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More Perfect Union? another view (i)

Here follows a really clear and careful review of Alan Wilson’s More Perfect Union? by Martin Davie. Martin was for several years Theological Secretary of the Council for Christian Unity of the Church of England and Theological Consultant to the House of Bishops. He offers a comprehensive analysis, and his comments on the nature of marriage, and whether this is a matter of theological ‘indifference’ are particularly important. Because it is longer than my usual blog posts, I offer it in two parts; the second is here.

Introduction

81ixmfjZBTLThe Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, has become known as the bishop who has broken ranks with the official policy of the Church of England by arguing that there should be complete acceptance by Christians of same-sex relationships and that ‘marriage’[1] between two people of the same sex should be viewed as a theologically valid form of Christian marriage.

This is not the first book written by a Church of England bishop in support of same-sex relationships. Back in 2000 the then Bishop of Swindon, Michael Doe, argued for a more accepting attitude towards such relationships in his book Seeking the Truth in Love. However, since 2000 the creation of Civil Partnerships and the legalisation of same-sex ‘marriages’ have increased the pressure on the Church of England to change its position on sexual ethics and its view of marriage and there is no doubt that Alan Wilson’s book will become widely seen as providing a manifesto for such a change in the same way that Bishop John Robinson’s book Honest to God became the manifesto for the ‘new theology’ back in the 1960s.

This being the case, it is incumbent on those who believe that it would be wrong for the Church of England to change its teaching about sexual-ethics and marriage to explain why they are not persuaded by the arguments put forward by Wilson and the purpose of this review is to provide such an explanation.

The argument that Wilson puts forward in More Perfect Union has a number of strands.

  1. (Chapter 2) Developments in biology mean that we can no longer view human beings in simple binary terms as either male or female and this in turn means that we can no longer see same-sex orientation as ‘unnatural’ or ‘intrinsically disordered.’ This means that we are free to judge same-sex relationships by exactly the same criteria as heterosexual ones. ‘Do they display virtues of permanence, stability, mutual love and fidelity? Relationships are better judged by their fruit than by their configuration’ (p.34).
  2. (Chapter 3) Equality is at the heart of the biblical story, ‘the ground bass of the Bible story from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem’ (p.53). The refusal to accept same-sex marriage is a refusal to accept equality in a way that is akin to the refusal of the South African state to accept non-white people as equal citizens during the apartheid era.
  3. (Chapter 4) We need to read biblical verses in relation to their particular historical and literary contexts and in relation to the message of the Bible as whole. The history of Christian attitudes to slavery and corporal and capital punishment point us to two ways of approaching the Bible. There is the ‘narrow gauge’ approach that focuses on particular texts and there is the ‘broad gauge’ approach that approaches these texts, and where necessary qualifies them, in the light of the Bible’s overall teaching.
  4. (Chapter 5) The ‘clobber texts’ that have shaped the way that Christians have viewed homosexual people (Genesis 19, Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10) do not, on close examination, provide a clear condemnation of same-sex relationships today. Furthermore, they have to be read in the light of Jesus’ teaching about a tree being known by the quality of its fruit (Matthew 7:16-18) and this means reading the Scriptures in the light of God’s love. ‘The Scriptures cannot bear bitter fruit. The discipline that enables Christians to hear the word of God according to the love of God is not woolly liberalism, but obedience to the New Testament injunction to discern the spirits and make love our aim’ (p.81)
  5. (Chapters 6 & 7) Both in the Bible and in our society the forms that marriage have taken and the understandings of the nature of marriage have changed and developed. In the Bible marriage in its various forms is ‘an externally defined social institution that is drawn upon to illustrate God’s relationships with his people, about which regulations are made, but, more importantly, its spiritual and relational aspects developed beyond considerations of sex, gender or children’ (p.99). The history of marriage in our society shows us that marriage ‘is not defined by Church or State, but by the lives of people who marry according to the social and personal mores of the time and place’ (p.121). The medieval idea of marriage as an ‘indissoluble sacrament’ has become an ‘empty shell’ and has been superseded by the Puritan concept of it as ‘personal partnership of equals’ (p.121).
  6. (Chapter 8) The global Church should adopt a Romans 14 approach to issues of sexuality by allowing different approaches to co-exist. This would enable the churches ‘to be agents of mutual understanding and reconciliation rather than creating hate and alienation between themselves’ (p.146).
  7. (Chapter 9) Same-sex marriages will enrich rather than diminish the institution of marriage. The distinctive thing that should mark out a Christian marriage is not the sex of the couple involved, or whether their relationship is open to the procreation of children, but ‘the quality of self-giving love between the parties’ (p.163), something that is equally possible in a same-sex ‘marriage.’

