Is there an analogy between divorce-and-remarriage and same-sex marriage?


Ann Onymous writes: The journey to remarriage following a divorce is necessarily a painful one. Although it is now something of a trope (with increasing divorce rates and newspapers reporting on more and more celebrities and politicians who are on their third or fourth marriage) that marriage is beginning to be seen as something temporary, something small, something to be discarded, nevertheless it has not been my experience when meeting prospective marriage couples in my vicarage study to note any such nonchalance. Neither have I seen it, or felt it, in encounters with Christians who experience the trauma of divorce. Having lived through such a time myself, I know well the depths of pain and feeling which come from the reality of the marriage bond when it is broken. 

I can appreciate how this pain, and the associated joy which comes for those who move past it into healing and fulfilment, can be seen to be analogous to other forms of grief and contentment that accompany other forms of relational distress such as unrequited love, the death of a spouse—or as is commonly articulated, same sex marriage.

Only today I saw an article in a leading newspaper exploring the issues of justice in the willingness of the Church of England to remarry divorcees, but not to offer same sex marriage. I can see how the two issues might feel closely related. Both once illegal, both once a source of shame; both condemned by the church, both now almost universally accepted in the UK. 

But the issue is not whether or not the desires and longings experienced in these two experiences may evoke similar emotions, or follow similar trajectories in the popular imagination. The question is whether they are in fact analogous theologically and biblically, and my contention is that they are not. This is to say, that one may accept the remarriage of divorcees without accepting same sex marriage. Now, it might be that a Christian decides to accept neither, and there are huge numbers of Christians around the world who faithfully accept neither, but whether we accept or reject the remarriage of divorcees we do so on different grounds to our rejection of Same Sex Marriage.

There are four particular ways in which we see that the remarriage of divorcees and same sex marriage are not analogous.

  1. the biblical witness of the Old Testament
  2. the biblical witness of the New Testament
  3. The witness of Church History
  4. The witness of theology

First, the biblical witness of the Old Testament makes it clear that remarriage is at least possible, even if not ideal or intended, unlike same sex marriage. We see this, for example, in the laws in Deuteronomy 24:1-4:

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deut 24:1-4 NIV)

The purpose of citing this text is not to ascertain exactly what our theology of marriage and divorce should be, but to understand properly the materials with which we construct a biblical theology of marriage. Theology is not concerned only with what the Bible says in specific text, such as in this passage (since we don’t believe in crude proof-texting), but with what the Bible teaches across all of its pages.

With a wider lens we see the remarriage of divorcees, both male and female. We note that that neither divorce nor remarriage are held to be impossible. It is not the case with same sex marriage: search as we might, we will find no account of marriage outside of the union of male and female. Marriage in the Old Testament is the reconstitution of the fulness of humanity in its two aspects, male and female, separated at creation and reunited in the act of procreation. All other forms of sexual union are here condemned. 

We are not attempting to construct a strictly Old Testament sexual ethic, but we must take seriously the patterns and trajectory of what both testaments teach. In the Old Testament we see something that is in many ways looser in terms of remarriage and divorce, but we see no provision for same-sex sexual relationships.


Secondly, ‘but what about the teaching of Jesus?’, as we explore the witness of the New Testament. Being an Anglican minister, I rejoice in much of the inheritance of the Western, Latin, Church—the soil in which Anglicanism grew. Part of the tradition has been a desire to take Jesus’ words in Mark chapter 10 very seriously. This has led to a prima facie rejection of both divorce and remarriage in the our part of Christendom; we will return to other parts of Christendom later but first we must address the text.

The best way to read the Bible is with the Bible, and accordingly, we read in search of a coherence. This means we must read:

He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12 NIV)

in such a way that it coheres with the much softer (albeit not as soft as Deuteronomy) reading in that we find in Matthew:

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:3-9

The effect is this: to see divorce as something not to be taken lightly, nor to be understood as something that God intended, as it detracts from the creation ordinance of marriage. The fullness of the New Testament teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, is one which is deeply wary of divorce—but it is so on the grounds of the creation principles of male and female marriage ordained for the purpose of procreation. 

We must not accept that to endorse remarriage after divorce is to throw away Jesus words in Mark, but rather to read them in harmony with his words in Matthew; and crucially, whether we accept the remarriage of divorcees or not, we do so in light of the appeal to creation, which rules out any possibility of same sex marriage. 

(For amore detailed reading of these texts, locating them in their cultural and religious context within the debates between the schools of Hillel and Shammai on ‘any reason’ divorce, see this article published previously. Also note that, in the ancient world, ‘divorce’ always assume the right to remarry.)


Thirdly, we have looked briefly at the understanding of the Latin West which prohibited divorce and remarriage—albeit on different grounds to the prohibition on same-sex sexual activity; it is worth noting the divergence among theologians and churches across Christendom as we look at the witness of church history. Certainly much of the tradition has condemned remarriage as gravely sinful (this is inescapable), and yet even where it is condemned there is a sense of the reality or necessity of the new nuptial union: 

Concerning those young men who are Christians who apprehend their wives in adultery and are forbidden to marry, we decree that, as far as it is possible, counsel be given them not to take other wives while their own, though guilty of adultery, are still living. (Consilium Aralatense I, c. 10, The History of the Indissolubility of Marriage, p. 289)

Phrases like “as far as it is possible” and “counsel” here denote an approach which is very strong, but not absolute. Likewise, even the injunction “not to take other wives” recognises the reality of the new nuptial bond. No such acknowledgement exists in the tradition for anything like Same Sex Marriage.

Furthermore, in their own reading of the tradition, churches of the East (and to a lesser extent Oriental Orthodox Churches) have always permitted (perhaps only tolerating) remarriage after divorce in certain cases. At the time of the Reformation, there was a recalibration, reading the tradition in light of the scriptures more robustly. Luther, for example, finds no compulsion for the innocent party in a divorce to remain unmarried. Calvin, in his commentary on Matthew goes further:

And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced. This clause has been very ill explained by many commentators; for they have thought that generally, and without exception, celibacy is enjoined in all cases when a divorce has taken place; and, therefore, if a husband should put away an adulteress, both would be laid under the necessity of remaining unmarried. As if this liberty of divorce meant only not to lie with his wife; and as if Christ did not evidently grant permission in this case to do what the Jews were wont indiscriminately to do at their pleasure. It was therefore a gross error; for, though Christ condemns as an adulterer the man who shall marry a wife that has been divorced, this is undoubtedly restricted to unlawful and frivolous divorces.

Again, there is no parallel to same sex marriage here. Calvin robustly defends the inherited tradition, that merely presenting a bill of divorce does not dissolve a marriage—but he goes further than others by saying, nevertheless, should a marriage truly be dissolved, the innocent party is free to remarry. Calvin does not give us room to draw an analogy between this and provision to marry for two people who could never have married. 


Finally, having reviewed the biblical witness across the two testaments, and the witness of the church across the world and the ages, we turn now to the theology of marriage which gives rise to no analogy between the remarriage of divorcees and same sex marriage. To summarize the theology of marriage, as an Anglican, it is good to begin with the Book of Common Prayer, there we are taught why marriage was ordained:

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

It is plain that a second heterosexual marriage is capable of fulfilling this cause in a way that no same sex Marriage can. (Note that this is the normal expectation, and does not need to prohibit marriage between those found unable to have children medically, or those past the age of child-bearing.) If marriage is about procreation, which it must be, then a second marriage has no correspondence in same sex marriage. To argue for the latter, one may not appeal to the former. Instead, one must say that marriage is not in any fundamental way about procreation. Yet this runs contrary to the words of Jesus that we have already seen, which point back to creation of the human sexual dimorphism, by the separation of Adam and Eve which separation is partially undone as men and women are joined in sexual union. 

Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.

A good deal of the tradition has argued that a second marriage is in fact fornication, and so in this way a remarriage cannot fulfil this, and yet as we have seen, some in the tradition say that it is exactly because of the lack of continence that remarriages must be allowed in certain circumstances. However, whenever the scripture (and indeed the tradition) speak of same sex sexual activity it is condemned. No provision is given, no remedy for it to be done in such-and-such a context to transform it from something which is condemned, to something that is celebrated. Marriage is the context for heterosexual sex to be holy, and no such context exists for same-sex sex, underlining that there can be no analogy between remarriage and same sex marriage.


A second marriage, following a divorce, may indeed share all the traits of a first marriage, whilst a same sex marriage shares few. A second marriage is analogous to a first marriage—indeed by the death of the first spouse, the second marriage may be regularised even for those who have reservations. But for same sex marriage no such regularisation is possible; the elements of the marriage (a man and a woman) are not present, and the primary causes for which marriage was instituted are not fulfilled.

We have seen that in the biblical witness of the Old Testament, the biblical witness of the New Testament, the witness of Church history, and in the witness of theology we can understand, tolerate, or even endorse the remarriage of divorcees. But what we cannot do is find an analogy between an abandoned or abused spouse marrying again and two people of the same sex marrying. In the scripture, in the history of interpretation, and in the theology that we hold, these are two different subjects which must be treated separately.

If we do have occasion to view them together, it is to highlight the total difference between the two.


Ann Onymous is ordained and in Anglican pastoral ministry. She writes under a pseudonym for personal and pastoral reasons.


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382 thoughts on “Is there an analogy between divorce-and-remarriage and same-sex marriage?”

  1. Remarriage via divorce is only allowed on the death of a spouse or after spousal adultery as both the Old Testament and Christ’s teachings confirm. Yet since Synod has approved remarriage of divorcees on a conscience basis we know many Vicars regularly remarry couples even where neither of those conditions apply.

    So to say it was wrong of Synod to approve mere blessings, not even marriages, of homosexual couples on an experimental basis when the C of E already remarries divorced heterosexual couples in a wide range of circumstances is absurd.

    There is some logic in the Roman Catholic Church and some Baptist and evangelical churches refusing to marry or bless either most divorced or homosexual couples on biblical grounds. There is no biblical basis for the established church marrying divorcees but not even blessing homosexual couples married in English law

    Reply
    • T1, such a high proportion of your posts consist in asserting that two wrongs make a right, you could at least say where you stand on that point. That two wrongs don’t make a right is one of the most obvious principles that discourse is based on. You seem to be arguing from norms in one particular limited society and age, which happens to be the one you know about, but when it comes to norms it is obvious that some norms are good and others are bad.

      Reply
    • It is, however, revealing what a very poor quality of argumentation one sees from that side of the debate. If they not only rely on a faulty principle like that, but then also ignore challenges to it.

      Reply
    • “There is no biblical basis for the established church marrying divorcees but not even blessing homosexual couples married in English law.”

      It is not the least bit clear to me that because clergy are permitted do one thing which has no biblical basis it follows that clergy should be able to do other things which have no biblical basis.

      There is a fundamental difference between remarriage following divorce for a man and woman and single-sex marriage. The marriage of a man and woman is a fundamental good, and the proper place for sexual activity. The issue of remarriage following divorce relates not to the state itself, but the route to that state. The Christian Gospel is about repentance, forgiveness and redemption. In contrast, the biblical view of two people of the same sex in a sexual relationship is that this is bad – an abomination.

      Reply
      • Jesus never mentioned same sex unions being an abomination, he did mention divorce absent sexual immorality on the party of the spouse being wrong and unChristian

        Reply
        • Yes – all the more reason why we should not be doing it. You have proven the point.
          Can I have a direct answer to this. Which is a higher authority – Jesus the head of the church, or (part of) one random denomination?

          Reply
      • It isn’t, Jesus only allowed divorce in cases of adultery. Yet there are plenty of remarriages, not merely just blessings, of divorced couples performed by Vicars in the C of E today even where no spousal adultery was involved

        Reply
    • T1

      “Some Baptist and evangelical churches”

      The number of churches which don’t do remarriage has (anecdotally) diminished in my lifetime.

      In recent years I’ve been to weddings of divorced people in an evangelical church and a Baptist church

      Reply
        • T1

          I was referring to churches in the UK.

          People in the US, even Christians, are much less likely to have a church wedding. Partly I’m sure that’s because marriages can be officiated by anyone and be anywhere

          Reply
    • The guidance given to clergy re. remarrying divorcee(s) is to spend considerable time with them exploring whether a wedding service is appropriate or rather a service of prayer and dedication after a civil marriage (SOPADACM – as Charles and Camilla had). The enquirer(s) may be less than candid (or even outright lie) about the circumstances of their divorce(s), but if the priest is reasonably certain that (a) the relationship/ prospective marriage was the direct cause of the divorce(s) or that (b) either party deliberately divorced their spouse(s) in order to be free to marry someone else, than s/he is instructed to offer a SOPADACM (and thereby refuse a wedding). This is consistent with biblical teaching and the church’s doctrine of marriage whilst remaining pastorally sensitive and welcoming.
      The established church does not (in its official teaching & guidance) “[re-]marry divorcees” willy-nilly.

      Reply
      • Remarriage is left to the priests individual assessment, as blessings used to be. Now we have a de facto ban on blessing gay people. We have moved backwards, not forwards.

        Reply
  2. If a Muslim who had been married and later divorced in accordance with Islamic law, subsequently converted to the C of E, there are vicars who would not allow that person to marry in church, on the grounds that they are “divorced.” Of course in Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy there would be no problem about a church wedding in these circs because it is well known in those communions that Sharia does not envisage vows before God of lifelong indissoluble commitment and therefore can never amount to holy matrimony in the Christian sense. For such a person, finding a church to marry in can turn into a postcode lottery depending on the pastoral opinions of the vicar. Surely it is better to have clearly-defined rules about these things rather than this “pastoral” stuff? we all know how much nonsense and vindictive personal abuse can be wheeled in under that rubric.

    One of the great things about LLF is highlighting the crucial distinction between ordinary marriage and holy matrimony. Muddling these two makes it harder for Christians to hold themselves and others to the higher standard that holy matrimony requires.

    Reply
    • There is a de facto definition of marriage in Genesis 2: it must be Public, Intimate, have at least the intention of Permanence, and be Exclusive between man and woman. (Handy acronym: PIPE). Anything else is not marriage in God’s eyes.

      Reply
      • But it’s also implied to be between ONE man and ONE woman – yet in the OT several man have more than one wife, eg Jacob. This may not be ideal, but there’s no suggestion in the text that it wasn’t marriage.

        Reply
        • Implied does not mean stated. Monogamy is what God wants, but man does not often obey God, who tolerates polygamy although not a good word is found about it in Old or New Testaments. You can see Paul be more explicit to Christians in 1 Cor 7:2.

          Reply
          • “Tolerates polygamy”

            Is that why Boris was allowed to marry in the RCC and evangelical churches in the US back womanizer Trump over clean living Biden?

          • Boris was allowed to marry in the RC Westminster Cathedral as his first 2 marriages were Anglican or civil and the RC church only considers RC marriages genuine

          • T1

            But nobody really believes that excuse.

            The truth is that religious institutions use provision or exclusion from marriage as a lever to make themselves more influential. They don’t actually care about morality

          • My views are perfectly clear in my long post below and I don’t mind repeating them. The State may consider married whomever it chooses. The church should not conduct the marriage of persons having a living former spouse.

    • >>Of course in Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy there would be no problem about a church wedding in these circs …. <<

      Actually, in the Catholic Church such a marriage would be viewed as valid in the same way a civil marriage between non-Catholics would be. It would be seen as a valid "natural marriage" provided both intended it to be faithful, lifelong and open to children.

      Reply
    • I did not have the opportunity to participate in the LLF discussions. I recently obtained the book, although it is still on my unread book pile. However, I cannot find ‘Holy Matrimony’ in the index. Can you point me to where there is discussion about the difference between holy matrimony and ordinary marriage?

      Particularly, can you point me to how these are distinguished in the Scriptures? When Jesus is discussing the nature of marriage and divorce, is this in relation to holy matrimony or ‘ordinary’ marriage?

