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More Perfect Union? another view (ii)

Here is the second part of Martin Davie’s review of Alan Wilson’s More Perfect Union? 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. Part one can be found here.


81ixmfjZBTLStrand 4 – interpreting the key biblical texts.

Moving on to what Wilson says about the five specific biblical texts that he looks at, what we find is that he misinterprets each of the five texts.

Genesis 19

On Genesis 19 Wilson argues that:

The prime sin of Sodom arose from the intent of the rapists. This was a gang rape, not an orgy, which indicated a generally sinful way of life within the city. Its essence was moral recklessness and violence, than its sexual orientation. The gang rape of female strangers would have been as bad. (p.70)

However the idea that the men of Sodom were intent upon rape is something that Wilson (like many others) had read into the text. As Victor Hamilton has pointed out in his commentary on Genesis, Hebrew has a vocabulary to describe rape and it is not used in this text. All that Genesis 19:5 tells us is that the men of Sodom wanted to have sexual relations with (‘know’) Lot’s visitors.

The fact that the text leaves it at that and that it says nothing about the motivation of the crowd, or, about whether they were homosexual or bisexual, is theologically significant. In order to make it clear that Sodom was a gravely sinful place all the text has to say is that its inhabitants wanted to have sex with men. That in itself constitutes a wicked act (Genesis 19:6) which illustrates the more general wickedness for which Sodom, Gomorrah, and two neighboring cities are going to be destroyed.

In Genesis 19, and also in Judges 19, the desire for homosexual sex is in itself evidence of the wider sinfulness of a society that has turned from God. This is the same point that is made on an even wider canvas by Paul in Romans 1:26-27.

Wilson is also wrong to suggest that the author of Jude 7 thinks that the sin of Sodom has to do with sex with angels. This reading is not demanded by the vocabulary or grammar of Jude 7 and is a reading that pits Jude 7 against the fact that in Genesis the angels are thought to be men, that introduces a reading of Genesis 19 that is at odds with subsequent Jewish interpretations of the Sodom story both in the Bible and in other Jewish sources, and that contradicts the way that Jude is understood by Peter 2:7 -10 which talks about the ‘licentiousness’ and ‘lust of defiling passion’ which were characteristics of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, but says nothing about sex with angels.

The most likely readings of Jude 7 are either Peter Davids’ suggestion that ‘going after other flesh’ means ‘desiring homosexual sex’ or Robert Gagnon’s grammatically possible suggestion that it means that ‘in the course of committing sexual immorality they inadvertently lusted after angels.’ In both cases homosexual desire is seen as a reason for God’s judgment.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

On Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 Wilson suggests that ‘the essence of the offence seems to be a man taking a female sexual position in bed with another man.’ In other words, what Leviticus is talking about is anal penetration and all other forms of gay sex (and all forms of lesbian sex) do not fall within the scope of this prohibition.

However, as Richard Davidson notes in his exhaustive study of the Old Testament material on sexuality, Flame of Yahweh, the vocabulary used in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 is in fact general in character. He writes that is has been suggested that the phrase that is used ‘the lying of a woman’ includes ‘only homosexual acts that approximate heterosexual coitus and include penile intromission, but the Hebrew is clearly a euphemism for sexual intercourse (cf the female equivalent of this passage in Judg 21:11-12). Thus this passage is a permanent prohibition of all sexual intercourse with another male (zakar). This would also prohibit pedophilia, since the term zakar refers to any male, not just a grown man’ (p.150).

On the question of whether the text only forbids gay rather than lesbian sex, Davidson may well be right in his suggestions that a prohibition of lesbianism may be implicit in the general prohibition against following the practices of the Egyptians and the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:3) as the Rabbis thought, or that the prohibitions in the masculine singular may have been seen as applying generically to both men and women. Certainly St. Paul sees lesbianism as forbidden alongside male homosexuality, while would seem to indicate that he understood the Levitical prohibitions inclusively.

