoE view of sacremental baptism.
      Again please define *radical grace*. There is no such without conversion to Christ. And Isaiah being fulfilled in Christ.
      And we’ve been here before on the question of baptism, at some length on Ian’s blog.
      It has nothing to do with * jiggery – wokism*.

      Reply
  28. Andrew Godsall,
    This may to reheat old comments of your of yours above, which in my slowness have just come across.
    You cite a specific encounter with Jesus, to make it of general application. More than that you use it to bolster your view of grace, without defining grace, nor separating common grace and saving grace; and maybe even to shore-up your universalism.
    But parking that for a while you may have inadvertently raised a point that can be properly attached to the thief on the cross and that is *death bed conversions* from which a question can be asked: is there a risk that those you stress as being doctrinaire would neglect death bed conversions, as not being full-day doctrine conversions?
    I’d suggest the neglect would come from universalists.
    As PC1 above points out the contrast is to beade between the two thieves/rebels on the crosses.
    One turns to Jesus, recognises his kingdom is not of this world, hence his Kingliness. It would be hard to imagine that this was the first time he’d have heard about Jesu and (speculatively) may even have seen him in JerusalemYet one rebel remained rebellious to Christ, didn’t recognise him and rejected him.
    Christ Kingdom, is indeed radically, not of this world, though in it.
    Those who have been radically converted to Christ and his Lordship I’ve all areas of their lives, are more likely to look for death bed conversions and offer Christ as the Only way only truth only eternal life, to the dying than universalists. Didn’t a former bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, say he had no hope to offer the dying?
    I’ve had the privilege of being present at two such conversions and joyful and peaceful they were.

    Reply
  29. My goodness, the comments have deteriorated.

    Can I suggest that a suitable example of why we need something like LLF is that without a structure to direct and channel our discussions THIS is what we end up with? It doesn’t make anyone look good, and reflects badly on all parties in this conversation.

    Reply
    • Thanks Matt–I entirely agree. I really don’t know why the parties here put so much energy into this tit-for-tat, which gets no-one anywhere, and (as David Runcorn rightly points out) has the potential to do much collateral damage.

      Reply
    • A reflection: perhaps the only difference between the extreme liberal and the extreme conservative positions is in where, and how, they draw their firm line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. As a result, they become a kind of mirror image of one another: being offended by the other and causing offence in return.

      I agree… we need something like LLF. How can we engage well?

      Reply
      • “Engage well” intructions only encourages both sides to think that the other side is being strategic. I find these conversations quite tame so when anyone claims offense (especially on behalf of others) I tend to think they are grandstanding – but even saying that will be viewed by some as an antagonistic tactic.

        Reply
  30. While I agree that the comments, including mine, may have trespassed into the immoderate, they do reveal where the deep fault lines lie.
    And I think that Tricia’s comments on the reality of the process carriesc a heft to it that can not be merely disregarded.
    The idea that it can be approached as a discussion forum without structure bears no relation to reality or even to those who would seek to facilitate.
    To have an effective input is to come fully prepared and to contribute without fear or favour ( that can place a great restriction on people who are concerned about making their views known; to know a realise when LLF isn’t being discussed in an even handed way, such as experienced by Tricia even while Daniel has had some experience of counter-balance, for which he is appreciative.
    Having, as an independent advocate, facilitated an inpatient mental health service users forum, where it was crucial to ensure anonymity of users comments(which were circulated to ward managers and professionals) I’m only too aware of how important it is to encourage free rein comments. I’m also only too aware to of how public consultations in public services are conducted and what passes as a listening process.

    Reply
    • And I have far more respect for Penelope and Andrew Godsall and their unflagging prosecution of views, if not their method, than I have for those whose views are hidden undercover of seeming dispassionate, indifferent, balance. I thank them both for being open, putting their cards on the table even though we couldn’t be much further apart on core, irreducible, Christianity; on principled disagreement. Neither cohort will be convinced by the other.
      But this extends far beyond any individual commentators are concerned: what is critical is the core unnegotiable (and unique) Christian beliefs, doctrine, of the CoE and those held by the hierarchy.
      (And here I’m probably with Penelope in that it seems like the ship of state church, has already sailed, but not in the manner depicted, but, without fixed compass points to navigate, from the slip-way of a material, anti-supernatural, world view onto the sea of faith of Donald Cupitt and philosophical underpinnings. Though the launch was attended in earlier times, eras prior to Cupitt it is scuttling itself, as Richard Dawkins is discovering, thrown overboard by the newly trained, new crew.)
      At its base our disputations reveals our ultimate, first- order loves, in what, who and why we spend time and energy to defend. Again ultimately, is exposes which God we worship and how he makes himself known.
      These are not times for icicles of indifference. As Gordon Fee has said, there is a need, not for scholars on ice nor fools on fire, but for scholars on fire.
      Neither should disagreement enjoin schadenfreude