      Reply
      • Hi David,

        The concept of holy matrimony developed in the middle ages when the Roman Catholic Church took control of marriage

        Before that it was, surely correctly, considered a creation ordinance, determined by the two families involved – and no more holy than work.

        Reply
    • “One of the great things about LLF is highlighting the crucial distinction between ordinary marriage and holy matrimony. Muddling these two makes it harder for Christians to hold themselves and others to the higher standard that holy matrimony requires.”

      This ‘distinction’ is one that was entirely novelly ‘discovered’ at some point fairly late in the LLF process (by Isabelle Hamley. I believe, as revealed in a talk to the bishops). It was included in the pre-February Synod discussions and at that Synod but has clearly dropped out of consideration as it was evidently found to have no basis in law (never mind in biblical or church teaching, where the distinction had never even been considered before c.2022).
      If the church were to push ahead with holding to the ‘distinction’ it would, strictly speaking, have to ask all couples who had married in a civil wedding since the Marriage Act 2013 to get divorced and then marry again in church as their post-2013 civil marriage would no longer be counted as ‘Holy Matrimony’ i.e. they were no longer married in the eyes of God.
      In other words, legally, doctrinally and biblically, there is no such ‘distinction’.

      Reply
  3. The issue is the hypocrisy of a church which is content to remarry divorcees when the original marriage did not break due to adultery. It is hard not to conclude that when it suited straight people, they amended the rules to avoid suffering.

    I appreciate there is debate about divorce, but the impression I get is that Jesus taught as far as God was concerned, divorce was only ‘real’ in his eyes due to adultery, because it broke the marriage bond. Jesus specifically dismissed the old certificates of divorce as temporary and now irrelevant. In other words, if any Christian divorces and it’s not on the grounds of adultery, God views them as still married. Hence if they remarry, they commit adultery as they are still married in God’s eyes. Some would debate Luther’s view that the ‘innocent’ party should be able to remarry after adultery, but given the marriage is ‘officially’ broken that is probably acceptable. So you are not free to remarry after a divorce unless the divorce was on the grounds of adultery.

    Reply
    • PC1 – I’d agree with all of that – and, with the hypocrisy business I’d go further – if Henry VIII had been gay, SSM would have been introduced in the 1500’s.

      Reply
      • Henry wanted a divorce because his first wife seemed unable to give him a son and heir – unlike his mistresses. Techically it was not a divorce but an annulment. If well connected in the Catholic world, this is the workaround. The problem Henry had was that Catherine was also well-connected, and the pope was wary of it.

        Some think that James I/VI was gay. There was no proposal for SSM at that time. But he did have a wife, who produced an heir, who lost his head.

        Reply
        • We’re pretty sure James had male lovers, certainly male favourites – George Villiers and Robert Carr being the most well known (and enobled as Duke of Buckingham and Earl of Somerset respectively).

          Oddly, no one mentions that the Book of Common Prayer we use today was put in place in 1662 under Charles II, who had a notoriously lax view on adultery in his personal life.

          Reply
      • Jock

        I don’t think that’s quite right. Henry VIII was primarily concerned with obtaining a legitimate male heir to avoid more conflict (his father had come to power through civil war). He was not marrying for love, but for dynasty. He could be with whoever he wanted out of love or lost. He was terrified that he was being punished with infertility by God for marrying his brothers wife.

        Reply
    • It is worth bearing in mind that a woman whose husband chose to proceed against her for provable adultery according to Mosaic Law would be free to marry again, because she would have been put to death.

      Reply
      • Somewhere I read in a footnote in an article about divorce the suggestion that the Matthean Exception arose because at Jesus’ time adultery was decreasingly punished by execution. Therefore, as you say, the adulterer (who might be the husband) should be dead, and so the spouse is free to marry. If you like, sexual sin breaks the covenant of marriage.

        Reply
        • In the Pentateuch only the woman faced death for sex outside her marriage. That is, presumably, becaue the man toils hard to provide for his family (Genesis 3) and has a right to be confident that the children who he is feeding by his labour are his own.

          Reply
  4. One aspect that doesn’t seem to have been looked at very much at all – and which is very important, particularly when it comes to ‘normal’ (i.e. heterosexual) marriage, divorce, remarriage is that the ‘blessing’ comes with a potential curse – the curse is operative if one doesn’t fulfill the marriage vows and if one is responsible for the marriage falling apart.

    You can see the outworking of the divine curse at the human level, in terms of personal relationships. For example, does anyone imagine that the situation within the royal family (between King Charles and his younger son) would have been quite so sour if there hadn’t been a heavy dose of adultery leading to divorce? We see the natural outworking of the divine curse.

    With this in mind, I haven’t really figured out why so many people are so keen on taking marriage vows before a Holy God – especially when, for many people, the ‘until death us do part’ bit isn’t something that is being taken so seriously.

    Reply
    • was it a curse, or the natural human reaction to betrayal? Children can feel betrayed too if a parent commits adultery with another woman or man. The hurt must be enormous.

      J Richard Middleton has argued that rather than a test of obedience as such, Abraham was supposed to discern God’s character when asked to sacrifice Isaac. He failed miserably and that subsequently caused ructions in the family, particularly between father and son. Could you imagine the sense of betrayal Isaac felt?!

      Peter

      Reply
      • PC1 – Thanks for this – I like the J Richard Middleton take on it a lot. The fact that he was actually prepared to sacrifice Isaac does make him look like a weird and twisted character – this makes a lot of sense.

        For the first part – well, God created the laws of nature, didn’t he? And we often see the chickens coming home to roost along with several large vultures …..

        Reply
      • Have you worked out Isaac’s age when that happened? He was adult and young and vigorous, whereas Abraham was elderly. Isaac submited to it voluntarily. It was a test of his faith as much as of Ahraham’s.

        Reply
        • Though given Genesis recounts that Abraham lived to 205, and was fathering Ishmael when he was in his 90s, I’d be cautious about assuming age implies he’s elderly and infirm. Isaac’s voluntary submission is at least questionable given Abraham binds him to the altar.

          Isaac as a willing volunteer doesn’t seem to be how Paul views it in the Letter to the Hebrews: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11)

          Reply
          • Isaac rather than Abraham carried the wood needed to start a fire big enough to consume a ram or even a human (Genesis 22:6).

      • If you read the story Abraham stayed in the Negev but Sarah moved to Hebron where she died. It seems they were technically divorced. Perhaps Sarah wasn’t told what Abraham and Her beloved son were up to and when she found out ….

        Reply
  5. This is an excellent article, Ann treads carefully between Scripture teaching and church tradition—which are certainly at odds with each other.

    Thus, no matter how many times T1 repeats his belief that: “Remarriage via divorce is only allowed on the death of a spouse or after spousal adultery as both the Old Testament and Christ’s teachings confirm” — that understanding belongs to the latter, not the former, but it clearly remains a problem for the church. Ann is thus wise to draw out other principles which delineate the difference between remarriage after divorce and same sex relationships.

    On an exegetical note, see that Mark 10:11 has: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.” —the adultery is in the divorce. Craig Blomberg (et al) argues persuasively that ‘adultery’ in scripture is often used to indicate invalid covenant breaking — therefore the adultery here is the husband invalidly breaking the covenant with his first wife —ipso facto the subsequent marriage was not valid and therefore technically adulterous.

    Once that concept is grasped — and the fact that divorce grounds were asymmetrical —all the supposed anomalies in the New Testament divorce teaching melt away.

    Reply
      • Hi T1,

        At last – you have it! “Spousal immorality” — which in biblical times could include indecent exposure by the wife, and indeed same-sex relationships. Neither of these would be adultery.

        And, of course, Jesus makes it clear – repeatedly – that he is addressing husbands.

        Reply
        • Jesus never mentioned same sex relationships and loving unions being wrong, he did mention heterosexual divorce being wrong. That included where a wife had committed adultery and sexual immorality, in any other circumstance no husband could divorce his wife

          Reply
          • Jesus affirmed that marriage is between one man and one woman, and thus clearly rejected all forms of same-sex sexual relationships in line with every single other Jew in the first century.

          • Well if you want to go down that line, Jesus also explicitly rejected any remarriage of divorced couples unless their was clear spousal adultery or a spouse died. Yet Synod voted to allow full remarriage of divorcees decades ago, not even just mere blessings as it has voted for on an experimental basis for homosexual couples married in English law

          • Yes, Simon, and for the n billionth time, (a) you always knew that 2 wrongs do not make a right, (b) you have so far not been capable of responding to this oft-made point. This inability says it all.

          • Ian

            It’s your opinion (or really your tradition) that the silence about gay people implies same sex marriage is prohibited. It’s not in the text.

  6. But one analogy might be that both remarriage after divorce (or marriage of people who haven’t previously lived chastely, come to that) and same-sex marriage are perhaps non-ideal, but less bad than complete rejection of people whose problems most of us don’t know. If someone is gay, I’d rather they committed to a permanent relationship analogous to marriage than that they kept their feelings forever secret, and/or lived promiscuously to the great hurt of all involved.

    Reply
    • Yes but ‘is gay’ is not scientific, just something that has been drummed into you by the culture. People are not born gay – they are not even born with sexual desire. They begin asexual, then have a latency period, then a confused melting pot period. They settle down around 25. By which time (a third of a lifetime) any number of external influences could have been in play.
      Out of interest, what is it that makes you say that people ‘are’ gay rather than becoming that way. I know many people ‘are gay’ now, but it is a bit of a leap to say that this is an essence when no doctor can identify it medically. Even conditions that are not endemic but are transient and temporary can be identified by doctors, so this condition is clearly more nebulous and less clear than any of those. Is it because that is the message that the media (almost all of whom have done no research) jams, and has done by editorial policy since 1994, or is there another reason?

      Reply
      • Saying someone ‘is gay’ does not imply they were born gay even if many think that today. Im gay but I dont believe I was born gay, as you say. In saying I am gay I am simply describing my sexual feelings of being attracted to other men and not women, which probably started in my early teens (a long time ago!).

        Reply
      • When did you become straight?
        Were you groomed by an older woman?
        Did you wait until you were 25 to experiment with heterosexual behaviour?
        Did a doctor diagnose it medically?
        How can you be sure your orientation won’t change?

        Reply
        • I was born with the biology I have, as we all were. The rest is history. And what is this thing about gay and straight, as though more than a tiny minority of cultures have structured their understanding in such a way. You are just conforming to the prevalent culture you are now in, without being critical of it. Secondly you are seeing what you call gay and (strange word) straight as equivalent options even though one is in accord with biology evolved over millions of years and the other is against it!

          Reply
          • You mean you were born with particular genitals and, we presume, particular chromosomes. That physical reality does not cause nor explain your sexuality. When did you find or decide you were sexually attracted to girls/women and not sexually a attracted to boys/men?

            I think you will find that the statement that being gay is ‘against biology’ is nonsense. Even if an orientation could be said to be against biology, it clearly isn’t, hence homoerotic behaviour in the animal world. Entirely natural.

          • I assume, but perhaps Im wrong, that ‘straight’ arose after gay people were starting to be called ‘bent’, hence a contrast had to be formed. What a wonderful world we live in.

      • Christopher

        Most people discover they are gay, straight or bu aged 13 or before. It’s dishonest to say that, because a small minority people have confusion in adolescence, nobody under the age of 25 has a settled orientation. It’s simply and provably false

        Reply
        • Exactly. They suddenly find that their anatomy and desires are mutually out of sync at just the moment (age 13) when they are bound to be out of sync for reasons of hormones and puberty. And of course those affected by hormones and puberty are the most (sorry, least) likely people to be irrational.

          What a surprise! The same age when teenagers typically behave dreadfully. The same age when they typically turn from God. The same age as they take up risky addictions, if they do.

          You exalt the worst of all ages as though it were the best! Just like Lewis’s Susan. That says it all.

          Reply
          • Christopher

            I’m saying you are provably incorrect in claiming orientation is not fixed until 25. In the vast majority of cases its fixed from puberty on

          • You mean you were born with particular genitals and, we presume, particular chromosomes. That physical reality does not cause nor explain your sexuality. When did you find or decide you were sexually attracted to girls/women and not sexually a attracted to boys/men?

            I think you will find that the statement that being gay is ‘against biology’ is nonsense. Even if an orientation could be said to be against biology, it clearly isn’t, hence homoerotic behaviour in the animal world. Entirely natural.

          • Lewis was a ghastly misogynist. Susan wore lipstick.
            In any case, yours is just a meaningless generalisation again. If adolescents experiment with drugs and sex it is much more likely to be heterosexual sex.

    • Penelope

      Currently in the Church of England if you stay in the closet and sexually abuse men in your pastoral care the establishment will protect you as much as they are able and if that’s no longer possible grant you a comfortable retirement.

      In contrast if you are honest about being gay and consensually marry they will hang you out to dry.

      This is the true CofE hypocrisy about marriage

      Reply
  7. My first husband was and still is a serial adulterer. After the first occurrence I agreed we would stay together and he would not contact the other woman again. It did not last long before he was involved with another woman. He wanted me to stay in an open marriage and I refused, and started adultery proceedings against him.

    A few years later I met someone who had also been the offended partner and we married. My vicar at the time said he could not marry us as we could not repeat the same vows before God, but that he would bless us in a Sunday service after our Civil marriage. If more clergy had taken this stance we would not be struggling as much with this issue. Holy matrimony is holy and blessed by God, too many clergy are willing to remarry people in church and devalue this.
    The passage in Matthew clearly shows Jesus compassion for those sinned against and that you can marry again.
    However this has nothing to do with same sex couples as they clearly are not “one man and one woman”. I totally agree Ian it is a false premise argument.

    Reply
    • Hi Tricia,
      Incidentally – there is no teaching anywhere in Scripture that the innocence or guilt of a divorcee determines their personal right to remarry.

      This was pointed out by the Presbyterian John Murray in his 1961 book on divorce. It is an invention of the church.

      Reply
      • Colin – but it certainly does determine the personal right to darken the doors of a church. If a professing Christian commits adultery, then this is a situation where Hebrews 6:4 comes into play – and the church should have nothing further to do with such a person. The church therefore has absolutely nothing to say about the rights of such a person to remarry in the secular world – far away from the church.

        The church should, on the other hand, be there to support the innocent victim.

        Reply
        • Jock, I think that’s harsh and I doubt the writer of Hebrews was thinking of adultery when he wrote that. Can sin, like adultery, not be forgiven if repented of?

          Peter

          Reply
          • PC1 – I don’t think it’s a bit harsh at all. Adultery is very serious – and particularly so in a marriage where there are children. Committing adultery – or I’d go further and say anything else which causes disintegration of the marriage (such as violent behaviour) – especially when it creates a disruptive and traumatic background for the children is utterly unforgivable from a Christian. If you look at it from the child’s point of view, we really are talking about very serious sin here and yes – if God has entrusted someone with children and they give the children a traumatic upbringing – that is (I would say) unforgivable.

    • Tricia

      But what does this mean, theologically speaking? Are you sinning or not? Does God bless you or not? Why is your situation superior to people who are gay? Neither chose the situation so why does the church react with accommodation to you and hatred to the gays?

      Reply
      • Peter Jeremy
        I do not have a superior position. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. The marriage bond is clearly defined as a spiritual/physical bond between one man and one woman, which gives us a share in creation, in Christian terms. To break that bond is a serious issue and whether you can take the same vows again is also a serious issue and needs to be part of any discussion before re —marriage. Two people of the same sex do not fall within the remit of Christian teaching.. A same sex couple can have a civil ceremony, but it is not Christian marriage.

        Reply
        • Tricia

          You do have a superior situation because you were able to recieve a blessing.

          You say two people of the same sex cannot marry, but you also seem to think remarriage after divorce is sufficiently wrong not to have a church wedding. So why should remarried diorcees get a blessing, but gay people (who unlike the divorced people didn’t choose to be in that state) get no blessing? … worse be told they must live lonely isolated lives?

          Reply
          • You are comparing apples and pears. There is no precedent in Christian doctrine for marrying two people of the same sex.