Wilson also fails to note that the presupposition underlying the various prohibitions of sexual activity in Leviticus 18 and 20 (as also what is said about sexual activity in the Torah as a whole) is marriage between one man and one woman in line with the way that God created the human race. Almost all the prohibited sexual offences are offences because in various ways they involve sex outside this context, sex before marriage, sex with someone other than your wife, sex with someone of the same sex, or sex with another species. The one exception is the offering of children to Moloch which is wrong use of sex because it is a misuse of God’s calling to reproduce (Genesis 1:28). The issue in Leviticus is therefore the way that God has created the world and the calling of human beings to behave in a way that corresponds to that.

Romans 1:26-27

On Romans 1:26-27 Wilson argues that the term ‘nature’ in these verses ‘denotes human convention, custom or expectation’ and ‘can only refer directly to people we would call ‘bisexual’ ‘(p.76). He also says that is ‘hard to see’ how what St. Paul says can apply to non-idolatrous Christians today, because what Paul see as the ‘crime’ is not homosexual conduct but idolatry (p.77).

In relation to the first point, Wilson’s argument contains internal contradictions. Firstly, the argument that Romans 1:26-27 only applies to bisexuals goes back to Derek Bailey’s contention that ‘nature’ means the personal orientation of the individuals concern. For Bailey this meant that only men and women who were naturally heterosexual could acts against nature in the way described by St. Paul. If Wilson is following Bailey then it would not be against the nature of bisexuals to engage in sex with members of the same sex because that would be natural for them. Secondly, if ‘nature’ means the orientation of the people concerned then it cannot mean ‘human, convention, custom or expectation.’ Wilson cannot have it both ways.

Moreover, the vast majority of commentators on Romans hold that neither of these meanings of ‘nature’ is the correct one. They would argue that both the focus in Romans 1 on the witness to God borne by the created order and the way that ‘nature’ was used by Jewish and Greco-Roman writers shows that ‘nature’ refers to the way things have been created by God.

As Ian Paul explains in his Grove booklet Same-sex Unions, when Paul talks about ‘nature’ he is not referring to the experiences of sexual attraction of particular individuals or their ‘innate preferences.’ Instead, what he is referring to is:

…the way the world was meant to be, as created by God; his categories are theological, not psychological and corporate rather than individual. It is ‘the order intended by the creator, the order that is manifest in God’s creation.’ In the same way that Ps 106 tells the corporate story of the failure of God’s people. Paul is telling here the cosmic story of the failure of humanity. And he is not simply referring to culture; he does appear to think (in 1 Corinthians 11:14) that women having long hair is the way that God intended it. Instead he is borrowing terms from existing ethical thinking (particularly in Stoicism) about what is ‘natural (kata phusin) and what is unnatural (para phusin), which therefore rejects God’s intention in creation (p.25).

In addition, contrary to Wilson’s second point, St. Paul is not suggesting that only idolaters engage in same-sex activity or that the real sin is not same-sex activity but idolatry. As Tom Wright puts it in his commentary on Romans in his Paul for Everyone series the point that St. Paul is making:

…is not simply ‘we Jews don’t approve of this,’ or, ‘relationships like this are always unequal or exploitative.’ His point is, ‘this not what males and females were made for.’ Nor is he suggesting that everyone who feels sexually attracted to members of their own sex, or everyone who engages in actual same-sex relations, has got to that point through committing specific acts of idolatry. Nor, again, does he suppose that all those who find themselves in that situation have arrived there by a specific choice to give up heterosexual possibilities. Reading the text like that reflects a modern individualism rather than Paul’s larger, all-embracing perspective. Rather, he is talking about the human race as a whole. His point is not that ‘there are some exceptionally wicked people out there who do these revolting things’ but ‘the fact that such clear distortions of the creator’s male-plus-female intention occur in the world indicates that the human race as a whole is guilty of a character twisting idolatry.’ He sees the practice of same-sex relations as a sign that the human world in general is out of joint. (pp.22-23)

This means that Wilson’s non-idolatrous Christian same-sex couple are still behaving wrongly if they engage in same-sex sexual activity because they are not living in the way for which God created them, but are rather giving expression by their sinful activity to the way in which the human race as a whole has turned away from its creator.