      Reply
      • Geoff, I agree with you about the importance of core beliefs. As you say, we have been heading for some time towards a worldview that rejects the supernatural. Was it Bultmann who said that we can’t use electric lighting and still believe in miracles? That sums it up. We need to stand firm on this. If we abandon miracles we are abandoning Christianity, since Christianity stripped of miracles is no longer worthy of the name.

        Reply
        • David,
          Although not classed as such, is not Christian conversion, salvation both an objective and subjective supernatural miracle, intervention into the God created *natural* order?

          Reply
          • It is indeed a miracle, Geoff. If something happens that would not have happened without God’s intervention then it is a miracle. If you feel peace of mind and you would not have felt that unless God made you feel it then a miracle has occurred. With this kind of miracle a sceptic can accept the facts as reported (you really did feel peace of mind) while denying that a miracle has occurred. In the case of the Resurrection, for example, a sceptic must deny the facts as reported.

          • If something happens that would not have happened without God’s intervention then it is a miracle

            That can’t be true, because if it were true, then everything would be a miracle, because nothing happens without God’s intervention — indeed, without God’s intervention, nothing would exist at all.

          • Everything happens because the world is held in existence by God but some things can be regarded as “interventions” because God has changed what would otherwise have been the normal course of events. Some interventions will be obvious, like the Resurrection, but others will not be so obvious. A recovery from illness may be the kind of thing that can happen naturally but in a particular case God can make it happen when it would not otherwise have done so.

          • A recovery from illness may be the kind of thing that can happen naturally but in a particular case God can make it happen when it would not otherwise have done so.

            It’s that ‘would not otherwise have done so’ that gets me. There is no ‘otherwise’ than things God makes happen; or rather, the ‘otherwise’ from God making things happen is nothing, non-existence.

            You seem to be operating from a kind of semi-Deist conception of creation where God spun up a clockwork universe that operates independently from Himself, carrying on along its mechanistic track unless and until God reaches in and tweaks the mechanism.

            But this is not the orthodox Christian view: it is, as I say, closer to Deism). The world has rules that God set up for it, which we perceive as the natural laws of physics; and sometimes, God suspends those rules (or, more usually, causes them to operate faster, or in other circumstances, or skipping stages, than they would do otherwise: miracles in the Bible are rarely of the ‘turning bread into stone’ type you find in Paganism, but tend to be things like water turning into wine (which is something water does naturally, the miracle is just it happening without the normal stage of going through grapes); or the multiplication of fish, which again, is something fish do naturally, just not normally so fast), and those we call ‘miracles’.

            But your mistake is implying that the miracles are where God intervened, and the normal operation of the laws of physics are where God has not intervened. No. God is just as much present in, and the cause of, the sustained normal operation of the laws of physics as He is on those occasions when he suspends that normal operation and causes something to happen that is outside those laws of physics.

            Miracles involve God operating in the world in a different way to usual; but they do not involve God operating in a world which would have gone differently had He not operated. God is always operating in the world (or it wouldn’t exist at all), though the normal laws of physics just as much as through miracles.

          • “God is just as much present in, and the cause of, the sustained normal operation of the laws of physics as He is on those occasions when he suspends that normal operation and causes something to happen that is outside those laws of physics.”

            Agreed.

            “But your mistake is implying that the miracles are where God intervened, and the normal operation of the laws of physics are where God has not intervened.”

            Notice that I put the word “intervention” in quotes. I was aware of the risk of sounding like a semi-deist. In spite of that risk it is useful to speak of intervention. It would be hard to talk about miracles without talking about God’s “intervention”. When Jesus walked on water, that was clearly an intervention.