          • Tricia

            But you seem to be saying both that it was in some sense wrong or less the best for you to remarry, but are you saying that gay people having any kind of relationship is worse than that? And how do you justify all this?

          • Peter Jeremy
            I acknowledged the serious nature of divorce and it was painful. But Christ’s teaching is that adultery is a lawful claim for divorce, which mine was. I married a fellow Christian who had also divorced on the grounds of adultery. We have spent the last 34 years serving in the church in many ways.
            A same sex couple cannot commit adultery as there is no consummation – this is acknowledged in the Same Sex Marriage Act in the UK.
            I cannot tell others what to do with their lives, but I can tell them what marriage is in Scripture and Doctrine and that if they are not male and female, Christian marriage is not a possibility for them.

          • Tricia

            My confusion is in this idea that there’s a relationship that’s good enough to get a church blessing, but not quite good enough for a church wedding. In my view it’s either OK or it’s not.

            Gay people can have sex

  8. Thre is no analogy. If the church is ignoring what the Bible says about remarriage after divorce (during the life of the ‘ex’) then the argument for church SSM in light of scripture is like a playground child who says “But Sir, you let him off what he did wrong, so why won’t you let me off what I did?” Whoever thinks that that is a good argument?

    Reply
    • It’s not a good argument but it shows up the hypocrisy of a church which performs remarriage regardless of the reason for the original divorce. If the church had kept to Jesus’ teaching on heterosexual marriage I think there would be less pressure re SSM now.

      Reply
      • PC1

        Not just pressure on same sex marriage, but pressure to improve treatment of LGBT people across the board.

        Every church which welcomes remarried people, but “welcome to attends” LGBT people is openly practicing hypocrisy

        Reply
        • Correct. It is potentially inconsistent, though things are not necessarily that straightforward.

          So the solution is to bring everyone up to a higher level, or to bring everyone down to a lower level?

          Reply
          • I think as long as they are not something like a serial killer or sexual abuser, where security might be an issue, everyone should be equally welcome in God’s church. Straight people are not spiritually superior to gay people. Married people are not superior to single people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but our religious leaders cannot accept that basic truth

          • Peter, you write that ” Straight people are not spiritually superior to gay people. Married people are not superior to single people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Absolutely so. But we all need to repent of our sins and this issue is about what is sinful in God’s eyes.

          • Anton

            My point is there’s no biblical justification in discrimination, which most of the abusive treatment of LGBT people is

          • Peter,

            I disapprove of abusive treatment of persons by the church, although I think that some persons describe the quoting of relevant scriptures to them as ‘abuse’ nowadays. Best take that up with God.

            Discrimination is when two things that are the same, eg black people and white people, get treated differently. Man lying with man and man lying with woman have in common the intent to orgasm, but differ in ways that the law cannot reach, including the procreation of children.

          • Anton

            The vast majority of heterosexual sex is intentionally non procreative, but I am talking about orientation, not sexual behavior

          • Anton

            Sexual behavior isn’t the issue. The establishment is using scriptural passages against sexual abuse to demonize a minority regardless of whether they ever have sex or not.

          • That is demonstrably untrue. Sam Allbery and Vaughan Roberts – ordained men who believe they must not act on their same-sex attraction – are well respected by other evangelicals.

          • Anton

            They are amongst the few of the “right type”. They are not the LGBT people who are “welcome to attend” or forced to undergo exorcism. It’s like saying the Met has a few Black senior officers so that proves that they don’t have a problem with racism.

            The reality is that LGBT people continue to be discriminated against, lied about, excluded and abused. Instead of doing anything about this, the hierarchy has created a decade long distraction discussing marriage that has only made LGBT people less included than they were previously.

  9. Any study of the divorce and remarriage scriptures should heed two things: (1) divorce, in the Bible, is a matter for the couple, who must then *inform* the authorities (rather than petition them, as today); (2) Jesus treats divorce and remarriage separately and does not suppose that the former automatically confers the right to the latter – when he spoke he discussed the first issue and then moved on to the second. (Ancient Jewish certificates of divorce handed by the man to the woman state “you are now permitted to any man”; this was important for the woman to know in view of the penalty for adultery, but does not necessarily reflect God’s view.)

    So, what did Jesus say?

    Anyone who divorces his wife and [kai] marries another woman commits adultery against [ep] her. And if a woman who divorces her husband marries another man, she commits adultery (Mark 10:11-12).

    Anyone who divorces his wife and [kai] marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Luke 16:18).

    Anyone who divorces his wife, not for porneia, and marries another woman commits adultery [and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery – in some Greek manuscripts] (Matthew 19:9).

    So Jesus is clear – remarriage after divorce (during the lifetime of the ‘ex’) constitutes adultery, with a possible rider relating to porneia in Matthew 19:9.

    What about that rider?

    Jesus never contradicts himself. In two of the gospels there is no exception, and each gospel writer has no certainty that his readers are going to read any other account. So there is no exception. But what then does Matthew 19:9 mean?

    It means that Jesus is declining to discuss the particular situation in which a man divorces for porneia and then remarries. He is discussing only situations in which the divorce is for something other than porneia. He says in Matthew 19 that remarriage after such a divorce is adulterous, and he says nothing in that conversation about remarriage after a divorce for porneia.

    Why did he do that? Because he is talking to Pharisees who tended to divorce for minor matters such as mispreparing food. (See the Midrash – ancient Jewish commentary on scripture – denoted Sifré Deuteronomy, part 269; also the Mishnah, tractate Gittin 9:10.) And also because porneia is related to erwat davar, which is a Hebrew phrase found in the Jewish divorce regulation in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus is not engaging in a scripture study with these Pharisees; he is in a heated discussion with them about their routine use of excuses in order to divorce unwanted wives. To preclude diversion, he narrows the discussion down at its beginning.

    A further point: the Greek rendered as “if a man divorces, and marries another woman…” can equally well mean “if a man divorces in order to marry another woman…” But the latter meaning is excluded because the woman’s adultery in Mark 10:12 takes no account of whether she instituted the divorce in order to marry another man or not.

    In Matthew 5:32, Jesus states that anyone who divorces his woman, except for porneia [illicit sexual relations], causes her to be adulterous, and anyone who marries a divorcee commits adultery. In the final clause we see that God takes marriage so seriously that a woman who is thrown out cannot remarry even if she is innocent of porneia!

    The church should accept that sometimes even Christian married couples break up, but they must then live singly – as Paul says clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. (That Paul uses a different word here for divorce is not significant; recall that divorce refers in scripture to a final decision for the couple, not the authorities.)

    Today the Roman Catholic church accepts divorce in practice but, in order to deny that it has changed its doctrine, it calls it annulment, a term which should be reserved for situations in which the couple were not free to marry in the first place. Rome seeks excuses why the marriage supposedly never was valid – “I don’t believe he was ever sincere.” But people must keep their word, for that is what matters to God (Galatians 3:15). The Vatican is nevertheless correct to insist that remarriage during the lifetime of someone else you have been married to is wrong. More protestant churches should take that view.

    What about somebody who says he is becoming convinced that Jesus is Lord, but whose first – childless – marriage ended in divorce, and who has since married a virgin with whom he now has young children? Meanwhile his first wife has also remarried. Must this man, to enter the church, really dump his second wife and their children?

    This issue must have been raised often in the early church, but it is not addressed in any New Testament letter. Why is that? There is sin in either course, and God, in the Bible, is not in the business of weighing sins against each other – the New Testament is about how to deal with sin. The man I have described and the leaders of the congregation he is involved with must consult God themselves. If a man approaches God with a readiness to obey, God will make clear what course to take. In situations in which sin is weighed against sin, one size does not fit all.

    Reply
    • This exegesis by Anton I suggest does fit the original context —in the whole of Scripture teaching and narrative accounts, sexual adultery has only one definition — that is when a married woman has sexual intercourse with a man who is not her husband. In light of that, the traditional argument Anton presents simply makes no sense – and nor would it to the original audience.

      If Jesus was changing this teaching—he would need to say so —because that definition had stood throughout biblical times and in the wider ancient Near East for millennia.

      And Jesus is only addressing men in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 — in Mark 10:12 he has just one comment about wives divorcing — they had different grounds for divorcing their husband as is clear from Exodus 21:10–11 and the contemporary documentary evidence.

      So what is Jesus saying there? Are we suggesting based on that one sentence that those historical grounds for divorce are being overturned?

      Reply
      • Colin, we had this discussion on the October 2, 2021 thread at this blog. Please address the question of how to avoid contradiction between the difering gospels, and please specify your definition of adultery – both of which you avoided in 2021, and have not addressed above.

        Reply
        • Hi Anton,

          I have done as you have request in my published PhD on the subject, which is available as a free download from the University of Chester. A study endorsed by three evangelical scholars who have both specialised and published on the subject, Craig Blomberg, David Instone-Brewer, and William Heth.

          As regards the definition of adultery, I have included it as above – it is the Bible’s definition, not mine : when a married woman has sexual intercourse with a man who is not her husband.

          Reply
          • In the Western world, the definition of adultery has changed – but not in Islam. That is fair enough but to read that modern definition back into a first century text – although the vast majority do – I suggest is not valid.

            I cannot imagine this happening in any other other field of scholarship.

          • I hold that adultery in the Bible means sex outside marriage by either man or woman. The difference is that adultery by a married woman is punishable by death under the written Laws of Moses whereas a maried man who has sex with an unmarried woman (who is not a virgin) faces no penalty. This difference is obviously becaue a man has to work hard six days a week to provide for his family and has a right to know that the children whom his labour is feeding are his own.

            In view of this difference, how could you distinguish between my view of what the Bible calls adultery, and yours? Have you considered this question explicitly in your own writings?

            Please don’t patronise me with comments like “I cannot imagine this happening in any other other field of scholarship.” It would be easy enough to respond in kind but I would rather dispute with you using the conventions of courtesy.

          • PS I have read Instone-Brewer’s book (great for references, lousy for conclusions), likewise Heth’s, have written a 12,000 word essay on the subject, and I have published in a peer-reviewed Jewish academic journal on the relevant part of Deuteronomy 24.

            The early church, including those who heard Jesus and Paul, for several centuries forbade marrying again while a former spouse lived; see the study by Henri Crouzel, L’église primitive face au divorce du premier au cinquième siècle (Paris, 1971). I have read the relevant chapter of this work, albeit not rapidly as I don’t think it has ever been translated. My parents were teachers of French, which is probably why I became a scientist…

  10. Annulment at law is where there has beeen no sexual consumation, so that at law no marriage has taken place. The sexual element is necessary to complete tge ceremony.
    As has been mentioned here before, consumation is neither possible nor necessary at law in civil ssm.
    And the very idea of consumation is a thoroughgoing biblical covenantal concept, of oneness in a joining together, of union of likeness but distinction of groom and bride.
    BTW at law there had to be an “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage for a divorce. (Theologically it coud be seen as “without repentance” hard heartedness).
    And it is easier to divorce now after the civil law was changed.
    Not possible in ssm.

    Reply
    • Geoff

      I can reassure you that it is possible for gay people to consumate their marriages.

      The possibility of annulment was left out of the SSM bill because it was seen as unnecessary and MPs didn’t want to discuss sex. This is of course more discrimination against gay people. Straight couples can be annulled but gay couples can’t.

      Why can’t we just have the exact same rights and freedoms as Straight people?

      Reply
      • Please define consummation for a gay couple.

        This proved problematic for the Civil Service in Whitehall – not the most heterosexual of organisations – when drafting legislation some years go.

        Reply
          • That is your point of view. Consummation is God’s gift of a share in creation. Where a man and woman may conceive a child and that child can have the love and safety offered from that shared parenting, which all research shows ensures the best interests of the child.

          • It might be Tricia. But for folk who can’t or don’t want want to enjoy PIV sex or to have children, there are other gifts of sexual intimacy. Defining the validity of a marriage on whether X inches of tab A goes into slot B is reductive and risible.

          • I am well aware of your “anything goes” approach to sexual intimacy for all. I just cannot see how this in any way equates to a Christian faith. The early church changed Roman civilisation – you appear to favour a return to this, but of course with a feminist twist. Christian sexual ethics have been clear for centuries.

          • Actually Tricia you are not aware of my ‘anything goes’ approach to sexuality since I espouse no such thing. It’s just a figment of your imagination.
            We were, you may remember, speaking of marriage and I was pointing out that the concept of consummation (which is, in any case, prurient) is pretty pointless and offensive. Imagine if you were a disabled couple incapable of enjoying PIV sex. Is your sexual intimacy immoral, unnatural, or not a joining of flesh?

          • Tricia

            Consummation is actually the act of having sex. You can’t get an annulment just because you didn’t fall pregnant (otherwise anyone over 60 could just get an annulment). It has to be a sexual abandonment by your husband

        • Anton

          Consummation would be the couple having sex for the first time.

          Its an outdated concept because these days divorce is so prevalent that people don’t need an annulment. MPs didn’t want to talk about sex while being broadcast on Parliament TV. That’s why it was left out of the bill. It has nothing to do with gay people being unable to have sex

          Reply
  11. Anton,

    If you do not have the correct definition of adultery, all the understanding of the gospel teaching about divorce is simply wrong. I give no authority whatsoever to the early church. By definition a man could only commit adultery against a married woman’s husband, not against his own wife.

    Israel was descended from the four wives of Jacob. The tribes could not be legitimately considered Israel, if those four marriages were not valid. A man could take a second wife without it being adultery. How could it be adultery if he divorced his first wife and took a second wife? The new Testament teaching in context is crystal clear. Jesus simply affirmed the Old Testament position. to suggest, otherwise means that he overturned two millennia of understanding in a few hundred words about which no one can agree. All the resistance to what Jesus plainly said in context is because we have a monogamous sacramental view of marriage. it is okay for the church to adopt this, but please let us not try and read it into the new Testament text. The contemporary documents clearly indicate that there was no such understanding in new Testament times.

    Reply
    • Polygyny continued in Judaism for another thousand years after Christ but they eventually succumbed to the norms of the Christian West. I am not advocating such – but to try and read a sacramental monogamous essentially Roman Catholic view of marriage into the new Testament text is a hopeless exercise. Hence, all the twists and terms of various exegetes.

      Reply
    • Like you, I do not take a sacramental view of marriage, and I have argued elsewhere against that. The correct view is that marriage is a covenant (Malachi 2:14).

      Adultery is sex by a married person with someone that he or she is not married to. That definition applies equally in polygamous situations.

      It would be an extraordinary anomaly if the one of the Ten Commandments against adultery applied only to women. The rest certainly apply to men. There is a certain amount of misogyny in rabbinic tradition, which you seem to consider more normative than early church tradition.

      Reply
      • And a man could be married to more than one woman. This makes the traditioal divorce exegsis of the NT texts not work. Would Jesus make what God had approved of and blessed into a serious sexual sin? (see, 2 Samuel 12:7-9, cf 1 Cor 6:9).
        I can understand that within western Christendom when there wasn’t the same need to produce offspring to retain entitlement to the land and when there was less need to support women financially there’s an argument might be made for abandoning polygyny—but I suggest we cannot exegete the NT by reading such concepts backwards into the text.

        “It would be an extraordinary anomaly if the one of the Ten Commandments against adultery applied only to women.” Adultery applies to both men and women. Think it through – I am not sure you yet have it.
        Btw It is polygyny not polygamy

        Reply
        • Colin – do you think that Jacob’s behaviour (in agreeing to Laban’s swindle and taking two wives) actually had God’s approval and blessing? If so, how do you reach this conclusion? It would seem to me to mitigate against the plain reading of the text.