Strand 1 – the argument about biology.

If we now consider each of these strands in turn we find, firstly, that Wilson’s argument that we can no longer view human beings in simple binary terms for biological reasons is flawed both scientifically and theologically.

Science It is flawed scientifically for a number of reasons:

  • As the Pilling report notes ‘the great majority of human beings are unambiguously either male or female in terms of their chromosomes and the primary and secondary sexual characteristics that their bodies display.’ The variations in human brains to which Wilson refers (page 26 fn. 4) do not negate this truth. Estimates of the number of people with intersex conditions very between 0.018% of the population to 1.7% depending on the definition of intersex that is used. It is therefore illegitimate to appeal to intersex conditions, as Wilson does, to argue that we can no longer think of being either male or female as the human norm.
  • The existence of gender identity dysphoria (in which people feel they are trapped in a body of the wrong sex) and same-sex attraction does not disprove a binary male-female divide since the vast majority of people with gender dysphoria and same-sex attraction are biologically unambiguously either male or female and the vast majority of people with same-sex attraction view themselves as either male or female.
  • Biologically, human sexuality is oriented towards reproduction. The sex organs of the human body are designed in a way that leads towards the procreation of children and human sexual attraction works on the biological level to bring about procreation. When human beings become sexually aroused they become aroused in a way that is designed to bring about reproductive intercourse. Furthermore reproductive intercourse requires the activity of both sexes. That is why same-sex couples cannot have children of their own and have to rely on either adoption, egg donation or surrogate motherhood.
  • What Wilson dismisses as the ‘Janet and John’ view that human beings are either male or female is in fact, according to biology, the overwhelming human norm and the basis for human sexuality. An alien visitor encountering human beings for the first time would view them as a species that exists in two sexes and which requires two sexes to reproduce.
  • Wilson goes against the available evidence when he says that attempts to change people’s sexual orientation have ‘almost universally failed’(p.28). There were a series of well documented reports from the 1940s to the 1970s of successful therapy to help people deal with unwanted sexual attraction. The controversy about such therapy means that there have been no controlled randomized trials in this area since then, but such evidence as there is suggests that such therapy can be successful in the case of some people, including people who are definitely homosexual rather than bisexual.

Theology It is flawed theologically because it ignores the clear teaching of Genesis 1 and 2, echoed in Romans 5:1-2, and reiterated by Jesus in his teaching on marriage (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6) that God chose to create people as male and female. Wilson ignores these texts totally in spite of the fact that they are fundamental to biblical anthropology and have been fundamental to subsequent Christian anthropology. Wilson has to face the question: if he no longer thinks that we should view human beings in binary terms then what does he think we should do with these texts?

It is also flawed theologically because it takes no account of the Fall. The Bible and the Christian faith teaches us that we live in a world that is not as it should be and that this fact is reflected not just on the spiritual level, but on the biological level as well. That is why, although human beings were designed by God to see, hear and walk there are people who for congenital, medical or accidental reasons are blind, deaf or lame. The fact that Jesus came and healed the blind, the deaf and the lame indicates that how things are in a Fallen world is not necessarily how God intends them to be. Similarly, the fact that some people feel a disjunction between their bodies and who they truly are and the fact that some people are sexually attracted to those of the same sex does not mean that this is the result of the diversity of creation rather than a result of the Fall.


Strand 2 – the argument about equality.

Turning to the issue of equality, the cogency of Wilson’s argument depends on what is meant by equality.

In Scripture all human beings, regardless of their sex, race, or class are created by God in His image and likeness and they have the possibility of participating in God’s eternal kingdom through the work of Christ. It is this equality to which St Paul refers in Galatians 3:28 and which gives every human being an intrinsic dignity which demands respect. That is why the first Christians gradually came to do away with the markers that separated Jews from Gentiles (such as the Jewish food laws and the requirement for circumcision) and why Christians are (or should be) opposed to sexism, racism or class based oppression.