            What about a different kind of miracle? Suppose someone has a 10% chance of recovering from an illness. The person’s family pray for him and he does recover. Was it a miracle? It could be that the person would have recovered even if there had been no prayers. But what if the prayers had an influence? In that case something has happened which would not otherwise have happened. There has been an intervention. I don’t restrict the word “miracle” to those cases where there has been an apparent suspension of the laws of physics.

            In fact, even in cases where there has been an apparent suspension of the laws of physics, it can in theory be argued that this hasn’t happened. Take the example of walking on water. That is actually physically possible. It is just that the probability of such an event is so infinitesimally small that we could never reasonably expect to observe it.

          • Suppose someone has a 10% chance of recovering from an illness. The person’s family pray for him and he does recover. Was it a miracle? It could be that the person would have recovered even if there had been no prayers. But what if the prayers had an influence? In that case something has happened which would not otherwise have happened. There has been an intervention.

            Yes, but it wasn’t God intervening, it was the prayers (that’s pray-ers, the people who prayed).

            Imagine I get in my car and set off to drive to Edinburgh. While I am on the way, I receive a telephone call and answer it (on my hands-free kit, being a law-abiding sort). It’s a friend who lives in Glasgow, who has encountered a problem and wonders if I could pop by to help. I say yes, and at the next exit I change roads to head to my new destination.

            Has an intervention occurred? Well, yes. the car has ended up in a different place to where it otherwise would have, had I not been called. But did I ‘intervene’ to change the car’s destination, causing it to go to Glasgow instead of Edinburgh? Clearly not, because the car wouldn’t have been going anywhere unless I was at the wheel.

            To say I ‘intervened’ to make the car go to Glasgow implies that the car was of its own accord happily trundling along to Edinburgh before I grabbed the wheel to divert it to Glasgow. But this is not the case. I was actively and totally involved in it going to Edinburgh, just as much as I was actively and totally involved in it going to Glasgow.

            I am responsible for the car getting to Glasgow; I would have been just as responsible for it getting to Edinburgh. The intervention was the telephone call, which caused me to change my plans (of course, I was under no obligation to accede to my friend’s request, just like God is under no obligation to do as we ask when we pray)

            Similarly God is ‘driving’ the ‘car’ that is the universe. If God weren’t in the driving seat the universe would simply not exist at all. So the fact the universe ends up in one state (the person recovers) rather than another is not because of God’s ‘intervention’.

            It may be that we agree on the facts, and our only difference is one of emphasis. Or we may disagree on the facts. I’m not sure yet.

          • If you are objecting to talk about “intervention” in general, I can see your point. God is not “intervening” in something over which He doesn’t have complete control. If you like, we can forbid the use of the word completely. So we don’t use it to talk about the example of walking on water or to talk about the recovery from illness. Fair enough. I think the ban would be difficult to police, however. Especially for those who are less in tune with Aquinas.

  31. Ian

    I agree. When people write about *jiggery-wokism* and describe contraception as “yucky” I think we have moved a long way from respectful and adult discussion.

    I don’t know whether I agree about collateral damage. Many people who comment here would no doubt engage in LLF with integrity and compassion. Others, I fear, not so much.
    Some appear to believe that LLF is a Trojan horse. Not much hope for their commitment to the process. And, if people are to behave in such a rude and ungracious manner, I could not recommend that vulnerable gay and trans people take part in the process. Picking over their lives with repulsion and disdain shews nothing of Christ.

    That, I promise, is my last word on this thread.

    Reply
    • In debate people say what they believe on the basis of evidence. I do think LLF is to some extent a Trojan horse, and if I said I thought it was not, I would be lying; and lying is of course not an option. The extent to which it is not a Trojan horse is the extent to which it is a resource or sourcebook, which is all to the good. The extent to which it is resides in the very important matters it omits or de-emphasises (together with, as has been said, a certain sense that all voices ought to continue to be heard, the less informed as much as the well informed, the potentially mendacious – and this is always at least a *possibility*: that cannot be denied – as much as the painstakingly honest).

      All who do think it is to any extent a Trojan horse should be assured firstly that no-one can tell them what to think, because they will continue to think what they do honestly think. One cannot alter what one thinks. Also thinking it is not is not in any way a more acceptable or respectable option. The best option is whichever has the evidence behind it.