          Reply
    • Colin Hamer – what you wrote does not chime in with the standard ways that Genesis is understood – not only that, but it does not chime in with the clear authorial intent of the author of Genesis. Genesis 2 sets out clearly the situation – one man and one woman in life-long union. Later in Genesis, the text is pointedly harking back to this and showing us how far things had fallen from this ideal by the time that Jacob had come along. Absolutely nowhere is Jacob’s behaviour (in agreeing to Laban’s swindle by marrying two women, additionally creating progeny with another two women – and on top of this having additional concubines on the side – one of whom Reuben slept with) commended as being in any way reasonable or in any way without sin; absolutely nowhere does the text suggest that God had changed the basic definitions

      Absolutely nowhere does it try to suggest that God had changed His definition by the time that Jacob came along – and that taking two wives (both Leah and Rachael) was not adulterous.

      In fact, as I have pointed out in these columns several times before, Genesis is pointedly written to make it clear that the patriarchs were all a bunch of rotters – every single one of them. That is the clear intent. Genesis is also pointedly written in a way that makes it clear that much of Jacob’s difficulties-of-life, much of his grief was a direct result of where-it-all-goes-horribly-wrong in family life when the clear principle of Genesis 2 (one man and one woman) is violated.

      Your argumentation breaks down with the statement ‘The tribes could not be legitimately considered Israel if those four marriages were not valid.’ Although the offspring came from relationships which clearly were adulterous and clearly *did* violate the ordinances of God concerning marriage (laid out in Genesis 2) – nevertheless, not only were they *considered* Israel; they *were* Israel.

      Reply
      • Read 2 Samuel 12: 7-9. And note that Nathan never criticised David over his multiple wives, until he took Bathsheba – who was already married.

        Reply
        • The problem is that we now know from Jesus that some of the things that God appeared to positively instruct, for example, through his servant Moses, were in fact cases of God tolerating certain selfish behaviours. It wasnt God’s perfect will, but what he was prepared to allow. He was generous with David, but David then showed himself to be an extremely selfish individual with a hard heart, to the extent of happily murdering another man just so he could have his wife. No wonder God killed his son in judgement.

          That all changed with Jesus – there were now no excuses.

          Reply
          • PC1 – you are, of course, correct. What we see here is a reading of the history (1,2 Samuel, 1,2 Kings, 1,2 Chronicles) which are mostly narrative in nature (telling us what happened) in a way that is completely divorced from the prophets who gave the moral commentary on these things.

            According to Colin’s definition of adultery ‘when a married woman has sexual intercourse with a man who is not her husband’ – Nathan had no right at all to chastise David; Bathsheba was the naughty one.

            Solomon was therefore born from adultery, so following the Deuteronomy passage that Colin referred to, he wasn’t Jewish, neither were the 10 subsequent generations. I suppose that Jesus might just about have succeeded in being Jewish – how many generations was he after Solomon?

          • Hi PC1,

            But can you think of any instance where Jesus reversed a fundamental teaching about OT sexual ethics (polygyny) —and that in a conversation when he was talking about another subject (divorce).

            Despite his faults, and his wine, women, and song — all seemingly integral to Hebrew culture (but inimical to northern European Protestantism) — we are told David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).

      • If the relationships were adulterous, scripture is clear that the children would have been illegitimate and not considered Jewish for at least 10 generations. Deuteronomy 23:2

        Reply
        • HiJock,

          “According to Colin’s definition of adultery ‘when a married woman has sexual intercourse with a man who is not her husband’ – Nathan had no right at all to chastise David; Bathsheba was the naughty one.”

          It is the Bible’s definition of adultery. Leviticus 20:10 and Jeremiah 29:23 make it explicit, and the practice of polygyny confirms this. Both references demonstrate that your inference about David is incorrect.
          It is interesting that there is such confusion on the basic biblical terminology —and we hae such firm opinions based on that confusion.

          Reply
          • Jock,

            “I suppose that Jesus might just about have succeeded in being Jewish – how many generations was he after Solomon?”
            Yes – more than 10!

          • Colin – 1) as I pointed out (and you haven’t addressed): Genesis 2 sets out the rule of one man and one woman – and the author of Genesis expected us to understand that Jacob’s polygyny was in violation of this.

            The practice of polygyny confirms nothing except that the depths to which mankind had fallen – the authors of the Scriptural texts expected the readers to apply their minds sufficiently to understand this.

            Sexual relations outside the creation ordinance of one man and one woman in lifelong union are adultery in the eyes of God – and nothing you have quoted contradicts this.

    • Your definition of adultery doesnt seem to fit with the logic of Jesus’ statement on marriage and divorce, but it does seem to fit with Anton’s.

      Reply
  12. A factor, which if it has been mentioned I’ve missed in any discussion of Biblical divorce and Jesus mention of it, is that in Judaism, Jewishness is passed down through the mother’s line not the father’s.
    https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/601092/jewish/Why-Is-Jewishness-
    Matrilineal.htm
    There is also a wikki article which is somewhat wider in its sources and suggestions.
    All of which may give more understanding to Jesus on divorce, (and marriage) and knowing scriptures and the power of God. As there is little doubt that Jesus would have known the scriptures and the extant Jewish lineage preservation.

    Reply
  13. The only conceivable analogy is that both are areas where the unscrupulous, or ‘dark side’, are trying to invade the church with the forces of the sexual revolution. No wonder they associate the two.

    Reply
  14. This comment is, I agree, tangential to the main debate above and the original piece, but does have bearing on the wider issue of grounds for divorce, and therefore, remarriage.

    Scripture doesn’t seem to say anything about a wife being able to divorce because her husband is a bit handy with his fists. Does that mean unless the husband has been committing adultery that she, in the view of some, has no biblical grounds for divorce and she to remarry without being accused of adultery? I think the ‘biblical’ answer is ‘No’ but would be happy to be corrected.

    I’m just interested to widen the debate; and it is a practical, pastoral matter that we encounter, hopefully not frequently, but some ‘Christian’ husbands are physically violent against their Christian wives.

    I would hope that a ‘biblical’ stance would not preclude an abused woman from divorcing her violent husband, not least to prevent her from becoming another murder statistic.

    Would it be wrong to conclude that just because a specific category appears not to be mentioned in the bible, such as the example I have mentioned above, that it is therefore not permitted?

    Reply
    • Hi Peter,

      “Scripture doesn’t seem to say anything about a wife being able to divorce because her husband is a bit handy with his fists. ”
      I think it does – see Exodus 21:10-11 – ‘marital rights – includesI think the emotional dimension of marriage.

      Reply
  15. The next time you meet a divorced/remarried person in church, you can ask them if they divorced for biblical reasons but nobody is so rude as to ask that question. You can encourage all of those who didn’t divorce for biblical reasons to remain single for the rest of their life but nobody will ever suggest that is the right thing to do.

    Meanwhile, gay/ssa individuals get a barrage of questions and teaching moments.

    Reply
    • Joe S – well, I’ve found that if one attends a church, one doesn’t need to ask people directly – one finds out the background of others in the congregation simply from the gossip over church coffee after the service. I personally wouldn’t attend any church where divorce for anything other than a *very* good reason seemed to be tolerated.

      Reply
      • And, of course, gossip is always true… and you are party to the truth behind every divorce and remarriage in your church.

        Both seem unlikely…

        I’ve remarried divorcees (believing that on occasion its “biblically “supported and refused others. And “no” I’m not going to justify it here, especially as it isn’t the article issue essentially.

        On “the issue” here. No , there’s no analogy. It’s scrambling around for justification.

        Reply
        • Ian Hobbs – that’s not how it works – since one isn’t looking for details. When one is looking for a fellowship, one is simply looking to see the general principles of what is tolerated / considered to be wholly OK – and where the lines are drawn. One can ‘get the pulse’ without learning the detailed truth (which I’d probably rather not know anyway – especially if I decide against involvement with a particular fellowship).

          I frankly don’t care whether something is ‘biblically supported’ or not – in fact, I’m quite keen on a principle that I picked up from Emil Brunner – sometimes acting in a way that seems to ‘break the rules’ is necessary in order to prevent greater sin (for example – situation described by Peter Davies above).

          But if you think (as you have more-or-less explicitly stated) that one cannot ‘get the pulse’ by talking to people in the congregation over coffee – and discover whether certain things that should be basically unheard of turn out to be ten-a-penny, then you are wrong about this. One can get an impression quite quickly whether or not the people and proceedings are governed by the Spirit of God.

          Reply
          • “One can get an impression quite quickly whether or not the people and proceedings are governed by the Spirit of God.”

            It’s an interesting concept Jock. I don’t find General Synod to be that way very often and one ends up being more aggressive because that is the way the Conservative Evangelical constituency behave. The shouts from the public gallery in particular were just appalling. And the smug self righteous behaviour of places like St Helen’s Bishopsgate is simply an embarrassment to the whole CofE.

          • Andrew – ha! Shouting from the public gallery. Are you sure it was a General Synod and not a football match? Actually, it reminds me of the ‘Scottish Ballet Hooligans’ sketch from the ‘At Last the 1948 Show’.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_B5RgsqHY8&t=6s

            Well, perhaps they could skip the debate and simply decide the issues on two falls or a submission ……

          • Andrew,

            St Helens Bishopsgate will be my Anglican church of choice when in London. It has come down to Jesus Christ vs the Archbishops and this church is with Christ.

      • Jock, why would any ‘evangelical’ church culture rely on gossip to sort out a moral matter? The issue should be addressed directly but it isn’t.

        In contrast to how the gay/ssa identity and behaviour topic is dealt with.

        Reply
        • Joe S – you are, of course, correct. I was addressing a different issue – which is when I arrive in a new place and want to find out if a fellowship is worth considering. One can learn quite a lot over church coffee after the service. You don’t need to establish particulars – you find out very quickly what is considered acceptable and what isn’t. If you find you’re in a place where ‘no fault divorce’ – don’t ask questions – seems to be the order of the day, then it’s probably best to run a mile.

          I tend to have zero tolerance of the no-fault ten-a-penny attitude towards divorce / remarriage.

          On the gay issue, however, I have sympathy, since I understand that it must be a difficult situation (although I believe that everything in Scripture is in there for a reason – and I believe that the basic principles should be upheld).

          Reply
    • Joe S – based on what you have said, together with one or two remarks by Ian Hobbs that I may have misinterpreted, I’m beginning to build up a picture which is very horrible indeed.

      If you’re in Christian fellowship with people, then this necessarily means knowing about them, past difficulties-of-life, how they were brought through these by the grace of God, etc …..

      The impression I get is of an arrogant priestly cast, who hear all the details when a divorcee wants to remarry – and they can make a decision yes or no. And then, the personal details and past life of the couple are supposed to be nobody else’s business – not even of those with whom they are supposed to be ‘in fellowship.’

      If this picture is in any way true, then the priestly cast have been granted extraordinary authority – and the picture of church life does not chime in with the picture painted in the New Testament.

      Reply
      • Jock, I don’t think making it personal is the right way to go but, at the same time, I’ve never found myself in an evangelical church where there was a book at the back of the church that dealt with the divorce/remarriage issue in the same way as the LGBT stuff. There is a double-standard – maybe because evangelical churches have a cult-like focus on family values and ‘normality’ (see the recent nativity post).

        Reply
        • Joe S – well, perhaps you’re right. On the one hand, I don’t really need to know the personal details of everybody, but on the other hand, the New Testament gives us a picture where, if people are in fellowship together, then they do confess their sins – which isn’t a secret confession.

          If this were happening, then there wouldn’t be the hypocritical pomposity that one finds in ‘good’ churches, where everybody seems to put across a front of sinless perfection (which, of course, just isn’t true).

          I’d agree to some extent with the cult-like focus on family. This is brought home to me by looking at the brief biographies of Christian book authors (such and such is married, has x children and y grandchildren …..). I wonder if John Stott would have a suitable ‘evangelical author’ profile if he were coming through today?

          I’d say, though, that having a good environment for children is *extremely* important – and the church should have something to say about this. If the church is helping families to give their children a good environment, this can’t be a bad thing. Given the importance of a happy stable environment for children, it shouldn’t be surprising that churches put effort and energy into this.

          On the other hand – yes – I’ve noticed it too – it sometimes looks as if there is no place for those who don’t fall into the framework of man + woman + 2.2 children.

          Reply
        • The 2 issues are not the same. One is something so unpleasant that no-one would willingly think about it; the other is so ubiquitous in our society at present that a church that did not lay out a stance on it would be crazy.

          Reply
  16. I think none of these comments, including my own, should detract from the excellent article that Ann has written.

    Every denomination has struggled to fit their own reception history into the Scripture text—thus multiple books on the four/five views of divorce etc.

    I suggest that there is no equivalence between this confusion and the clarity that evangelicals have held about SSM.

    Reply
  17. When Jesus said: “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate,” (Matthew 19:4-7) Whatever went before under Moses, Jesus was clear. Marriage was to be between one man and one woman. For life. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, the last statement raised marriage beyond a human covenant into a sacrament. It also rules out second ‘marriages’ and same sex ‘marriages’.

    As for the “exceptive clause”, the Greek word for adultery is moicheia. But Jesus uses the word porneia, which covers a multitude of sins:
    1. illicit sexual intercourse;
    2. adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bestiality;
    3. betrothal unfaithfulness;
    4. sexual intercourse with close relatives; (Lev. 18) and
    5. sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman. (Mk. 10:11)

    The verb form of porneia is pornueō, meaning “to prostitute or practice prostitution or sexual immorality”. The verb moicheueō” means “to commit adultery.” Jesus speaks of the evils that arise from the heart describing them as, “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries (moicheia), fornications (porneia), thefts, etc…” (Matthew 15:19). The words are not synonymous. Throughout the NT it refers to adultery, homosexuality, incest, perversion, prostitution.

    So porneia is not clear and scholars still dispute its contextual usage and what Jesus meant. The idea that porneia is being used in a narrow way to refer to incest is suggested by two other biblical passages. In Leviticus 18 it means “incest.” In Acts 15:29, it is proposed that, to avoid offending Jewish believers, Gentile converts abstain from eating idol meat, blood, strangled animals, and from porneia. These objections are based directly on Leviticus 17–18, where the same things are prohibited in the same order. In 1 Corinthians 5:1, Paul applies the word porneia to the case of a man who has married his stepmother – a case forbidden by Leviticus 18:8.

    Anyways, whatever it means, one has to contend Luke 16:18 and Mark 10:11-12. Both Mark and Luke are clear – under no circumstances would divorce or remarriage be possible. We also have St Paul, who surely knew Our Lord’s teachings,: “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife.” (1 Cor. 7:10–11) St Paul notches it up further in Ephesians 5:21-33, and Ephesians 6: 4, where he compares marriage to Christ and His Church, involving obedience and total self-sacrifice. He writes, “This mystery is a profound one.” In Greek, mysterion, where we get the word mystery. But the Latin rendering of that is the word, “sacramentum.”, reflecting Christ and the Church.

    [And, No Anton, Catholic annulment is not divorce on the sly]

    Reply
        • I am in Madagascar – I have no idea.

          But the answer to my question might seem simple – the national speed limit – 70 mph. But I can assure you the answer is complex. It depends on the precise classification of the vehicle—a classification which differs between England and Scotland. Then there are controlled flow motorways, road work speed restrictions, and some exemptions such as emergency vehicles on call.

          In other words, we cannot take an isolated text that summarises the Bible’s teaching without taking into account the rest of Scripture. Thus, in Matthew 19 Jesus starts with the general principle of intended permanence and then gives the specific exception which allows the husband to initiate divorce against his wife. I note you make no mention of this distinction between husbands and wives.

          It seems Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 follows the example of Jesus. He is addressing specific questions from the Corinthian church and gives the general principle in vv.10–11 and then outlines exceptions. It seems from the context the question revolves round whether the mixed marriage rules of the OT that were based on race — come through to the NT, where you might have a believer married to an unbeliever.

          I would argue that Paul is saying no—they do not—and, that the teaching about ‘not being bound’ (i.e., can divorce) should one partner leave does not apply just in those mixed marriages—as others have pointed out an understanding that such applies to all marriages is consonant with Exodus 21:10–11—I note do you do not mention that passage.
          To reinforce this — there is no concept outside the Mosaic Covenant (that looked to protect the seed line of Christ) that some marriages were more valid than others.