1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10

On 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 Wilson argues that St. Paul is referring ‘to men who practise abusive or exploitative sex, perhaps some form of trafficking’ (p.79). This argument ignores two key facts. The first is that the two Greek terms that St. Paul uses, arsenokoitai and malakoi, are general terms for active and passive same-sex sexual activity. They carry no overtones of sexual exploitation. The second is that there is nothing in the context to suggest exploitation. The vice lists in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1 are based on the second table of the Ten Commandments and the references to same-sex activity come under the scope of the prohibition of adultery in the seventh commandment. This means that such activity is wrong because it involves sexual immorality not because it involves some form of exploitation. The references to robbery and kidnapping which the proponents of the exploitation thesis appeal to (on the grounds that people were stolen to act as male prostitutes) come later in these vice lists and refer to separate and distinct offences that violate the eighth commandment against theft.

Wilson is stating the obvious when he says that the New Testament passages that refer to same-sex activity ‘can be understood in many different ways’ (p.79). All texts are open to multiple interpretations. The question is whether they should be interpreted along the lines Wilson suggests. For the reasons given above the answer to this question is ‘no’.

Furthermore, Wilson’s suggested interpretation is not in accordance with the principle of love to which he appeals. As love is about helping people to become the people God made them to be so a loving interpretation is a truthful one because only a truthful interpretation will help people to understand properly how God wants them to live.


Strand 5 – the way marriage has changed and developed.

a. In the Bible

Moving on to the way in which marriage has changed and developed, it is true that we do see a variety of different forms of relationships between men and women in Scripture. However it is important that we are precise about this. Wilson suggests that there ‘are at least seven different definitions of marriage’ (p.84) and there is a famous infographic on the internet (http://visual.ly/marriage-according-bible ) that goes one better and suggests that there are eight versions. However, whether we consider Wilson’s seven variations or the eight on the infographic, in both cases two points stand out. First, all of the relationships that are mentioned are heterosexual. Marriage in the Bible is exclusively male-female. Secondly, with the exclusion of polygamy, all the forms of relationship are variations of heterosexual monogamy. There are all variations of a marital relationship between one man and one woman with the differences being the circumstances in which the marriages are entered into and whether there is a concubine(s) alongside a wife (for this point see the helpful response to the marriage infographic at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyjMMbB5KV4).

The big biblical picture is that in the creation narrative in Genesis 2:18-25 marriage is established as a permanent, heterosexual, monogamous relationship which is freely entered into. From the time of Lamech (Genesis 4:19) polygamy and concubinage are found, but they are seen as being a result of the Fall and the Old Testament ‘consistently condemns plural marriage either explicitly or implicitly’ (Davidson p.211). The Old Testament also allows for divorce, but this is because of ‘your hardness of heart’ (Matthew 19:8) rather than because it is what God desires. In the New Testament the standard for marriage is reset to the norm established in Eden and marriage is exclusively seen as permanent, monogamous, heterosexual relationship that people chose to enter into or not (see 1 Corinthians 7). Also, it is not true that in the Old Testament a wife ‘is defined as her husband’s property’ (Wilson p.86). Davidson examines this claim in detail and shows that it has no substance (pp.249-51, and chapters 8 and 12).

As Wilson correctly notes, Jesus and St. Paul teach that marriage is part of the temporal rather than the eternal order (Matthew 22:30, I Corinthians 7), that even the marital relationship has to take second place to a willingness to follow Jesus (Matthew 10:35-37) and that celibacy is a legitimate alternative to marriage for the Christian disciple (Matthew 19:10-12, 1 Corinthians 7). However, none of this means that either Jesus or St. Paul (or anyone else in the New Testament) allowed for any other form of marital relationship other than the one established at creation or that there is the slightest evidence that they relaxed the Old Testament prohibitions against sex outside the marital relationship. Indeed, Jesus went beyond the teaching of the Old Testament in warning against not only illegitimate sexual activity, but also illegitimate sexual desire (Matthew 5:27-30).

What all this means is that in the Bible marriage is not defined by the changing social mores of the ancient world, but by an understanding that God has created men and women to relate together sexually in monogamous marriage, that variations from this pattern are due to the Fall and that in the New Testament there are two clear alternatives, permanent, heterosexual, monogamous marriage or celibacy.