      Reply
  32. Hello Daniel,
    What I find astonishing is how mainstream Christianity of only a decade or so ago, can now be uttered in the same breath and even equated to an extremely conservative position.
    And I suppose theological, biblical consideration of spiritual warfare is out of the question as classed as of extreme conservatism, not for polite conversation.
    It may be pertinent that there has recently been an anniversary of the publication of the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis.
    Do I get offended in all this? Not personally.
    But what is becoming increasingly apparent to me is the removal of trust, and question of trust and the Church being, in effect, the depository of the truth.

    Christopher Shell and William Fisher in one of the previous articles on LLF referred to the strategy of the Frankfurt School and Gramscian strategy by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen’s * After the Ball : How America Will Conquer its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s.*
    “That Hideous Strength: How the West was Lost -the cancer of cultural marxism in the church and the world and the gospel of change” is a small book by Melvin Tinker that traces the strategy at play by progressive revisionists.
    And how does it apply where may it be seen in the CoE . I’d suggest that the CoE schools and Mermaids involvement is some evidence – the book draws out other threads.
    AND if we care to look at Sweden to compare it may be concluded that the CoE has embraced much with indecent haste.
    “Sweden has ended the practice of prescribing puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for children under 16. Hormonal intervention may only occur within research trials approved by Sweden’s Ethical Review Board.” Tweet from TransgenderTrend 7:53am 5th May,

    And Sweden is hardly the castle of extreme conservative evangelicalism.

    Reply
    • Hi Geoff:

      Since you addresed this directly at me, a quick reply… I am not sure it is correct to point back to any particular era of Christianity and say “that’s when they did it right.” You might, for example, have objected to the mainstream Christianity during the time of the Spanish Inquisition? For different reasons, you might not agree with all that the Desert Fathers wrote. I do not think that mainstream Christianity of any era or location possessed the whole truth.

      Where you are correct is that we all use labels as a way to characterise and caricature a position or a group, and I have used “conservative” and “liberal” in that way. It is not usually a good idea to do this in heated debate, perhaps especially when lampooning both sides: I am sorry about that.

      I am not sure of your point re: Sweden. Speaking for myself only, I am also uncomfortable about making permanent decisions for transgender children, but these are delicate matters.

      Blessings,

      Daniel

      Reply
  33. Hello Daniel,
    It was addressed to you as a result of s comment of yours above
    A time or era was put on mainstream Christianity , a decade or so.
    It is also unhelpful if you use straw man examples : it is a continuation of the use of categorisation by use of extremes.

    But if you want to locate mainstream Christianity not in a time period but in succinct biblical theology, (as I would and mainstream Christianity does) it is in the Creeds. Creation of male and female in God’s image.
    The irreducible point is which God do we believe? That is crucial for church leadership.
    The main point about Sweden, and I could add the Keira Bell case, is that they are not basing the decisions on ideological philosophical activism (Mermaids and Stonewall were correctly prevented from intervening in Bell’s case) and are seeking to look at the evidence. And this can not be attributed to extreme conservative evangelicalism.

    Reply
    • Hi Geoff:

      OK, yes, I’m guilty of straw man examples! Less of a straw man example would be the emergence of the Charismatic movement in the 70s and 80s: I recall many people protesting that we should get back to traditional Christianity. Yet, the Charismatic renewal forced us to rethink the question of “which God?”, or more accurately “what is God like?”. With regards to sexuality, I am not at all convinced we had everything right those decades ago: I am not sure whether you’d count the stories of abuse within the church as a straw man, or as a particularly bad symptom of a wider culture. All was not well in the state of Denmark, as it were…

      Creeds are interesting. They emphasise some things, they get things wrong: they are largely products of controversies and how they were settled in their day. Two things not quite in the Nicene creed: (1) it completely skips the life of Christ, as all though all that matters is his birth, death and resurrection; (2) the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, reinforcing a hierarchy which at least needs reflecting upon – is it right?

      Blessings (and can we stop, please? Are we really still spoiling for an argument after all that has gone on above?)