          Reply
          • @ Colin

            Try that with Matthew 19:4–7. We’re dealing with Jesus re-establishing God’s plan for marriage – one man, one woman, for life. There’s no work-around that.

            1 Corinthians 7 is addressing the specifics of marriages between new converts to Christianity. The only “exception” being the so called “Pauline Privilege” that allows the dissolution of a natural (non-sacramental) marriage between two unbaptised persons where one converts and the other departs. So, not the same as the OT rules.

    • HJ

      There’s zero evidence that porneia includes (all) homosexuality. You can make a case it includes same sex sex, but even that is verging on “because I said so” logic.

      Reply
        • HJ

          This is a huge issue though – confusing same sex sex and orientation, which continues to cause all kinds of abuse of gay people, especially young gay people in the church … yet the hierarchy won’t even discuss addressing it.

          Reply
          • You made a comment earlier that you were referring to sexual orientation, not behaviour. I found that surprising as your whole argument has been in connection with advocating same-sex marriage, which by definition concerns sexual behaviour. And everything HJ says in his post to which you are now responding refers to behaviour, things that people actually ‘do’.

            I dont believe churches are ‘confused’ over orientation and behaviour. Whilst one can and often does lead to the other, it is not automatic.

          • PC1

            Actually I want full inclusion and equality in the Church of England. Marriage is less important than dealing with exclusion, harassment and abuse.

            Gay people are not getting married just to have sex. They are getting married to form stable loving relationships.

    • It’s a shame you want to add a PS re what we disagree about after so much that we do, but I’m not going to let you get away with that deceitful attempt to exonerate Rome.

      A Catholic may assert grounds why his or her marriage was never valid in the first place, null and void. If the Catholic church agrees then it grants an ‘annulment,’ with varying likelihood according to the grounds and the era. Catholic annulment often amounts to divorce without using the word, averting a clash with Rome’s no-divorce stance (which it cannot repudiate as it hubristically claims its teaching is inerrant), and conferring freedom to marry someone else. This is questionable practice when a couple have believed that they have lived as man and wife; modern Catholic grounds may even include the assertion, based solely on behaviour after getting married, that one party was insincere when taking the vows.

      Mediaeval aristocrats who wanted to divorce (often to marry someone else) would claim distant familial relationships to their spouses, as the Catholic church forbade marriage between relatives more distant than did Mosaic Law.

      Henry VIII was crowned in 1509. He was 17 years old and already married to Catherine of Aragon. She too was offspring of a significant dynastic marriage, of the union which had united Spain. Catherine had been briefly married to Henry’s older brother, who had died a few years earlier. There had been no children, and the Catholic church had to be persuaded that the union had not been consummated in order that Henry could marry his late brother’s widow (although the Old Testament upheld the marriage of a man to his brother’s widow regardless).

      By the time it became obvious that Catherine was unable to bear Henry more children, only one child of theirs remained alive, Mary. Henry VIII wanted a son to succeed him as king, and by the late 1520s he also desired the vivacious Anne Boleyn to be the mother. He now argued, in effect, that Catherine was lying about the non-consummation of her first marriage, so that under Catholic regulations his marriage had been irregular from the start – an argument that also threw into question the legitimacy of his daughter Mary. Henry would obviously not have revisited the past had any son born to him and Catherine survived. In order to marry Anne Boleyn, he had to persuade the Pope. The papacy had accepted a petition by the king of France seeking release from an inconvenient marriage in 1498, and even another by Henry’s sister Margaret. But the Pope was dominated by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles, whose mother was Catherine’s sister. Henry could expect nothing from Rome, which endlessly delayed a decision.

      With the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1532, an opportunity arose for Henry and for English sympathisers with Luther’s critique of Rome. If Henry’s petition were to be declared valid by English churchmen, and if under his protection the English church cut itself adrift from Rome, there was little the Pope could do.

      For which I think God. For England’s sake, not Henry’s.

      Reply
      • Anton,

        Yes – the problem with Henry’s marriage to Catherine was:
        Leviticus 18:16: Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonour your brother.
        Leviticus 20:16: If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonoured his brother. They will be childless.
        But this would seem to contradict the levirate marriage and the solution seems clear both verses are talking about the divorced brother’s wife. But England was Roman Catholic and nobody could imagine such.

        Day One published my brief biography of Anne Boleyn.

        Reply
    • Catholic annulment happens oodles of times. Of these, an enormous number and significant percentage are divorce on the sly. Though I expect others are not. How can you generalise so about such large quantities? It nullifies your argument.

      Reply
  18. It’s hypocritical that so many Christians support divorce and remarriage of straight people for any reason, but don’t support gay people marrying once.

    I think divorce is not always the worst option, but it’s not without consequences, especially for your children. Same sex marriage is the direct opposite. It creates a stable home for raising children (many the products of straight peoples failed relationships)

    There’s not an analogy between remarriage after divorce and same sex marriage. Jess taught specifically against remarriage in most circumstances and yet modern “conservatives” explain away his teaching on this. He is not recorded as teaching anything at all about same sex marriage or gay people and yet modern “conservatives” twist any verse they can to demonize us. From a gospel perspective these are direct opposites.

    Reply
    • Oh and another difference

      Justin Welby will and has remarried people who divorced without good cause (Harry and Meghan), but would not even support allowing other priests to bless same sex couples

      Reply
      • Yes, peter, and whatever Justin Welby does is right, isn’t it.
        And if it were a choice between what Jesus says and what Justin Welby says, we should all choose Justin Welby, right?

        Reply
        • Christopher

          As i have said before, I am of the opinion that Welby should apologize for all the harm he has caused and resign. I’ve never met him, but he doesn’t seem to be kind or truthful. I don’t think dishonesty is a good way to run any institution, but particularly not a religious institution that is supposed to be setting an example of morality

          Reply
      • As Welby is on the conservative evangelical wing of the C of E rather than the liberal Catholic wing and aligns with conservative evangelicals opposition to any form of recognition in the established church of same sex couples married in English law. While also not having much of a problem with remarrying divorced couples.

        Say what you like about Rowan Williams but he only agreed to give the divorced Charles and Camilla a blessing in the chapel at Windsor (which is all Synod has narrowly approved for homosexual couples on an experimental basis), not a full remarriage

        Reply
          • Anton

            He’s certainly from a conservative evangelical background. Iwerne, Eton and HTB – couldn’t be more on brand

          • Eton, like most English public schools, is fairly gay (do you know the alternative version of the Boating Song?) and HTB is charismatic, which might be evangelical but is far from conservative evangelical. And in any case you cannot legitimately argue from a congregation to a single individual who attended it.

          • John Addington Symonds wrote in his Memoirs about his experiences at Harrow:

            “Every boy of good looks had a female name, and was recognised either as a public prostitute or as some bigger fellow’s ‘bitch.’ Bitch was the word in common usage to indicate a boy who yielded his person to a lover.”

            It wasn’t just Harrow, either. Lord Alfred Douglas (aka ‘Bosie’), famous for being one of Oscar Wilde’s lovers, attended Winchester and referred to it as a ‘sink of iniquity’ where ‘at least ninety per cent’ of his fellow schoolboys were having sex with other students. Not that Bosie was opposed to all the sex among students, after he acclimated to the school. ‘I got used to the conditions,’ he wrote, ‘adapted myself to the standard of morality–or rather immorality–and enjoyed the whole thing immensely.’

          • Dr. Herder : He can’t forget being rejected by his mother and father at the age of 11. They sent him away, alone, into a primitive community of licensed bullies and pederasts.

            Sir Charles : You mean he went to public school.

          • Peter: absolutely, but it might help explain why some people – including some who comment here – find the whole idea of people being gay or having sex with someone of their own gender so difficult to comprehend. And why they react with such vehemence and obvious distaste. Being sent away to places like Eton/Harrow/Winchester can clearly be traumatic. If you then throw in something so obviously disturbing as Iwerne, you have a potent mix of trauma.

          • Andrew

            Maybe so. It’d certainly interesting that the same set who separate teenagers from their families and the opposite sex and package them off to boarding school are telling me that I’m “unnatural” for marrying someone of the same sex!

      • Peter Jeremy
        “raising children” – same sex relationships by their very nature are infertile. So same sex relationships are a stable place for raising children are they? Have you seen the statistics on lesbian relationships – violent, short term. Children need a father and a mother to bring them up – long term marriage is shown to be the best environment.

        Reply
        • Tricia

          Gay people are not the monsters you believe us to be. We can parent just as well as straight people

          My husband and I are raising two kids. They are happy healthy normal teenagers.

          Studies have repeatedly shown that adopted kids do as well (or better!) with same sex parents than with straight parents…and of course there aren’t enough straight people willing to adopt anyway.

          There’s a lot of domestic abuse amongst straight people. Do you think victims of domestic abuse should be blamed? Denied custody of their children?

          Reply
          • I do not believe you are monsters! I I do believe very strongly that children deserve to be brought up by a mother and a father. The balance is best for children. You or your partner cannot be a mother. Will the children be able to find their mother when they grow older as adopted children can?

          • And of course same-sex parenting automatically means children are not raised by their birth parents, but have been separated from one (or both) of them.

          • I do not believe you are monsters! I I do believe very strongly that children deserve to be brought up by a mother and a father. The balance is best for children. You or your partner cannot be a mother. Will the children be able to find their mother when they grow older as adopted children can?

          • Ian

            Our kids are being raised by their birth parents. Sorry, but you are wrong. Being gay does not make you infertile. Nor do families live in vacuums.

            We also have in our family a straight couple with adopted children. They are great parents and I do not believe that you actually believe that adoptive parents are substandard.

          • Tricia

            We are not two straight men parenting

            We are not prohibiting the kids from seeing their mother. We are not monsters. The kids would be in a much worse situation if we said “oh no we can’t be parents- we are gay!”

    • @ Peter J

      Oh, Jesus; teaching was clear and straightforward.

      He said: “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-7)

      Marriage – a male and female joined by God for life.

      Reply
      • But ESV has (I suggest more accurately) : ‘let not man separate’ — i.e., let not mankind invent their own ules for separating a God-given institution. Perhaps you have not noticed this significant translation discrepancy?

        I do not believe that the Bible anywhere teaches that each and every marriage (however defined) is personally arranged by God.

        Reply
        • @ Anton

          The authors conclude:

          One thing appears certain from this study: the New Testament and the early church as a whole are not vague or confusing when it comes to the question of remarriage after divorce. It is clear that Jesus said that a man may have one wife or no wife, and if someone puts away their partner for whatever reason they must remain single …

          Jesus’ disciples did object to His firm stand on divorce and remarriage. They said, ‘If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry’ (Matt. 19: 10). This attitude makes the attractiveness of marriage contingent upon the possibility of divorce and remarriage to another. The disciples had an anthropocentric outlook. They felt that their designs for their own ‘well-being’ had to be better than their Creator’s design just communicated to them via the Messiah Himself. But remarriage was clearly not better for them in His teaching. He said it was adultery …

          It is essential to hold before our people continually the ideal that human marriage should reflect the union between Christ and the church. As Christ loved us sinners and gave Himself for us, so Christian husbands and wives are called to love their partners even if their love is inadequately responded to. As God remains faithful despite our frequent faithlessness, so even a divorced believer who remains single out of loyalty to Christ and the former partner can be a vivid, powerful symbol of the enduring love of God for sinful mankind …

          Not so sure about this – but then the Catholic Church is struggling with this issue too:

          Those couples who have already remarried after divorce may be wondering how their situation fits into all of this. We believe that you should see that your present marriage is now God’s will for you. You should seek to be the best husband or wife you can be, rendering to each other your full marital duty. If you come to the realisation that Jesus calls remarriage after divorce the sin of adultery, then call sin ‘sin’ rather than seek to justify it …

          If this study has perturbed you, because of your own past failures or because of the way you have counselled divorcees, do not forget that Christ came to save sinners. None of us can pretend to be above reproach in the realm of sexual morality when we measure ourselves by our Lords standards (Matt. 5: 27-30; John 8: l-11). All of us need to claim His daily forgiveness and grace if we are to be transformed into His likeness. ‘If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1: 8-9). So let us praise Him for His mercy and dedicate ourselves anew to serve Him more faithfully in the future.

          Reply
          • Jacxk, This is from my main esssay on the subject:

            Q: The marriage I am in is the second marriage for me (or my spouse), and the former husband/wife is still alive. I have become a Christian. In the gospel Christ says that my marriage is adulterous, but where he mentions remarriage he does not regard the contract as void (since a certificate of divorce is needed to end it and children are legitimate), and Christ also sees divorce as sinful. What should I do?

            A: This question must have been asked many times in the early church, but it is not addressed in any New Testament letter. There is sin either way but the New Testament sets out how to deal with sin, not how to weigh sins against each other. You must consult God yourself. It is up to him to decide what sin to forgive – provided that you are genuinely sorry – and what sin you must avoid. One size does not fit all and if you approach God with a readiness to obey, so that it is his will and not yours, then he will make clear the course you should take. Do not make a hasty decision, but conduct your present marriage in the light of what you now know that the scriptures say, and observe how your relationship changes. Pray hard! I would expect God to take account of the welfare of any children (of either marriage); whether you told your current spouse about the first; whether you divorced in order to marry your current spouse (in which case the wronged spouse should also be consulted); and your responsibility to show Christ to all who see your actions. If your spouse also converts then you should seek God’s will jointly.

      • HJ

        Heternormativity is not condemnation of homosexuality.

        Condemnation of remarriage after divorce is Condemnation of remarriage after divorce.

        Reply
        • People are born wounded in many ways with a variety of proclivities, sexual and otherwise, that’s not the same as God willing them to act on these proclivities.

          The term “heteronormativity” is political, not theological, aimed at undermining male-female sex as coherent, God given and natural, asserting it is about privilege.

          Does God causepeople to have same-sex attractions and wants these people to sexually express those desires? If God did cause (permit) something in our biology or upbringing that disposes us to certain actions, it doesn’t follow that we should act on these. It could be something to overcome.

          All blessings and trials ultimately come from God, even if through his permissive will. It isn’t helpful to dwell on the question, “Did God make me this way?” The question for a Christian to ask is, “What does God want me to do with this desire He’s allowed me to experience?” If a desire draws us to do something immoral, then God definitely doesn’t want us to act upon it.

          Reply
          • HJ

            What I mean by “heteronormativity” is when language is used that assumes heterosexuality without intentionally excluding everyone else.

            For example if my dental nurse asks how my wife is doing she is not telling me that gay people aren’t allowed in her dental practice.

            Gay people are often an afterthought and bi people are often the thought after that.

          • Bad behaviour is also a normal part of human diversity, but that does not make it to be on a par with good behaviour.

          • Christopher

            I think its hard to argue that all bad behavior is natural and not through choice. I think it does happen sometimes that people behave badly, but do not choose to. Its then an interesting theological debate if it is a sin if someone does something when they were not in control of themselves.

            I live about 30miles from a recent mass shooting, including the murder of a child. I hope we can all agree that it is wrong to murder children. The killer was mentally ill and receiving treatment, so few people seem to be blaming him. People seem split three ways between blaming the police, blaming the lack of restrictions on guns (even for people with a mental illness that makes them violent!) or blaming the victims for not being armed.

            In contrast being gay is not due to choice or laws or mental ill health. It is a natural part of diversity, not an illness. It doesn’t cause death. Its not a danger to straight people.

    • For what it’s worth I don’t support divorce and remarriage of straight people, but ther is no reason to concatenate the two issues. In each case you look at what scripture says. If you consider the church makes a mistake over one issue, why is that a reason for a mistake over the other?

      Reply
      • Anton – I’m more-or-less inclined to disagree. The unifying issue is hypocrisy. Sin that is extremely serious in its nature is turned a blind eye to – provided the sinner is in the correct group, while other sin – which may actually be much less serious on the Richter scale – is singled out as being particularly awful.