It is true, as Wilson says, that in a number of places in the Bible (e.g. Isaiah 54:4-8, Hosea 2:16-20, Ephesians 5:21-31, Revelation 21:2 and 22:17) marriage is seen as an analogue for the relationship between God and Israel and Christ and His Church. However, this does not mean, as Wilson suggests, that this points to a form of marriage that is not defined ‘by sex, gender and reproduction.’ The only form of marriage in Scripture that is seen as a proper symbol for God’s faithful, self-giving love for His people is sexually faithful, monogamous heterosexual marriage. Sex outside marriage is seen as an expression of the way in which God’s people have turned away from Him (see Hosea 1-9, Ezekiel 16) and same is true of same-sex activity in both its lesbian and gay forms (Romans 1:26-27).

b. In the history of our society

If we turn to the history of marriage in our society what we find that it is indeed the case that there has been change and development. Different aspects of marriage have been emphasised in different points in history, how marriage has been entered into has varied, who is allowed to be married has varied, the kind of behaviour permitted within the marital relationship has varied and there has been variation over whether divorce is allowed and under what circumstances.

However, it is simply untrue to say that marriage has not been defined by ‘Church or State.’ Both the Church and the state have laid down laws about what constitutes marriage and who may be married and in what circumstances. Furthermore, the definition of marriage since Saxon times has been that summarised in Canon B.30, ‘a union permanent and life-long, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side.’ It has also been the expectation that, except in the case of elderly married couples, marriage would lead to having children. It is only in very recent years, with the growing pressure for the recognition of same-sex relationships, that this basic, biblically based, definition of marriage has been challenged. The study of history shows that same-sex ‘marriage’ is in fact an entirely novel idea. It is a revolution in the understanding of the fundamental nature of marriage, a revolution that involves a departure from the teaching of the Bible.

It is also worth noting that contrary to what Wilson says on page 121, UK law does not forbid ‘arranged marriage.’ An arranged marriage which has the free consent of the parties involved is perfectly legal. It is ‘forced marriage’ where the consent is lacking that is illegal (see https://www.gov.uk/forced-marriage).


Strand 6 – handling differences over same-sex relationships.

On the question of how to handle the difference between churches over same-sex relationships, there are two key points which Wilson has overlooked.

The first is that while the concept of ‘adiaphora’ – things indifferent – means that it can often be legitimate to simply agree to disagree in the way that St. Paul recommends in 1 Corinthians 14, nevertheless, as the Windsor Report of 2004 notes:

This does not mean, however, that either for Paul or in Anglican theology all things over which Christians in fact disagree are automatically to be placed into the category of ‘adiaphora’. It has never been enough to say that we must celebrate or at least respect ‘difference’ without further ado. Not all ‘differences’ can be tolerated. (We know this well enough in the cases of, say, racism or child abuse; we would not say “some of us are racists, some of us are not, so let’s celebrate our diversity”). This question is frequently begged in current discussions, as for instance when people suggest without further argument, in relation to a particular controversial issue, that it should not be allowed to impair the Church’s unity, in other words that the matter in question is not as serious as some suppose. In the letters already quoted, Paul is quite clear that there are several matters – obvious examples being incest (1 Corinthians 5) and lawsuits between Christians before non-Christian courts (1 Corinthians 6) – in which there is no question of saying “some Christians think this, other Christians think that, and you must learn to live with the difference”. On the contrary: Paul insists that some types of behaviour are incompatible with inheriting God’s coming kingdom, and must not therefore be tolerated within the Church. ‘Difference’ has become a concept within current postmodern discourse which can easily mislead the contemporary western church into forgetting the principles, enshrined in scripture and often re-articulated within Anglicanism, for distinguishing one type of difference from another. (Section B.90)

Secondly, as the Windsor Report goes on to say, in 1 Corinthians 8-10 St Paul lays down another principle that needs to be taken into account, that of not causing a stumbling block to our fellow believers:

Even when the notion of ‘adiaphora’ applies, it does not mean that Christians are left free to pursue their own personal choices without restriction. Paul insists that those who take what he calls the “strong” position, claiming the right to eat and drink what others regard as off limits, must take care of the “weak”, those who still have scruples of conscience about the matters in question – since those who are lured into acting against conscience are thereby drawn into sin. Paul does not envisage this as a static situation. He clearly hopes that his own teaching, and mutual acceptance within the Christian family, will bring people to one mind. But he knows from pastoral experience that people do not change their minds overnight on matters deep within their culture and experience.