      Daniel

      Reply
    • Geoff. ‘Straw man’ is a phrase you use quite often here to respond to views you disagree with. Daniel has been such a thoughtful and respectful contributor here. Is it really necessary or helpful to reply to his contributions using such a dismissive and disparaging phrase? Could you not simply say – I strongly disagree with you?

      Reply
      • Straw man is not another way of expressing disagreement. It is an indication that one particular logical error has been committed.

        Agreeing or disagreeing is meaningless unless one’s position is warranted. Passing the logical tests and avoiding fallacies is how we find out which positions *ought* to be agreed and disagreed with. It is of no value simply to *assert* that one disagrees. This could be nothing but the assertion of a mere preference.

        Reply
  34. Hello David,
    Is it really a disparaging phrase when extremes are used to place people into categories in a pejorative way.
    Daniel and I had an interesting civil and sensible exchange much earlier in the threads, and in that regard I certainly couldn’t say I disagree with him strongly, as I know only what he has written in the comments and as we discussed NT Wright.
    (Whose views on some of this topic of transgenderism, if I’m not mistaken, are that as a philosophy it has some roots in gnosticism. Is that discussed in LLF?)
    I can and do say I disagree strongly with you, Andrew Godsall and Penelope, but only in regard to what you and they have written and made known. And for that I have thanked them.
    For example I know next to nothing about your beliefs in the creeds, the Trinity, the knowability of God and how. So in that regard I can’t say I strongly disagree with you.
    An example my use of straw man maybe *jigggery workery.* But again without an agreed definition or understanding of *woke* in its particular use and context I can’t be certain. It maybe an exaggeration to make a point about, use or misuse of the term.

    Reply
    • Geoff. Thanks for responding. Straw man. ‘Is it really a disparaging phrase?’ Well, yes I think it is. That is its intention as a debating device. A ‘straw man’ argument has no actual substance – a semblance of content but containing none actually. A smoke screen. You have used it of my views more than once here and now of Daniel. This is much more than saying you disagree with another’s thoughtful, but mistaken viewpoint. You could just say that. Rather it mocks the opinion of another for containing no meaningful, intelligent content or substance. Geoff, I strongly disagree with what you write here at times. Indeed I would call some of your views extreme. But I would never describe them as ‘straw men’. May I beg you to use another phrase when you engage with those you disagree with.

      Reply
      • Straw man. ‘Is it really a disparaging phrase?’ Well, yes I think it is. That is its intention as a debating device. A ‘straw man’ argument has no actual substance – a semblance of content but containing none actually. A smoke screen.

        Um. No. You seem not to know what the phrase ‘straw man’ argument means. It’s not just, as you seem to think, a colourful way to say, ‘your argument has no substance’.

        It’s a phrase with a specific meaning: it means ‘this position you are providing counter-arguments to, is not actually a position anybody holds, and your counter-arguments do not work against the actual position’.

        See: https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/logicalfallacies/Strawman-Fallacy

        Reply
      • David,
        Which of my views on Christianity do you do consider to be extreme David? That are not orthodox?
        I’d be interested to know what you consider to be my extreme views.
        And I’d refer you to S’s comment and the linked article.
        What seems to be upsetting to you is even pointing out logical fallacies in any debate. To take offence rather than answering and substantiating the points is an entirely subjective way to close down debate, a fallacy in itself.
        It’s a poor place to inhabit when logic is to be banned.

        Reply
        • Geoff. You are illustrating the problem very well.
          ‘Straw man’ is a disparaging term. That is what it is meant to be! There are more constructive and respectful ways of debating across differences. That’s all.
          I do not wish to respond further thanks.

          Reply
          • ‘Straw man’ is a disparaging term. That is what it is meant to be!

            No, it’s not. Not at all. It’s meant to be a neutral term identifying a specific logical fallacy.

            It’s no more ‘disparaging’ than other such identifying phrases like ‘tu quoque‘, ‘begging the question’, ‘ad hominem‘, ‘genetic fallacy’, or ‘affirming the consequent’, among many others.

          • This to me David seems to be a hit and run comment.
            Fallacies are named not as means of disparagement otherwise there’d be *no true Scotsman*.
            I’d be obliged if, in demonstration of love, you’d do me the courtesy and honour of pointing out my extreme views.

          • ‘Straw man’ is a neutral designation of one particular fallacy among many.