        I’m more-or-less in agreement with Joe S.. In a church situation, I’d have thought that (a) there should be very few divorce/remarriage and (b) those that do take place are very much of the type where the divorcee was the innocent victim of a spouse doing horrible things. But, as Joe S. points out, it isn’t like that at all, divorce within the church often seems ten-a-penny – and anything that went wrong that led to the divorce is a big secret. This doesn’t ring true; a Christian who was the victim of an abusive spouse is usually quite open about how, by the grace of God, they were led through the difficult situation and into a better life.

        It’s clear that the main function of marriage is for the benefit of the offspring, so that they are legitimate and have a good and loving home. The disruption caused with divorce/remarriage for a normal man-woman couple is therefore of a much greater magnitude than sexual sins perpetrated between a gay couple.

        I emphasise that I am strongly against SSM and I do take very seriously the indictment in Scripture against same-sex sexual activity. Putting things in perspective, though, I’d say that divorce/remarriage in the context of normal marriage is a much more devastating sin. Yet the C. of E. seems to tolerate it.

        Reply
        • Put it this way. If the police don’t enforce the law against one thing, why is that a reason not to enforce the law against another? The correct thing to do is enforce both laws, not give up on enforcing either.

          Reply
      • Anton

        I think the only reason to link the two is that evangelicals take what seems to me to be Jesus teaching on remarriage and divorce and claim it isn’t about divorce at all, but is actually condemnation of same sex relationships

        Reply
        • Of the many evangelicals I know, not one regards Mark 10, Luke 16 and Matt 5 and 19 as being about same-sex relationships. They are clearly about divorce and remarriage (or not) between man and woman. Evangelicals are not of one mind about the NT position on this subject, because reconciling those scriptures is a difficult intellectual exercise. Working out the scriptural view of sexual activity between two males is, in contrast, very easy.

          Reply
          • Anton

            Well at least we are agreed that it’s not about homosexuality!

            I’d say most evangelicals reach for these passages as proof texts for denouncing gay people. That’s my experience. The problem is that they have the two shibboleths of being tough on the gays, but also getting everything from scripture, but scripture doesn’t actually say anything about gay people

          • Scripture has things to say about men who partake in gay sex, regardless of what they are thinking and feeling. That is the point which you sedulously avoid.

          • Anton

            I don’t agree with your interpretation of scripture. However I wasn’t talking about MSM. I was talking about LGBT people

          • It’s unconvincing saying you don’t agree unless you can make a case. Where is your case?
            Do you disagree that every time Scripture mentions same sex ‘sexual’a activity it is strongly against it?

          • It is not an interpretation of scripture. It is what scripture says. Leviticus is clear in asserting that sexual experience between two men is toevah in God’s eyes. There is no limitation of this view according to what attractions the two experience.

          • Christopher

            It’s always difficult to prove a negative, but scripture simply doesn’t mention gay people. There wasn’t widespread knowledge that some people were naturally attracted to the same sex in the ancient world.

            It’s possible to read Jonathan as being in love with David, but it’s not definitive. It’s possible to read Paul as a frustrated celibate gay, but it’s not definitive.

          • How can some people be naturally attracted to…?
            You mean that some people at some ages of their lives are.
            Which is a way that they become not a way that they are.
            To say nothing of the hormonal stages when they are just confused and all bets are off.
            To say nothing that later homosexual orientation almost always has its roots in that time of confusion. A confused root produces confused behaviour.
            You speak as though everyone was an adult. Family people assume that a lot of people are children. Is it true that you rarely see people who are not adults? I hypothesise.

          • There are oodles of them. JUst as there are oodles of people who do all kinds of things, unnatural and harmful things included. For sure they were not born doing them, it is not in their nature to do them, and doing them is not part of their essence. All of this is behaviour they have adopted later, and there is no intrinsic moral worth to that, is there?

          • Christopher

            Except that ‘gay sex’ is neither unnatural nor intrinsically harmful. It can be the latter, but then so can ‘straight sex’; you are just setting up a straw man again.

          • Christopher

            I’m not talking about behavior. I’m talking about people who experience lifelong exclusive attraction to the same sex. That includes people who remain single and abstain from sex, people in OSMs and SSMs and people who are promiscuous. Its not the behavior that is natural. It is the orientation

          • Then there are no such people. If it were lifelong, then it would be evidenced in babies.
            Attraction? Most of us are very attracted to many people of different ages and sexes. Not sexually though (or not always).
            You are giving away your assumption that the world is made up of workplaces of unrelated adults. It is made up of children and grandparents, aunts, cousins, siblings, parents, etc.. Of all ages.

          • Penelope-
            If what you said were even remotely true, then the STI and promiscuity rates for ‘gay men’ would be the same as for others. Since this is not remotely the case, what you say is not even remotely true.

    • The way you talk you would think gay marriages never end in divorce, just like straight ones! The Netherlands has had gay marriage for more than 20 years. Every year more than 400 same-sex marriages end in divorce. The overall divorce rate including both male-male & female-female marriages is higher than straight marriages. Can you imagine the damage that is causing to kids brought up in such marriages? So much for ‘stable homes’. Laughable.

      Reply
      • But why did anyone expect any different? If people are estranged or disaffected from their own biology, they have that higher level of estrangement and disaffection beforethey even start. That always by definition bodes against intimacy.

        Reply
  19. This is all seems a bit comparing apples and oranges.
    One needs to consider the whole counsel of God.
    Vows can be made in many circumstances, particularly so in a marriage. Vows are of fundamental import to God; “pay your vows for why should God be angry with you? There are countless references to God’s anger toward all who break their vows; people, kings prophets and priests and nations. God is a very particular judge and individuals will incur His wrath; see perhaps 1 Kings Chapter: 11
    The greatest part of God’s Salvation is predicated on His promises, hence he is well known as “a God of faithfulness.”
    With ssm God would not respect a vow between that which is an abomination to Him, marry if you want to but please do not bring God into it.
    The goat-herders must realize that God takes account of our vows and judges the breaking of vows with the greatest severity.
    Ezra 9:14 Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?
    1 Cor.7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God…….
    7:9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
    7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.
    7:11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

    Reply
    • Hi Alan,

      Can you find a marriage vow in Scripture? As fas as I know there is no verba solemnia. Perhaps we should be more cautious in what we tell couples they must say.

      Reply
  20. Ian Paul,

    Excellent article. The definition of marriage is quite clear in both testaments. I do find it interesting that Paul’s remarks in I Corinthians 7 is not mentioned regarding divorce and remarriage. Paul states that if an unbelieving spouse does not want to remain married to the believing spouse, then the believing spouse is no longer bound to the marriage. If, and it is understood, remarriage does occur, then it must be to another believer.

    Same-sex marriage is never countenance in either testament. In fact, sexual immorality of any kind is an abomination.

    Reply
    • Hi Bryant,

      Yes, by saying ‘not bound’ Paul is almost certainly cancelling the requirement for the divorce certificate from the husband for the church age because that is the only thing that bound the wife, i.e., prevented her remarrying.

      If you Google ‘agunah’ you will see that many Jewish wives are still bound by their husbands refusing to give the certificate.

      Reply
    • What Paul is saying is that a believer who is deserted by an unbelieving spouse is under no obligation to seek reconciliation. He is not saying the believer is free thereafter to remarry (at least during the life of the ex).

      Reply
        • Ian: maybe, maybe not – Israel was meant to be different from the rest of “the ancient world” – but I do believe that Jesus and/or St Paul made that distinction.

          Reply
        • I’d agree, though it’s nearly 50 years since I wrote my final ethics long-essay which covered it. The existence of “certificate of divorce” perhaps points the possibility, or even practical necessity, in the society structure of the day?

          Reply
          • The certificate of divorce actually said “you are now permitted to any man”. It was a valuable document to the woman, because if she could not produce it then she was liable to be accused of adultery.

            Remarriage after divorce was permitted in ancient Israel, but Jesus demanded – and demands – higher standards from his followers.

    • Bryant

      It’s circular logic to say that same sex marriage is prohibited because sexual immorality is condemned. You have to assume that same sex relationships are always immoral in order to get to that conclusion.

      The reality is that there’s no gay people or same sex marriage in the Bible and it is for the reader to decide how best to apply scripture.

      Unfortunately we have all been raised in cultures where gay people are either seen as criminals or diseases and that makes it hard to read scripture without projecting those cruel narratives on to it

      Reply
      • ‘The reality is that there’s no gay people or same sex marriage in the Bible and it is for the reader to decide how best to apply scripture.’

        Not so. There have always been people who are attracted to those of the same sex or been in sexual relations with people of the same sex. One OT reference to them is the kedushim in Deuteronomy, and of course we have references in Paul.

        What we find in scripture is

        a. a refusal to categorise or define people according to their patterns of sexual desire
        b. a rejection of same-sex sexual relations of any kind
        c. a consistent belief in male-female marriage as the only context for sexual intimacy, since this reflects God’s intention for us in creation.

        That is the biblical data which we need to engage with in our contemporary context.

        Reply
  21. See also (hermosamen) As in In the King James Version these words, following English usage of an earlier day, are used to signify either marriage or betrothal, while the American Standard Revised Version discriminates, and uses them only for marriage. A betrothal or espousal was a formal binding agreement much as a vow is.

    Reply
  22. If the police do not take great effort to enforce the speed limit on the roads near me, is that an argument why they should not bother to conduct murder investigations?

    Reply
  23. Ian

    Sorry but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that the Bible speaks specifically about gay people, but also that the Bible doesn’t categorize people by orientation. That’s a blatant contradiction.

    There’s no mention of gay people or same sex marriage. There are a few fleeting mentions of same sex sex, but never in the context of a relationship.

    You can keep arguing that the Bible says things it does not, but you’re only going to cause more polarization by doing so.

    Reply
    • So we have you talking about ‘gay people’ and we have Penelope CD saying that sexual preference is somewhat fluid. Such confusion is why the Bible refers to actions, not orientation, for about actions there is no ambiguity. Your “few fleeting mentions” of man having sex with man include verses wherein this practice is described as toevah in God’s eyes and punishable by death in the one nation which held that its laws were God-given.

      The biblical writers simply would not recognise same-sex marriage. Caesar, i.e. the British State, has decided to do so. Churches that adhere to scripture will not.

      Reply
      • So if you wish to accord with every word of scripture, you are also by your own admission advocating punishment by death of those homosexual couples who engage in sexual acts? Which may well be a hate crime under current UK law

        Reply
        • Believing all scripture is true is not the same as believing we should read it with wooden literalism.

          What have you read on the question of biblical interpretation and how to do it well? You keep assuming that others read the Bible as badly as you on this. Do you know what other people think?

          Reply
          • Well you don’t appear to, since that is not what Synod voted for.

            But what have you read on how to interpret the Bible well? My Grove booklet? Something else? Anything?

          • Oh it very much is what Synod voted for, which is why you voted against it but lost the vote.

            You put umpteen articles on here including by you where you put your interpretation of the Bible. Which we know is no recognition of homosexual couples at all but no problem with full remarriage for divorcees!

        • Putting words in someone else’s mouth and then condemning them is a dishonourable act, T1.

          I have said before on this site that I support the people having a say in the laws, the precedent being God giving the Israelites a choice to accept or reject the code of laws he was proposing. (They accepted.) In Britain today there is no appetite for Mosaic penalties. The only Old Testament law I’d enact unilaterally if I had the power would be the death penalty for murder, because of Genesis 9.

          Reply
          • Anton

            That’s not what orientation means. I’d hope (although I know it’s not true) that nobody under 18 would be sleeping with anyone, but it’s expected that teenagers have crushes, girlfriends, boyfriends and pop stars they find attractive

          • Peter, why are you saying that you hope that noone under 18 would be sleeping with anyone? You are a secularist. Christians would prioritise that noone without marriage did. You put the secular legal pattern above the Christian, ergo you are secular above being Christian. Which is what has been said about your words all along.

          • How good you are, Peter, at telling people what words don’t mean, while being coy about what you consider they do mean.

            This is just wasting time. Man lying sexually with man (which means intent to orgasm) is toevah in God’s eyes according to the Old Testament. Believing Jews, and all Christians for 1800 years, have taken this to reflect God’s opinion.

            It is an *action* that is referred to, and the idea that the levitical prohibition applies only to some persons having certain urges, but not to others, is nonsensical.

          • Christopher

            Because I think the legal age of consent should be 18 and under 18 is too young for sex. I think every child should wait until they are an adult. I think every adult should not be having sex with children.

          • Anton

            Orientation is somewhat independent of which genders/sexes you have sex with

            Gay means you are only attracted to the same sex, but might have had sex with the opposite sex or never had sex.

            Bi means you are attracted to both sexes, but might only have had sex with one or never had sex

            Straight means you are only attracted to the opposite sex, but may have had sex with the same sex or never had sex.

          • Peter, will you please answer the question. It is suspicious that you avoid it. Age (whether married or not) is more important than marital status for you. That makes you more secularist/law-based than Christian-based. That is your priority.

          • Man lying with a male as with a woman does not mean with intent to orgasm. Well, maybe for one of the men 😉

          • Christopher

            You asked why I thought nobody under the age of 18 should be having sex. The answer is because I don’t think that they are mature enough. Granted I think in the UK you can get married at 17 in some circumstances, but personally speaking I personally believe that is too young.

          • Point of clarification – the law in the UK changed last year. The legal age to get married was raised to 18 (and the law against forced marriages was tightened as well).

          • Because they are not mature enough??
            So nothing whatever to do with breaking purity which will then have ramifications for their future marriage and family and their own soul and inner state, and in other directions?
            Again, you are a secularist because you promote awe-lacking secular (this world is all there is, and even it isn’t much cop) perspectives while, secondly, also simultaneously ignoring Christian ones.

    • Peter, of course I can have it both ways.

      Unless you believe there were no people with same-sex attraction in the ancient world (which would be an odd claim) then of course the Bible talks about such people! But it does not accept your anthropology which allows you to classify people as ‘gay’.

      What makes you think the mentions of same-sex sex are not in a relationship? Worth noting here the comment of pro-gay historian Louis Crompton:

      ‘According to [one] interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at “bona fide” homosexuals in committed relationships. But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian.’ Homosexuality and Civilization (Cambridge, 2003), 114.

      The Bible speaks of marriage—but only between male and female, because of God’s creation. So those following scripture have always rejected cultural acceptance of SSS in whatever form.

      ‘Homosexual activity was a subject on which there was a severe clash between Greco-Roman and Jewish views. Christianity, which accepted many aspects of Greco-Roman culture, in this case accepted the Jewish view so completely that the ways in which most of the people in the Roman Empire regarded homosexuality were obliterated, though now have been recovered by ancient historians…

      Diaspora Jews had made sexual immorality and especially homosexual activity a major distinction between themselves and gentiles, and Paul repeated Diaspora Jewish vice lists.’ E P Sanders.

      We could do with a little more honesty about how clear Scripture is on this question.

      Reply
      • Ian

        So where do gays come from if your interpretation of scripture relies on everyone being created heterosexual?

        I agree that there would have been what we now call gay people in ancient times. I disagree that the Bible mentions any of them or talks at all about what we now categorize as gay. Perhaps Jonathan was gay, but we cannot be sure.

        I’d agree with the historian that broadly same sex relationships (with some exceptions) were unacceptable in the Roman Empire. That does not mean that most people understood that some people were gay – actually it implies the opposite!

        Reply
    • But in advocating same-sex marriage you are, by definition, advocating same-sex sexual behaviour which the Bible is negative about in every case.

      Please stop pretending youre referring to same-sex attraction when you’ve been consistently talking about same-sex sexual behaviour.

      Reply
      • And to keep that same sex behaviour in marriage, or actually just blessings for those same sex couples married in English civil law, not in fornication (which the Bible is even more opposed to). Which is one of the main reasons for opposite sex marriage too

        Reply
        • You are so selective. You want to keep to the Bible and then have a completely different gender-idea of marriage than the Bible has.