However, it does not follow from the intrinsic dignity of every human being on the basis of creation and redemption that all human desires (however strongly felt), or all forms of human sexual activity, are equally acceptable before God and therefore should equally be accepted by the Church. If this was the case it would be impossible to make sense of what Jesus says about the desires of the human heart that defile people in God’s sight (Matthew 15:19-20, Mark 7:21-23) and it would also be impossible to make sense of the numerous biblical commands and injunctions that say that certain forms of behaviour (including sexual behaviour) are unacceptable for God’s people.

Wilson’s argument that it is wrong to try to ‘hate the sin, but love the sinner’ because it is a failure of love to fail to take ‘anyone’s self-identity seriously’ (p.47) is problematic because this is in fact exactly what God does. In the words of St Augustine, commenting on Romans 5:8:

…in a manner wondrous and divine, he loved us even when he hated us. For he hated us when we were such as he had not made us, and yet because our iniquity had not destroyed his work in every respect, he knew in regard to each of us, to hate what we had made, and to love what he had made. (Tract in John 110)

What Wilson is doing is confusing love with acceptance and affirmation. According to classical Christian theology, love, whether God’s love for us, or our consequent love for other people, is not simply about acceptance and affirmation. It is instead desiring that someone should flourish as the person God made them to be and taking the appropriate action to achieve that end. It follows that if, as Christian theology has traditionally claimed, human beings were created by God to engage in sexual activity solely within a married relationship within someone of the opposite sex, it would be a failure of love to simply affirm or accept someone in a same-sex relationship. This would not encourage them to undertake the change necessary to become the person God made them to be.


Strand 3 – how to read the Bible.

On the issue of how we should read the Bible, Wilson is right to argue that we need to read particular texts in their literary and historical context and in the light of the Bible’s overall message. Unfortunately what he does not seem to have registered is that the overall message of the Bible is one that leaves no space for the affirmation of same-sex sexual relationships.

This is a point that is well made by the American writer Michael Brown in his book Can you be Gay and Christian? He asks the question why there are only a tiny number of biblical verses that directly address the issue of same-sex sexual relationships. His answer to this question is to draw an analogy with a book of recipes for sugar free puddings that has an introduction that explains why sugar should be avoided. The book would not need to constantly say ‘no sugar’ because this would be the point of the book. In a similar way, he says:

The Bible is a heterosexual book, and that is why it does not need to constantly speak against homosexual practice. It is heterosexual from beginning to end, and my heart truly goes out to ‘gay Christians’ trying to read the Bible as ‘their book.’ For them it cannot be read as it is; it must be adjusted, adapted, and changed to fit homosexual couples and their families. In short ‘gay Christians’ must read God-approved homosexuality into the biblical text since it simply isn’t there.

And this is the pattern throughout the entire Bible in book after book.

  • Every single reference to marriage in the entire Bible speaks of heterosexual unions without exception, to the point that a Hebrew idiom for marriage is for a man ‘to take a wife.’
  • Every warning to men about sexual purity presupposes heterosexuality, with the married man often warned not to lust after another woman.
  • Every discussion about family order and structure speaks explicitly in heterosexual terms, referring to husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.
  • Every law or instruction given to children presupposes heterosexuality, as children are urged to heed or obey or follow the counsel or example of their father and mother.
  • Every parable. Illustration or metaphor having to do with marriage is presented in exclusively heterosexual terms.
  • In the Old Testament God depicts His relationship with Israel as that of a groom and a bride; in the New Testament the image shifts to the marital union of husband and wife as a picture of Christ and the Church.
  • Since there was no such thing as in vitro fertilization and the like in biblical times, the only parents were heterosexual (it still takes a man and a woman to produce a child) and there is no hint of homosexual couples adopting children.

The Bible is a heterosexual book, and that is a simple, pervasive, undeniable fact that cannot be avoided, and, to repeat, this observation has nothing to do with a disputed passage, verse or word, it is a universal, all pervasive, completely transparent fact. (pp.88-89)

Because this is the case, whether you engage in a ‘narrow gauge’ study of the specific texts that speak about same-sex sexual activity, or a broad gauge study of the Bible as whole the message is the same. Because of the way that God created human beings as male and female there is no legitimate space for such activity, let alone for same-sex ‘marriage.’