Whenever, therefore, a claim is made that a particular theological or ethical stance is something ‘indifferent’, and that people should be free to follow it without the Church being thereby split, there are two questions to be asked. First, is this in fact the kind of matter which can count as ‘inessential’, or does it touch on something vital? Second, if it is indeed ‘adiaphora’, is it something that, nevertheless, a sufficient number of other Christians will find scandalous and offensive, either in the sense that they will be led into acting against their own consciences or that they will be forced, for conscience’s sake, to break fellowship with those who go ahead? If the answer to the latter question is ‘yes’, the biblical guidelines insist that those who have no scruples about the proposed action should nevertheless refrain from going ahead. (Sections B 92-93)

Wilson’s proposal fails on both these counts.

There is no question that for millions of Christians the acceptance of same-sex relationships by the Church is indeed ‘scandalous and offensive’ and it follows that if, as Wilson argues, it is a matter that is adiaphora those that favour such a course of action should ‘refrain from going ahead.’

However, it is in fact impossible to argue that same-sex relationships are a matter that is adiaphora. According to the witness of the New Testament sexual immorality, of which same-sex sexual activity is one form, is something that is contrary to basic Christian teaching (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8), that defiles people before God (Mark 7:21-23), that is a barrier to inheriting God’s kingdom and that contradicts the new life of holiness that is God’s gift to believers, through Christ and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)


Strand 7 –the impact of same-sex ‘marriage’ and what makes a Christian marriage distinctive.

The final strand of Wilson’s argument also overlooks some important issues.

First, his contention that same-sex ‘marriages’ will enrich rather than diminish the institution of marriage fails to take into account three serious concerns:

  • That rather than leading same-sex couples to adopt a less promiscuous and more conventional life style same-sex ‘marriage’ will over time lead to wider social acceptance of the more ‘open’ forms of sexual relationship that have typified large parts of the gay community.
  • That the establishment of same-sex families will have a detrimental effect on any children involved – an issue raised, for instance by the study on new family structures undertaken by the American sociologist Mark Regenerus.
  • That the acceptance of same-sex ‘marriages’ will inevitably lead to moves towards the acceptance of other forms of non-conventional marriages such as polygamous marriages, incestuous marriages and temporary marriages on the grounds that these can also be examples of loving relationships. Such moves are already beginning in other parts of the world.

Wilson fails to address, or even acknowledge, any of these concerns.[1]

Secondly, he does not address the issue of the greater public acceptance of homosexuality which will result from the legalisation of same-sex ‘marriage.’ The idea that the number of people involved in same-sex activity is a fixed quantity is a fallacy. The reality is that the greater the public acceptance the more likely it is that people who would not otherwise have done so will engage in same-sex activity. That is why historically in some societies same-sex activity has been widespread and in others it has been almost non-existent. The growth in the number of people involved in same-sex activity would not, of course, worry Wilson, but it is a legitimate concern for those who believe such activity to be morally wrong and harmful to the people involved.

Thirdly, his claim that the distinctive thing about Christian marriage is simply ‘the self-giving love between the parties’ fails to do justice to the fact that a Christian marriage, like any other form of Christian discipleship, will be a way of life that is lived in obedience to the will of God. As has been argued throughout this review, God’s will with on this matter is clear both from Scripture and from the witness of nature. God has created human beings as male and female and his will is that they should relate to each other sexually in an exclusive, life-long, heterosexual union that is open in principle to the procreation of children. A same-sex ‘marriage’ is by its very nature contrary to this and can never therefore constitute a genuinely Christian marriage.

Conclusion

Having looked critically at the seven strands of Wilson’s argument it has become clear that none of them stands up to scrutiny. His argument for the acceptance of same-sex ‘marriages’ is therefore completely unconvincing both in its parts and as a whole. His case simply does not add up.

[1] For more on these concerns see the helpful You Tube video ‘Making marriage meaningless’ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QNxVbE6Bvc

This review was first published on the CEEC website, and is reproduced here by permission.