          Reply
          • The C of E already has women priests and remarries divorcees (you can find bible passages against both).

            Plus it is blessings for same sex couples Synod voted for not full marriage

          • What is your view on two wrongs don’t make a right? Your avoidance of that question is telling its own story.

          • No, I am in the established church, an established church by definition will not drift too far from the culture of the nation where it is established. If you want a pure biblical church, anti women priests and anti remarrying divorcees as well as anti blessing or marrying homosexual couples and you want to impose your views on the rest of the established church rather than accept the opt out given to you then you should not be in the established church.

            You should be in the Roman Catholic church, or if evangelical a more ‘purist’ Baptist, Pentecostal or independent evanglical church

          • ‘No, I am in the established church, an established church by definition will not drift too far from the culture of the nation where it is established.’

            I keep asking you this Simon, and I am not sure you have offered an answer. What is the ‘definition’ of the Church of England? Where do you think it gets its doctrine from? Canon A5 offers the answer; have you read it?

            What do you think it says?

          • The Church of England is the established church within England, whose supreme governor is the King and a Catholic but reformed church that believes in apostolic succession for its Bishops. It is governed by Synod.

            As Canon A6 says ‘The government of the Church of England under the Queen’s Majesty, by archbishops, bishops, deans, archdeacons, and the rest of the clergy and of the laity that bear office in the same, is not repugnant to the Word of God.’

  24. Synod and same-sex blessings[Published today]
    Peter Lynas speaks with John Dunnett, national director of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) following the General Synod of the Church of England on 15 November
    ps://www.eauk.org/news-and-views/synod-and-same-sex-blessings#msdynttrid=GyqseK6ktUvj7SkyfE8CGT2EoFmO7xLxWvJaqLYnT5I

    perhaps for further comment by EA see
    Biblical and pastoral responses to homosexuality
    .eauk.org/resources/what-we-offer/reports/biblical-and-pastoral-responses-to-homosexuality

    Reply
  25. ……The Holy Scriptures are a able to make you wise unto salvation…. 2 Tim 3:15
    For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Rom 15:4
    Give heed all aspiring Goat – Herders of Psalm2
    …..The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
    3
    “Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

    4
    The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
    5
    He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
    6
    “I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

    7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

    He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
    8
    Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
    9
    You will break them with a rod of iron[b];
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

    10
    Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
    11
    Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
    12
    Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,

    Reply
  26. Evangelicals are merely God’s messengers. We expect to get knifed from the front by an unbelieving world. That is part of being a believer. But I am tired of evangelicals being knifed in the back by bishops who wish to deviate from the scriptural view, and I intend to apply 2 John 11 to such people.

    Reply
    • Anton I’m afraid this is just self righteous nonsense. I’m tired of evangelicals claiming they are the only real Christians. They have turned the CofE into a club for like minded white middle class families.

      Reply
      • And CoE bishops are what?
        From which predominant social and educational, systems of belief, demographics are they drawn?
        From which schools of theology do they come, and trained in?

        Reply
      • And there was me thinking that black churches were the staunchest opposition to the view held by the Archbishops…

        Thanks to Ian and this blog I have been able to dispute in sufficient length and detail with people taking the Archbishops’ line, and learnt that when pushed they double down on the secular humanist line rather than the biblical line, that I no longer consider them Christian. They would do well to listen to such same-sex-attracted believers as Vaughan Roberts and Sam Allberry, and to secular gays who are told what the Bible says and understand it instantly.

        I would take the Archbishops’ view more seriously if it had come out of deep and earnest Bible study, like some of the changes wrought at the Reformation, rather than out of the prevailing culture – as it clearly has.

        Fear of God is commended not only in the Old Testament but also the New. It is sorely needed here.

        Reply
        • Confirmation, if any were needed, that the only ‘message’ you have to offer as God’s messenger is that if we think like you then we *might* – and only might mind you – avoid hell. And that would be your interpretation of what hell is in any case.
          No thanks. I have no interest in joining your narrow minded sub Christian club. I’ve got far better things to do with my time.

          Reply
          • So you call the church for 1800 years from its foundation – since it held the opposite view to yours and the Archbishops’ – a narrow minded sub Christian club. That is ample confirmation.

          • So the earliest Christians, whose orthodoxy did not contain (and only slated) anything remotely related to same sex marriage, were just as sub Christian.

          • Christopher the earliest Christians had quite different priorities to the white middle class public school elite who have so wholeheartedly taken over the CofE.

        • Oh no Anton. The Church founded by the earliest Christians are ‘Orthodox’. And your little Evangelical club churches have almost nothing in common with Orthodoxy.

          Reply
          • The church I advocate takes the same view of the present issue as does the mainstream of historic Christianity. Whatever goes on in Western culture today, inside the church you are the outlier, not me.

          • That simply shows you are obsessed with one small issue to the exclusion of all else. There is far far more to the Christian faith than this tiny issue. The fact that evangelicals are so obsessed with it is more confirmation of the narrow minded club mentality.

          • Not correct. The obssession is with the revisionists. And theirs is merely a presenting issue which masks deeper dividing seismic theological fault lines.

          • Sexuality is a presenting issue for the minority of conservative evangelicals who want their own pure church within a church. That is, they want to retain the stipends, buildings, pensions, and other resources while refusing to support other churches, mostly urban poor or rural poor churches. Where the congregations are probably middle of the road (and not the heretical revisionists the con evos paint them as). There are many sad ironies in this subterfuge. One is, of course, that there is absolutely no legal support for this ‘schism’. Synod has not been consulted, no measures have been tabled, and no vote has been taken.
            John Dunnett’s latest pronouncement states quite baldly that this is what the CEEC is after. The will of a tiny minority willingly attempting to destroy the CoE – power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.

          • I agree with you, Penelope, about “the will of a tiny minority willingly attempting to destroy the CoE – power without responsibility”. A better description of the bishops would be hard to find.

          • Anton

            Except that the bishops represent a wide range of ecclesiologies and they, like the Houses of Clergy and Laity voted on a motion and on a series of amendments. They have (mostly) agreed to live with difference.
            CEEC, on the other hand, have no mandate and are attempting a heist.
            It’s really rather immoral. And potentially Donatist.

          • The church is not a democracy. And you bet the bishops have mostly agreed to live with their differences – in their palaces.

          • Anton

            Have you heard of oecumenical councils?

            And bishops usually live in small flats in ‘their’ palaces. Probably much more simply than some leading con evos.

          • Ecumenical councils were intensely political (ever heard of Cyril of Alexandria?) But do tell me, Penelope, which of them considered gay marriage?

            Bishops have large salaries and mostly live in Grade I listed buildings for which maintenance bills get paid by the diocese. Nevertheless I would be content if they were merely useless. Unfortunately most are worse than that. You are clearly of that opinion in regard to safeguarding…

          • Oecumenical councils were intensly political, so no change there. But they were concerned with imoportant doctrinal matters and not with a social construct.

          • I think many of the bishops have an appalling record with regard to safeguarding, but I don’t see how locating them to Barratt homes is going to solve that.
            The CoE could, of course, do that and set up churches in bus shelters. But I’m not sure who is going to buy all the Grade 1 and 2 listed buildings.

          • At the end of the day, the C of E is an established church of apostolic succession and will therefore have Bishops. Conservative evangelical parishes have an opt out from blessing homosexual couples, as they and conservative Anglo Catholics had over women priests. However that does not entitle them to withhold Parish share

          • Ecumenical councils didn’t always come up with the right answer

            The Donatists were Christians who objected to church leadership by overseers who had apostatised or even betrayed their flocks to the authorities during persecution just before Constantine, but who appealed to the authorities to regain their positions of leadership (hardly a sign of repentance). The Donatists were crushed, a bad decision. Promoted by Constantine, a series of church councils began. Followers of Arius, who saw Christ as a high being but not divine (like Jehovah’s Witnesses today), were declared non-Christian and ejected from the churches. That was a good decision, for the Arian view was growing and polluting the church. A later council declared that Nestorians, Trinitarian Christians who dissented merely over how Jesus was totally divine and totally human, were not Christians – a tragic decision. The large Nestorian church which flourished for a thousand years in Asia, beyond the Roman Empire and latterly under Islam, was written out of church histories. Such is the cost of breaking sola scriptura. It happened by combining the Nestorian view of Jesus’ mother with logical tricks about the paradox that Jesus was both divine and human, perpetrated by Cyril of Alexandria.

          • T1: We shall withold parish share from bishops who pay themselves from the legacy and contributions of the faithful while sowing doubt. And we’ll do it whether you like it or not.

          • Well then if a church witholds Parish share then there is an argument that would open that church to ultimate expulsion from the C of E. If that church clearly would prefer to go independent than help support its diocese, bishop and fellow C of E churches

          • Such a church would certainly get no central funding for clergy stipends, pensions and support for housing if it withheld Parish share

          • T1: I believe the diocese would be in breach of contract if it withheld clergy stipend, whereas parish share is voluntary. There are ways that the bishop can make life difficult, but not in the ways you say. You really need to learn how the CoE actually works.

          • What would happen is that when a Priest leaves a Parish that has refused to pay common fund the bishop would refuse to license another Priest to the Parish until things are rectified.
            And Bishops and their expenses are the responsibility of the Church Commissioners and not the dioceses.

          • Parish share helps fund priests, their housing and their stipends. Therefore if Parish share is not contributed to by a church then the Diocesan Bishop could indeed refuse to fund its Vicar. It would therefore have to either pay its share again or go independent and try and fund its Minister and their housing and stipend themselves

          • TI clergy cannot operate at all in the CofE unless they have a licence from the bishop. A Parish can’t independently fund a new Vicar unless the bishop is willing to do the licensing. It’s that simple. No licence, no Vicar. So parishes havd to think pretty carefully about withholding Common Fund because it will easily come back to bite them.

          • But presumable the parish could – paying its own way – employ somebody to manage the church in the indefinite interregnum period, no?

            (Would such a person if ordained be permitted to preside over Holy Communion?)

          • Yes, so they would have to leave the C of E and become an independent evangelical church and have a big enough congregation willing to contribute enough to self fund their minister and church

          • “Would such a person if ordained be permitted to preside over Holy Communion?”

            Officiating in any way in a CofE church is only possible if the minister has a licence or PTO – permission to officiate. It is for safeguarding reasons for one thing. So what you suggest could not happen Kyle.
            TI – they could do that but would, of course, have to find a new building as well.

          • The Church of England owns the church building (although of course those pre early 16th century were taken from the Roman Catholics at the Reformation). The C of E and diocese also funds the Vicar and their housing.

            So as Andrew states any court case would not challenge that and they would have to find and buy or build a new church and fund their own minister if they permanently refused to pay Parish Share and went independent

          • Anton I think there may have been court challenges when whole congregations left the CofE for the ordinariate and it was decided then that the local congregation could not take the building. I can’t see it being different now.

          • Maybe, Andrew, maybe not. I’m not sure that every church building has identical legal status, and one could imagine a few bishops who still retain personal integrity (and godly fear of the Lord) fighting the good fight. Personally I don’t mind where I worship but I do mind the progress of antiscriptural positions within the church.

        • “I have been able to dispute in sufficient length and detail with people taking the Archbishops’ line, and learnt that when pushed they double down on the secular humanist line rather than the biblical line”

          Don’t tell fibs, Anton.

          Reply
          • We disagree about that. Calling me dishonest – i.e. saying what I believe to be untrue – is to pretend to know what is in my mind. You don’t, and my conscience is clear. How’s yours?

          • Very clear.

            Am I supposed to be one of the ones who “doubles down on the secular humanist line rather than the biblical line”?

          • Majorities of the House of Clergy and House of Laity in Synod have voted for remarriage of divorcees in church, ordination of women priests and bishops and now experimental blessings of homosexual couples in church. It is therefore not just the Bishops and Archbishops in the Church of England who in your view would ‘double down on the secular humanist line rather than the biblical line’

      • Except of course conservative evangelicals are still only a minority of the C of E, even of regular worshippers and their Synod representative. If they were the majority then the Bishop of Oxford’s amendment for blessings of same sex couples would have been defeated in the Houses of Laity and Clergy, instead it passed both as well as the House of Bishops

        Reply
        • There is not an exception. This is an obsession of the narrow minded revisionists, a presenting issue, of culture and sexual secluarism within the dominant managerial, liberal classes in the CoE and Bishops.
          You have no idea of what the Evangel is, it seems. Without that you speak of what you don’t know and the God of Christianity that you don’t know. On which you have said absolutely nothing.
          These are matters of eternity, eternal destination, that don’t revolve around the worship of your own god of sexuality. Idolatry. And that is merely a presenting issue.

          The expansiveness of the Christian Gospel is found in the indicatives of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus can be found in Ephesians 1:3 -3:21.
          We are to remember what believers once were but no longer are (Ephesians 2:11) and what it means to be ” in Christ”.
          Our faithfulness is therefore to be dependant on and in reponse to God’s grace.
          Chapters 4-6 describe how to live our new life in Him, with imperatives.

          Reply
  27. Liberal theology isn’t Christian either in thinking or unbeliefs. It is too fundamentalist for that, too wide of the mark, of the Way of and incarnate in Jesus, God the Son, that is indeed narrow. There is no other Way. No other God, than our One God in Holy Trinity. None Greater.
    Narrow? Hardly. Infinite, eternal, immense. Even more so.

    Reply
    • Geoff

      I would argue that Jesus claim that all the law and the prophets hang on love God, love your neighbor is fundamentally liberal. Conservatism throws your neighbor under the bus in order to please God. That’s not what Jesus taught

      Reply
      • Jesus says all the law and the prophets hang on love—not that love throws them out.

        Nowhere does he say that we should be rid of them; rather, we need to understanding them as expresses of God’s love for us, including those commands we find restrictive.

        Such as marriage being between a man and a woman.

        Reply
        • Ian

          Nobody is saying that straight couples cannot marry. Conservatives are saying gay people cannot marry and shouldn’t even exist.

          Conservatives used to be known for sticking hard to rigid rules regardless of their impact on others. Over my lifetime I have seen a slow shift from negative impacts of conservative teaching and practice being a regrettable side effect to a demonstration of a faith, ie who are you willing to hurt to demonstrate how committed you are. I’m not saying that all or even most conservative Christians behave that way, but there certainly is a growing desire to demonstrate cruelty. A low level example might be the fairly recent trend of conservatives to say that we should reject the idea that Christians ought to be “nice”. This is a soft push towards conservative Christians not even trying to be nice to others.

          Reply
          • “who are you willing to hurt to demonstrate how committed you are”

            Quite – some people are in a search for ornaments to their piety: a willingness to say nasty things, and demand harsh rules of others, all in a effort to demonstrate devotion. In contrasts quite starkly with what Christ had to say about tying up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laying them on people’s shoulders, but being unwilling to lift a finger (Matthew 23)

          • ‘Nobody is saying that straight couples cannot marry. Conservatives are saying gay people cannot marry and shouldn’t even exist.’

            This is strange nonsense. Who is saying they ‘shouldn’t exist’? Have you been spending time at Westboro Baptists? Living Out, an organisation of gay/same-sex attracted Christians, is a member organisation of CEEC.

            You have created this group called ‘conservatives’ to whom you attribute the worst possible things. Then you put everyone who disagrees with you into this group.

            It is not a very constructive way of engaging. I am happy to discuss anything I or other C of E evangelicals have said or claimed. But I cannot defend or debate the straw men of your creation.

          • Ian

            Check the comments section of your own website.

            Check the failure of cofe evangelicals to offer alternative inclusion options to SSM. Even when someone mentions covenant friendships, conservatives mostly hate it.

            Your theology has no space for gay people, because your theology is that every human is fundamentally straight

          • It is incredible how you use these new concepts like ‘straight’ as though they were universal or mainstream. They are neither (apart from in trendy pockets in transient ages).