[1] Some readers of this review may find the quotation marks round references to same-sex ‘marriages’ offensive. I apologise for the offence, but it is necessary to keep on marking out that from a traditional Christian view point these are not truly marriages (as the BCP marriage service puts it ‘so many as are coupled together otherwise than God’s word doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is their Matrimony lawful’) and the use of quotation marks is one way of doing this.


The review continues with part 2 here.


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20 Responses to More Perfect Union? another view (i)

  1. Jonathan Tallon November 27, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Davies is still providing support for gay conversion therapy? Seriously?!

    • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

      No, he is pointing out that Wilson is mistaken in suggesting there is no evidence for changeability in orientation.

      More recently, Lisa Diamond, a researcher into sexual behaviour in the US who is also gay, is clear that ‘orientation’ is not a stable psychological category, and argues that the gay community should simply drop all arguments for gay ‘identity’. It is, she says, simple a matter of freedom of choice.

  2. etseq November 28, 2014 at 1:11 am #

    Despite your bluster, you obviously view Bishop Alan’s book as a threat to your entrenched position. Your own review was shallow and dismissive and you have repeatedly hectored the good Bishop on his blog and facebook page. Now you have commissioned a second review from someone who, surprise, surprise, shares your exact opinion!

    Davies also shares your highly selective use of science in these debates – you ignore it as much as possible except when you attempt to discredit mainstream consensus. For example, both Davie and you seem to think that sexual orientation is, if not a matter of pure volitional choice, is a very weak preference at best that is amenable to change through prayer or some sort of therapy. You rely on an priest who claims he was once gay and is now married to a woman (even though he apparently has never had a romantic or sexual relationship with a man and is very dodgy on what exactly “cured” him) and who used to blog in support of the various fringe religious ex-gay groups. Peter Ould, for all the thousands of blog posts, has no scientific expertise but he agrees with your theology and contends that various scientific and medical groups in both the UK, USA and the rest of the developed world are all either completely incompetent or engaged in some sort of conspiracy to fake decades worth of scientific evidence. Davies doesn’t disclose why he rejects the overwhelming scientific and medical consensus but he assures us that a few case studies from Freudian psychoanalysts or perhaps the electro-shock treatments or lobotomies of the Skinnerian proponents of aversion therapy from the the mid 20th century somehow disprove all subsequent scientific knowledge. Curiously, Davies asserts that only a controlled double blind experiment can disprove those earlier case studies but that scientists refuse to conduct these out of some vaguely sinister fear. Scientists have a much more straight forward explanation – there was never any valid scientific reason to classify homosexuality as psychiatric illness, the medical literature at the time, even from those doctors who claimed to have “cured” a few patients, repeatedly reported significant “failure” rate even by the bizarre standards of the time, that experimental psychologists in research universities, began to show as early as the late 50s that homosexuality was no pathological by the use of the very experimental control group model that Davies champions, that the scientific revolution inside the field of psychiatry in the 60s and 70s slowly dislodged the near universal acceptance of Freudian pseudoscience, with its value laden axioms of Oedipal complexes and penis envy so that by the time homosexuality was declassified in 1973, the only resistance came from the freudians, who were motivated in part by the large amount of fees they could charge gay people for years on end.
    Davies either doesn’t understand the history of science or know the history of the persecution and inhumane medical “treatments” gay people were subjected to or more likely, he is dissembling because he knows how absurd his position is. The type of human experimentation that Davies suggests would never be approved by a medical ethics committee and no scientist besides the quacks at NARTH would ever attempt it. Not because of some sort of political correctness but because scientists must have strong evidence and a valid theoretical model before they can even consider human experimentation, especially when the potential for harm is so great. Since all other evidence over the last 50 years suggests that no such change is possible and since homosexuality is no longer considered an illness or mental defect, there is nothing to “cure”! Since you both seem so confident that sexuality is so fragile, why not volunteer for Peter Ould and the experts at NARTH to experiment on converting you from straight to gay or even just bi! Put your money where your mouth is as they say…