            It is impossible for debate to take place without observing the rules of debate: namely to speak sense and avoid fallacies. That is the reason that logical fallacies have been carefully identified and enumerated. None of us has the right to ignore or bypass these principles.

  35. And would an absence of response be a demonstration of hierarchical, structural *power play* in the CoE? Perhaps, some evidence towards to the impossibility of a structure free and presuppositional free presentation and balance of LLF? And of views that facilitators may consider extreme and to carry little or no weight and are to be excluded? To which no welcome would be offered?
    And without giving any open expression to what may or may not be considered extreme?

    A thought experiment: someone, laity maybe, attends an LLF session at which David Runcorn is present (maybe a facilitator), and he/she expresses a view, puts forward a case, and DR openly states their views are extreme, without saying what they are, what would that engender?

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  36. Thought experiment continued:
    Not only that, but before the meeting DR has made it known that the laity (L) participant holds extreme views without specifying what they are. This, I’d suggests is contrary to and a breach of the rules of natural justice, at least in England and Wales. Some may conclude it’s not an endorsement of CoE and methods employed by some, nor confidence inspiring in the LLF process.

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    • It is a scandal that they simply say and do nothing – if indeed that is the case. Angela Williams is effectively viewed as archbishop or leader, as she will always be relied on to do something.

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        • Oh yes I think Andrea should def be Archbishop of Canterbury! It’s a shame she ruled herself out by making it plain that women can’t actually be ordained. Maybe you can persuade her to change her mind Christopher?

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          • Possibly – but you said she is effectively viewed as Archbishop or leader. I don’t think there is any *evidence* to support the view that she is a leader of the C of E actually, but as a matter of *fact* she can’t be archbishop.

          • The evidence is in the number of followers of her vision, and what evidence could be clearer than numerical evidence?

          • How about followers on Twitter? Would that be the numerical evidence you think is so clear? Andrea has 3,619 followers and the Archbishop of Canterbury has 163,100 followers.
            If not this, could you point me to the numerical evidence you are thinking of?

          • No, just reflecting what Christians agree on. Both historically and internationally. AW would reflect a consensus, whereas the C of E leadership vision if there is one is eccentric historically and internationally.

          • But Christopher what you said was “what evidence could be clearer than numerical evidence?”
            When pressed there is no numerical evidence, just generalised waffle.

          • Wokeism has very few Christian followers internationally or historically or at the present. Against which we have (among Christians) the whole lower two thirds of Africa, plus Christian South East Asia and the entire Catholic Church (a fifth of the world) and international pentecostalism, baptists, orthodox, anglicans officially, not to mention Islam and Hinduism who are what you would term conservative socially.

          • Christopher: that’s just non specific generalised subjective waffle. No evidence. No proper analysis.

          • Then let us use SSM as a barometer.

            Only a small minority of Christian groups, groups are either small, shrinking or both, have SSM.

            (SSM is something heavily identified with woke-ism, whereas by contrast it has virtually no presence in the entirety of church history).

            Why do you think all that is?

          • Christopher: none of that is to do with your claim about AW. You said you had numbers as evidence. You don’t. You just have various conservative causes that quite a few people – not just AW- follow.
            Quite extraordinary for someone who claims to be a scholar.

          • Proportions are numbers/numerical. It is one of those occasions when people don’t bother to count the raised hands since the discrepancy is so vast you just say ‘that’s carried’.

          • Great cop out! I’ll recall that, thank you very much!
            In the case therefore of the Roman Catholic Church and all that it stands for we must conclude “It is one of those occasions when people don’t bother to count the raised hands since the discrepancy is so vast you just say ‘that’s carried’.”

  37. I’d suggest that if the chaplain is unsupported by the CoE ABs and Bishops, silence could be seen as being complicit and the view he espouses becomes effectively removed, excluded, as an option in the LLF process.

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    • I agree Geoff. I have been told from my Diocese in response to my letter objecting to LLF that “unity” is the most important objective. “Peace, peace” when there is no peace!
      Tricia

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    • Two things to be clear about. It isn’t a sermon. And it has nothing to do with the LLF process.

      It’s a matter for the school governors, and the clergy person’s lawyer at this stage. It has nothing to do with the ‘C of E hierarchy’.

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