            Every human is fundamentally male or female, is more the point.

        • Ian

          Conservatives interpret that passage as meaning that as long as you treat others according to your religious beliefs then by definition that is love.

          Liberals interpret that passage as meaning that if your religious beliefs cause you to harm others then your theology must be wrong

          Reply
          • So the question is: what did Jesus mean? Given that he was a Torah-observant Jew, who didn’t contest Torah but the Pharisaical additions to it, and given that he commended those who taught others to obey the law, and that the law would never be abolished, which way should we go?

            If we follow the latter of your options, and say ‘the OT must be wrong because it doesn’t look loving to us’ then we have all sorts of problems.

          • There’s a lot of Scripture inbetween Leviticus and Matthew. It’s worth reading too and might be helpful in working this out.

            One of the mysteries to me about the current discourse is what passages of Scripture seem to be judged relevant whilst others are wholly ignored. Ecclesiastes 4 is one of the standard suggested readings for weddings. It sets out a vision of marital relations that resonates today – mutual support and love, and is remarkably unconcerned about the sex of the people its talking about:
            “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4)

          • If you are *starting*, totally uncritically and without reflection, by being ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’, (1) no-one should listen to you because you are uncritical of presuppositions, (2) your so-called conclusions are implicit in your presupposition, (3) your presupposition is likely nothing but a preference.

          • Ian

            The NT and in particular the ministry of Jesus is full of people being wrong about their interpretation of the law.

            Matthew Chapter 1 Joseph thinks the law requires him to divorce Mary. I dare say he believed that as firmly as you believe whatever it is you believe about LGBT people!

          • But then we find that the LGBT people were actually giving birth to the Son of God, and everything was ok.

        • Or we could read what Paul had to say about what Christ meant. In his letter to the Romans when he says that “one who loves another has fulfilled the law”, which is quite different to suggesting that fulfilling the law is loving to one another. As Paul clarifies for us, “Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13)

          Reply
          • The author of Leviticus appears to think that the love of God for humanity includes a prohibition on same-sex sexual relationships. I think he is right.

            If you disagree, then you need to claim that you have a better understanding of God’s love for us than the biblical authors, whom Jesus treats as speaking God’s words.

          • When Paul lists out the commandments in his explanations – adultery, murder, theft, coveting – to say the prohibitions against these are summarised as “love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law”, you can see the harm and lack of love in what’s being talked about. Adultery betrays your spouse and hurts them. Murder physically hurts someone. Theft is harm against their property. Jealousy of someone is incompatible with loving them. Where do same-sex relationships fit in that harm vs love dynamic? What is the harm we are trying to avoid? It has to fit somehow, otherwise we are left correcting Paul and saying instead the love is the fulfilling of the law except when it comes to same-sex relationships where it isn’t.

            The prohibitions in Leviticus are interesting to think about in this regard (as well as Romans 1). Are they talking to men pondering whether to marry a woman or instead choose to marry a man? It doesn’t look like it. Rather, there’s a constant drumbeat in the background to confirm that we’re talking about men who are married to women already, and whether them choosing to have sex with other men as well is a problem. Much like the Greeks who engaged in pederasty whilst maintaining a wife at home, the Emperors who took male lovers whilst also having an Empress, or today in parts of rural Afghanistan where older married men are allowed to have sex with young boys on the side and it somehow doesn’t count as adultery. The Biblical prohibitions to me, thinking about the cultural context, and looking at Scripture more widely (of which Romans 13 is arguably the most prominent passage in mind) are saying that having same-sex sex alongside your heterosexual marriage is harmful and unloving. It is not a sexual “get out of jail free” card if your lover is another man. Leviticus says do not lie with a man as you lie with a woman. Romans 1 talks about exchanging relations. When St John Chrysostom wrote his homily on Romans he was adamant that the people being discussed did not have an excuse that they were “hindered from legitimate intercourse” which is quite striking when you consider that one of the points in the argument today is whether gay people should be hindered from legitimate intercourse or not.

          • AJB: You are taking a Western individualistic view of these scriptures. The aim of the Mosaic prohibition on man lying with man as with woman (i.e. for sexual gratification) is to make ancient Israel different from the societies around it in which the main sexual diferentiation was between not man and woman, but penetrator and penetrated. See Dennis Prager’s essay “Judaism’s sexual revolution”:

            https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/marriage-and-family/sexuality/judaism-s-sexual-revolution-why-judaism-rejected-homosexuality.html

            This revolution consisted of forcing the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women. It is probably impossible for us, who live thousands of years after Judaism began this process, to perceive the extent to which undisciplined sex can dominate man’s life and the life of society. Throughout the ancient world, and up to the recent past in many parts of the world, sexuality infused virtually all of society…

            In this context I recall a comment by a liberal secular friend who became a GP, after going through her training in this part of medicine: “Men will f— anything!” In the following link, Joseph Sciambra gives his conversion testimony of the relief of becoming celibate after half a lifetime of being a slave to his sexual desires and moving in the gay community:

            https://josephsciambra.com/surviving-gaybarely/

            I do accept the critiques that there isn’t much agape-love in the Christian community in this country. I know someone who came out of the drugs world and who said it was no problem, if you were having a bad night with whatever you had taken, to ring someone else in that community and ask them to sit with you through the night. I don’t think many people in many congregations would do that. We don’t have the authority to change the scriptures, though.

          • Ian

            That’s not what the Leviticus clobber verses actually say.

            They say that the reader cannot lie with a man as with a woman.

            Who is the reader?

          • Peter: Another man, in Lev 20:13. Lev 18:22 is addressed to ‘you’; do you know whether this is a masculine form in the Hebrew or should I ask a Hebrew-speaking friend?

          • Anton,

            Apologies – I didn’t spot you reply until now.

            Dennis Prager is always an interesting thinker and writer. But I’m struck that his interpretation is not possible if you hold to the New Testament. Prager argues that the sex drive has to be harnessed but not squelched. The revolution he’s talking about is sex being taken out of the world and into the home, specifically the marital bed. That argument works for homosexuality: if there are gay people, they need same-sex marriage in order to appropriately harness the sex drive, because otherwise that sex drive is being squelched (bad) or let loose with wild abandon (bad).

            Prager doesn’t argue that though. He makes a particular argument that may be possible for modern Jewish thought, but is not open to Christians. Prager says that Judaism “affirms whatever enhances life, and it opposes or separates whatever represents death”. For this reason male celibacy is a sin in Judaism, and in the hierarchy of sexual wrongs according to Prager it ranks between premartial sex and adultery.

            Consequently, Prager is forced to argue that gay people aren’t really gay: that their sexual orientation is, for all practical purposes, a choice. Therefore they could, and should, choose to behave heterosexually. Furthermore, he argues that society ought to suppress gay people so that they in turn work to suppress their homosexuality.

            This of course is all in stark contrast to the position of the Church of England from the debates on legalising homosexuality, to Issues in Human Sexuality, to Lambeth 1.10 and beyond. It’s in stark contrast to the catechism of the Catholic Church which talks about the importance of everyone accepting their sexuality, and homosexuals not being discriminated against. It’s a vision that is quite incompatible with recognising Christ as a single, unmarried man. It’s a rejection of Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians that he wishes all could be celibate like him.

            Prager’s argument hinges gay people being able to be changed, or at least boxed into heterosexual marriages, and a willingness to sacrifice them for the greater social good. If you reject that, it all starts to unravel. He recognises that simply suppressing sexual desire outright has some serious problems, and I think would suggest that it simply doesn’t work – instead of mass celibacy, you get mass hedonism. And so you return to an argument that is pretty similar to my own: that trying to impose a celibacy rule is problematic, marriage was given by God to channel our sexual desires in a healthy way, and that channel ought to be open to gay people as well.

          • Male celibacy might be a sin in Talmudic Judaism but it is not a sin according to Paul, and if it were then Jesus was a sinner… careful!

            Nothing is stopping you going through a wedding service with another man now that the State recognises gay marriage. The question is whether that certificate will absolve you of porneia on the day of judgement as a result of sexual experience with your partner. Where would you look in order to find God’s answer?

            The health problems which Joseph Sciambra experienced would not go away if he had just one male partner. They were so bad that he found celibacy a relief.

          • That’s my point Anton – you can’t rely on an interpretation and argument that hangs on saying celibacy is a sin. I would note though, that Dennis Prager is right to identify celibacy as distinct from single chastity. Celibacy is knowingly lifelong.

            Prager’s essay, although republished many times, was originally written in 1993. It was written at the height of the ex-gay movement, where gay men and women were being actively encouraged to leave their “gay lifestyles” behind and enter heterosexual marriages which would straighten them out (so to speak). This is what Prager aligns with and recommends. We spent the 90s and 00s trying it. It turned out to be a disaster as the implosion of the marriages and the epic collapse of Exodus International showed (followed by the repentance of its leaders here and in the US). How did this happen, if Prager was right and it’s all a choice?

            I’m not quite sure what the relevance of Joseph Sciambra’s experiences is meant to be. Promiscuity, and large quantities of rough, anal sex aren’t good for you.

          • To those who insistently cry, “I want sex with the partner of my choice, which is same sex”, I can only reply what I’d also reply to the divorced during the lifetime of their ex (I care little what differing churches think): What God wants matters more, and he will give you power to deny your flesh if you genuinely want it. That is not easy – read Rosaria Butterfield’s battle against her own flesh in her remarkable testimony of moving from militant lesbian feminist to pastor’s wife (Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert). I am not saying that all such persons should get married – there is also David Bennett’s testimony War Of Loves. The common theme is that these people all start by putting God first.

            Prager is interested in society rather than the individual’s experience, whereas Christians should focus on the individuals they speak and minister to. Of course, Christians should stand up for biblical morality in the political arena wherever this is possible (I don’t recommend street preaching in Riyadh); but the individual is the main concern, and the message is as I’ve just stated.

            Certainly you won’t get HIV if you stick to anal sex with an uninfected partner who sticks to you, but faithfulness is no guarantee of preservation of good medical health of either partner in the case of regular anal sex.

          • AJB what does no apparent harm to those not present regularly does harm to (a) souls, (b) relationships, (c) social structure. And of course (d) the harm done by estrangement from or rebellion against the creation design, thus harm to relationship with God.

          • And anyway, give up your small ambitions. Is the height of your aspiration to do no harm? I would do no harm if I went around banging a dustbin lid shouting ‘Niggly noggly noo.’. Isn’t it s much better actively to do good?

          • Anton,

            Originally you were very critical of an Individualistic Western approach to Scripture, now you favour it because you think it suits you. You approving quote Dennis Prager, but ignore or disagree with most of his argument. I am reminded of Disraeli criticising an opponent – “he uses an argument as a drunk uses a lamppost: more for support than illumination”

            For all your declaring that you want what God wants no matter how hard, it’s interesting that you don’t tell the divorced to return to their spouses. Is God ok with abandoning your husband/wife? Doesn’t Jesus say what God has joined, we should not separate?

            By the way I don’t need married men lecturing me on the virtues of a celibate lifestyle that I have actually lived and they are wholly ignorant of. Nor does Butterfield have any idea what it means, and Bennett is not much better.

          • Christopher,

            Of course persons who aren’t present can be harmed. Half the time when you’re harmed by theft, you’re not actually present at the theft. The victims of adultery are almost never present. But it doesn’t extend to mean that you can draw a definition of harm so wide and ethereal that it ceases to have meaning beyond what you philosophically dislike.

            But do harm as a key way of understanding love your neighbour, as outlined by Paul, is important (if only because he’s explaining the fulfilment of the law as originally outlined by Christ). I don’t think you can just propose to ignore this bit of Scripture because you don’t like it. It’s all too close to a “did God really say” argument for my liking.

          • AJB: Where have I ever advocated “an Individualistic Western approach to Scripture”? Please specify or withdraw the assertion. I quote Prager in relation to the effects of homosexuality on society, and I quote the gospel in relation to its effects on the individual. That difference explains and resolves what you misunderstand as my inconsistency.

            How on earth can you attack pick-and-choose arguments while sayhing that you accept ‘liberal Christian’ viewpoints yet reject the lived experience of same-sex-attracted dedicated believers like David Bennett and Rosaria Butterfield?

            I have simply not aired my pastoral advice to the divorced and remarried, so your argument is with something else in your own head, not with me.

          • Sigh. I’m about done with this thread.

            “Christians should focus on the individuals…the individual is the main concern”.

            An individualistic approach, which you now seem to claim is ok when it relates to the Gospel but perhaps not for any other part of Scripture…

            I don’t reject the lived experience of Bennett and Butterfield. On the contrary I know exactly what their lived experience is and it isn’t lifelong celibacy. I therefore reject the suggestion that they might be particularly insightful or inspiring on the topic.

            As for not airing your pastoral advice to the divorced, I have to remind you that what you actually wrote was: “I can only reply what I’d also reply to the divorced during the lifetime of their ex (I care little what differing churches think): What God wants matters more, and he will give you power to deny your flesh if you genuinely want it.” That sure sounds like some pastoral advice to the divorced.

            But as usual, you have decided to simply sidestep questions, throw up sand to distract, and ignore the points being made. That’s disappointing.

          • AJB: There is little I can constructively add to my explanation of why I cite Prager and the Old Testament when discussing society and the gospel when discussing the individual and point out that these are not the same. We must leave it to the reader.

            You claimed I had committed myself here about what to say to persons who come to Christ who are in a second marriage after getting divorced. Now you slide to what is my advice to persons who are merely divorced. In fact you discern my position about that correctly (during the lifetime of an ‘ex’). But it isn’t what you asked about, and claimed I had spoken about, is it?

            You seem to reject any advice from any quarter whatsoever that does not license sexual experience with another man. Is this a human-centred approach or a God-centred approach?

  28. …..potentially Donatist.?
    Our information about Donatus is remarkably limited for a man who for forty years led a movement that vied for recognition as the legitimate church of North Africa.
    During his lifetime, he was unchallenged as leader of the Donatist church, and his writings were quoted and his memory revered long after his death. He was exiled in 347 and died in about 355, widely regarded as a martyr. He was accorded the epithet ‘Donatus the Great’ and his significance in Africa has been compared to that of Athanasius in Egypt. Unlike Athanasius, however, he was not on the side which eventually emerged triumphant, so his name has been associated with schism. He was widely acknowledged as a vigorous leader, a man of learning, intelligence, integrity, wisdom, passion and oratory. His extensive writings were destroyed by his opponents, but even his adversary, Augustine, acknowledged their brilliance, referring to him as a ‘precious jewel’ in the church and ‘the man who reformed the church in Africa.’

    Reply
    • Ah, Homer Simpson the Great Donutist once comforted his daughter with the words, “There, there, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand,” Doh!

      Reply
  29. I much prefer Donatus to Donutus, more nourishing.
    On the vexed question of historical misdemeanors within the C of E re marriage and the current ssm issues. There is still space for repentance on both issues. Proverbs 24:16 However I feel that the current voting hierarchy don’t understand repentance, so will not head God’s call, nay command;
    Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent:
    2 Cor 7:11. Prov.24:15

    Reply
  30. Steve,
    Wasn’t being a supporter and follower of Donny just a heterodox passing and callow phase, idolised and brother as he was to Marie and Jimmy?
    Homer Simpson clearly understood his daughter’s passing cultural infatuation with Donnytaus.
    NB.
    The tau cross (last letter in Hebrew alphabet) worn by Franciscans is a reminder Francis’ saying, “Let us begin again.”

    From the beginning…

    Reply
  31. I recall an Australian who was strongly atracted to Islam but also loved beer. He begged his local mosque to make an exception for him, and he ardently affirmed his commitment to the message of Muhammad. But he was told No, he must give up alcohol to become a Muslim.

    That is perhaps a better analogy.

    Reply
  32. “There, there, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand,”or conversly “I do understand but I just don’t care”; seems to me he caught the prevailing mood in culture and church.

    Reply

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