    PS – I’m not sure what is more insulting – putting “marriage” is quotation marks or his snide, condescending justification for his frankly unchristian lack of respect for his fellow LEGALLY married citizens. Nope, not a whiff of homophobia here – don’t stare, keep moving, nothing to see here…

    • Tom November 30, 2014 at 4:31 am #

      Im not a psychologist nor even a scientist, but I do wonder whether you are oversimplifying the perspective of psychologists on this. When homosexuality was declassified in 1973, a large proportion of the vote, though a minority, still voted to keep it classified as a condition. As Gagnon has pointed out, “A rampant promiscuity along with a host of other addictive behaviours that often accompany it remains characteristic of many segments of of homosexual male culture.”

      • etseq December 3, 2014 at 4:53 am #

        Robert Gagnon, a “professor” at a fundamentalist seminary who rejects large parts of accepted science, specifically evolutionary biology and physics because they clash with a literalist interpretation of scripture, is hardly an expert on modern scientific theories of sexuality, no its historical development. The only people who take him seriously, even on biblical scholarship, are his co-religionists because, as he will be the first to admit, apologetics trump objective academic inquiry when it comes to biblical interpretation of christian doctrine. The few secular academics who are even familiar with his work are shocked that he is taken so seriously by a certain segment of evangelical/reformed christianity.

        • Tom December 6, 2014 at 11:32 am #

          People could argue back and forth all day about how respected Gagnon is (very highly by some), but to do so is divergent from the point I was making. Namely that homosexuality has a far greater correlation with addictions and poorer mental health, than does heterosexuality. This is not to say that all homosexuals are simply “unhealthy”, but my point regarding the comparison, remains.

  3. Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente November 28, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    I’m one of those who find your quotation marks quite offensive, Mr Davie. My elderly Orthodox relatives for instance, looking over my shoulder, would consider you a heretic, but they would not dream of publishing a long document in two instalments for all to see describing you as ‘Christian’ repeatedly. It’s quite rude, just like using same-sex attracted, struggling with same-gender attraction, etc. One should really have the decency to use the words people use to describe themselves and not insist on calling them or their relationships by whatever term we prefer, especially if these are demeaning.

    Also, if you intend to preach something that is likely to be heard with great difficulty by your target audience, you truly should not alienate them with vocabulary all along. You simply won’t be heard. Got that, ‘pastor’?

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      So what is an acceptable way of talking about this for those who do not believe that same-sex unions could constitute Christian marriage?

      I note that the Government committed itself to defending the right of such people to continue to express their views.

  4. Bishop Alan Wilson November 28, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    Things are getting pretty desperate,a nd I rejoice in that. One of the reasons so many bishops are so ignorant on this subject is the work of Martin Davie, who on one occasion served up Rosina Champagne Butterfield’s book as a guide to this subject in his reading list for bishops — the autobiography of a rather preppy US ex lesbian whose route out of gayness was to fall in love with a wee free pastor and eschew the singing of psalms — all this served up as serious theology. On we go to the curious view that because there aren’t many intersex people, the phenomenon has no significance — so God didn’t make them like that, or what? The issue is the existence of the 0henomenon at all, which indicates that if God was trying to follow Ian Paul and Martin Davie’s concept of creation he slipped up on the job, I suppose. Martin goes on to assert the mutability of sexual orientation, and to quote the Pilling report — which every qualified biologist to which I speak finds bafflingly out of step with its science, due to the political influence of the core issues trust. This review is helpful in that it establishes what the real issue is — fear and hatred of homosexuals, a cause into which the Bible and tradition are dragooned in a rather desperate way.

    • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

      I am sorry Alan that you don’t take reasonably serious critiques of your discussion more seriously. Perhaps it does suggest that all dialogue has come to an end.

      There is good scientific evidence that ‘orientation’ is mutable at least to some degree from longitudinal studies. It seems odd to me for you to dismiss this, since it is enough to make many in the gay lobby suggest that arguing for gay ‘identity’ is a worthless dead end.

      And I am really surprised that you continue to write off all those who disagree with you as simply gripped by fear and hatred. You clearly feel that, despite all the literature, there is no serious argument for the church’s current teaching worth engaging with.

      I think that is really tragic, not least for the future of the church.

    • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      By the way, Alan, the Government made a commitment to protect the rights of those who, out of religious conviction, did not believe that same-sex marriage was moral. I believe that it has also been established in the ECHR that I am entitled to express my view.

      If you are suggesting that I hold my view out of hatred and fear, then I suspect that you might be liable to prosecution as a result of incitement to hatred of my religious position.

      On a more personal note, I wonder if you could consider the impact of your dismissive language on your fellow Christians, and what it does to the debate.

  5. Jane Newsham November 29, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    People in same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are saying to the Church ‘Yes, I’m gay. I’m gay today, I’ll be gay tomorrow and there’s a really strong chance I’ll still be gay a week on Thursday’.
    However, I assume that both Martin Davie and Ian Paul are encouraging us to respond to this with ‘No, sexual orientation’ is not a stable psychological category. There is good scientific evidence that ‘orientation’ is mutable at least to some degree from longitudinal studies’.
    I don’t know about you but if I was on the receiving end of this, I would consider these self-serving, patronising ‘Christians’ to be a waste of my day. No wonder LGBT people pass Christianity by for Buddhism.

    • David Shepherd November 29, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

      So, objective scientific evidence is the resort of ‘self-serving, patronising ‘Christians’?

      Look, we now realise that the evidence of orientation mutability is an insulting contradiction to your subjectivity-free ‘lived experience’.

      An apology: ‘For now, yes, we’re a waste of a gay day, but we’re working to dump anything that would make us lose you to a more accommodation religion.

      ‘Who knows? If it tarts up Christianity enough to win you back from Buddhism, we might even have to dump resurrection for reincarnation. A price worth paying, eh? (If not by you)’

      • Jane Newsham November 30, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

        But, David, this particular point – the evidence of orientation mutability – seems to be used only in one direction (on the apparent mutability of same-sex attraction). How would you feel if you personally were subjected to this – if your commitment to your wife in your marriage demonstrated your commitment to heterosexuality, but it was suggested (ad nauseam) that this is an orientation equally mutable? The questions are: why are we asking civil partnered and same-sex married couples to consider the evidence of orientation mutability, but not heterosexual couples (what is our agenda here?) Why do we even suggest that committed same-sex couples would (could? should?) imminently betray their commitment to their marriages in order to conform to our particular theological viewpoint, purely on the basis of a few scientific studies? Are you surprised that this is not well received by civil partnered and same-sex married couples and that they see right through our attempts to control and manipulate their lives and relationships?
        In the Church of England, in which Rev Dr Ian Paul is an as associate minister at St Nic’s, Nottingham, our policy of welcome and integration under the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same-sex Marriage (2014), especially paragraphs 16-21, would surely find that the promotion of this view would undermine mission to LGBT and LGBT-affirming straight people in our communities.
        How heretical is the suggestion that we treat civil partnered and same-sex married couples with the same respect that we extend to opposite-sex married couples? In neither case, do we ‘dump resurrection for reincarnation’ (even for those formerly Buddhist heterosexual couples).

        • Andrew November 30, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

          What a naive argument! Of course heterosexual attraction in marriage is mutable. If it weren’t mutable, the Scriptures wouldn’t need to be full of warnings and rebukes for men to be maritally faithful.

          Marriage (and all expressions of love, for that matter) is not to be an act of circumstantial attraction, but an act of will. If one compacts to a marriage, then God expects one to be bound to that marriage regardless of one’s feelings or circumstance. Conversely, if one’s attraction is illicit (adulterous, incestuous, homosexual, etc), God expects one to exercise discipline of the will and avoid entering into an immoral and unlawful compact or to act sexually despite the absence of a compact.

          The desire to possess does not bless stealing. The desire to glorify self does not bless lying. The desire for illicit sexual or romantic gratification does not bless adultery or fornication or divorce. Each one of us is broken and sinful, and the Scriptures call on us to repent in humility and rely on God’s strength in our struggles, not find excuses to indulge our sinful nature. Those who will not repent but cling proudly to their sin are to be put out of the church temporarily, in order that they will not be cast out permanently (1 Cor 5:1-5).

        • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

          Jane, you have mention the Pastoral Guidance before, and David replied pointing out the other half of this, which was to enquire as to why people wish to depart from the Church’s teaching and explain the consequences.

          It doesn’t really add to discussion to keep throwing in half-arguments.

  6. Tom November 30, 2014 at 4:20 am #

    There is so much about this that I love, though a few things that Im wary of. I love how this summary means we dont have to read the whole book (books can be so long and time consuming)! What Im wary of though, is that a summary can oversimplify. EG while it’s true that some people have moved from homosexual relationships to heterosexual relationships, this does NOT mean that such a transition is practical for everyone, or even a majority of homosexuals. Yes everyone can choose to be celibate, but actually entering a heterosexual relationship that works, is another matter. A brief reference to someone who has achieved this feat, should not be extrapolated into a general principle, because everyone is different. And yes Lisa Diamond has done some important and insightful research, but lets not cherrypick her findings. Yes, for some, sexual orientation comes with a fair amount of fluidity. But what she found is true of gay women, does not necessarily apply to gay men. And what she found is true of some gay women, does not necessarily apply to all gay women.

    This is why a more in-depth presentation can be more helpful – EG perhaps reading Davie’s whole book? I might just try that. If these two pages are anything to go by, Davie’s book is much more reasonable than Wilson’s.

    • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 11:19 am #

      Tom, I am not ‘cherry-picking’ Diamond’s research, and neither is Martin. Alan Wilson’s argument is that sexual orientation is immutable, like racial identity, and so cannot be discriminated against or expected to change in any way. Diamond’s evidence is not that anyone can change, but simply that Wilson is mistaken in this claim. That is why she thinks arguments on the basis of ‘identity’ are worthless.

      And this is not an extract from a book, but a stand-alone review. You might, however, be interested in reading the C of E report ‘Some Issues in Human Sexuality’ which Martin helped to draft, which does set out the issue very well.

      • etseq December 3, 2014 at 5:23 am #

        Ian you aren’t doing your side any favors by offering up C of E “reports” as authoritative science, much less SIHS, which was resulted in strong objections, particularly from the British Medical and Psychiatric associations, for its reliance on fringe theories about sexuality long discounted my modern science. The fact that Davies was instrumental in that report is quite revealing and just reinforces Bishop Alan’s anecdote about Davies reliance on the religous testimony of one “ex-lesbian” (who like almost all vocal “ex-gays” make their living off of promoting these bizarre theories). Davies and you may be impressed by anecdotes but science and the rest of society isn’t when it comes to sexuality.

        PS – Race and gender are also “socially constructed” in the same way as sexuality but I don’t think you really grasp that social construction is a sociological theory that only applies when analyzing groups, not individuals. The social category of race has changed over time – the Irish, Italians, and other immigrants from Europe were not considered “white” for many generations. Tens of thousands of latinos now consider themselves white according to the last census. That doesn’t mean race isn’t considered “immutable” as most people use that word.

        PPS – You know what social category is completely socially constructed with no basis in biology? Religion! So I look forward to your arguments that christians should not be covered under Equalities legislation…

  7. Tom2 December 2, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    //Biologically, human sexuality is oriented towards reproduction. The sex organs of the human body are designed in a way that leads towards the procreation of children and human sexual attraction works on the biological level to bring about procreation. When human beings become sexually aroused they become aroused in a way that is designed to bring about reproductive intercourse.//

    Is this true? I would argue that it is not. Sex as an act in higher primates, and certain other animals, is in fact for many things other than reproduction. It is like eating, which in humans is not only for sustenance, but serves other functions like communal bonding. Or rather, eating is “for” sustenance and bonding, but both do not have to occur together. In a very real way, sex is designed for pleasure, quite apart from its connection to procreation. We observe the true nature of sex in mammals like Bonobos and dolphins (and humans); this is the true nature of sex as it has evolved. Certainly, the ancestry of sex is for procreation, but by a process of exaptation, sex has changed into an activity solely for pleasure. Again, this is based on empirical, scientific, observations of the natural world.

    So, for example, when you say:

    //When human beings become sexually aroused they become aroused in a way that is designed to bring about reproductive intercourse. //

    It would be as true to say that they become aroused in a way designed to bring about sexual pleasure.

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