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79 Responses to More Perfect Union? another view (ii)

  1. Etienne November 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Davie’s report perfectly describes the Christian attitude to homosexuality and equal marriage as I understand it.

    There is no provision in the Church for gay people or our relationships. I could wish that gay Christians would understand this and abandon an institution that will always regard us as sick criminals. It would be better for them if they did, I think. Supporting an organization that perpetuates discriminatory and defamatory nonsense means they bear a heavy burden of responsibility for perpetuating evil. The Association of German National Jews is not well remembered by history. Neither will organizations like the Gay Christian Network be.

    On the positive side, if gay Christians can cause enough dissent and discord within the Church to fatally weaken it and accelerate its decline to the point where it no longer poses any danger to the LGBT community, then in their folly they will have done a good deed, which must go some way towards mitigating their betrayal of themselves and all of us.

    So the longer this “discussion” drags on and the more heated and recalcitrant it becomes, the better the eventual outcome must be. I therefore give my wholehearted support to Bishop Alan and his theologically incoherent treatise. I hope it wins many, many more converts to the “faith” and that they succeed in plunging the Church into even greater turmoil and discord.

    My enemy’s enemy is my friend even when he’s a traitor to both my enemy’s cause and mine. But we’ll deal with them afterwards. Like I said, if they can succeed in neutralizing the Church then much of their behaviour can be tolerated and even forgiven. If Uncle Tom can eliminate Simon Legree, he’s worth rehabilitating.

    • Laurence Cunnington November 27, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

      “they [gay Christians] bear a heavy burden of responsibility for perpetuating evil.” Etienne

      An alternative reading of gay Christians’ insistence on remaining in the Church is that they are refusing to ‘get off the bus’ and don’t see why they should be forced off it by the homophobia of others. They may be mistaken in this, but I imagine that they believe themselves to be working towards the eradication of this evil and not the perpetuation of it.

      • Etienne November 28, 2014 at 8:12 am #

        Homophobia is a defining principle of Christianity. It isn’t a cultural layer added on over the centuries by tradition. It’s been there since the start and is even written in to the Christian holy book.

        To eradicate homophobia in the Church, you’d have to edit the Bible to remove homophobic references, which would provoke a firestorm of protest, splits and schisms. Who has the authority to do this? You?

        If you think you can change the dyed-in-the-wool homophobia of the Church from the inside, you’re fooling yourself. The Association of German National Jews probably thought it could eradicate anti-Semitism within the Nazi Party. Didn’t work though, did it?

        If history has taught us one thing, it’s that certain evils cannot be eradicated by negotiation and appeasement. You have to face them down.

        • Laurence Cunnington November 28, 2014 at 10:37 am #

          Etienne, I am doing nothing ‘from the inside’. I am not a Christian and would not touch the Church of England with a barge-pole, not least because of its homophobia. You may have read on other threads on this blog why I do, however, have a personal interest in what the Church of England does in relation to gay people and that ‘appeasement’ is not how I would describe the action I am connected with.

          • Etienne November 28, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

            Are you the husband of the clergyman who’s suing the Church of England for discriminatory employment practices, or something similar?

            My arguments don’t apply to you if you’re not a Christian. But they do presumably apply to your husband. If he remains in a Church that teaches homophobic doctrine then he’s colluding with homophobia. It really is that simple.

            I understand your husband is fighting to reverse certain aspects of that homophobia, or at least how it relates to the employment of gay clergy. But even if he wins, his victory won’t overturn Church canons and force it to expunge homophobia from its doctrines. His victory might make it impossible for the Church to discipline gay clergy who refuse to be bound by official guidelines, but it won’t force any change to those guidelines.

            As long as he remains in a Church that tells him your relationship is evil and that he “falls short of God’s design for humankind” by loving and desiring you, your husband shares in the collective responsibility for those attitudes.

    • Clive November 27, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

      So you have it from Etienne that the real purpose of Bp Alan Wilson’s book is to destroy the Church.

      Says it all really.

      • Etienne November 28, 2014 at 8:29 am #

        I can’t speak for Bishop Alan. I’m sure he thinks that his book will help to revitalize the Church and turn it into a place where gay people can be accepted and valued. But that’s never going to happen. Homophobia is written into the script of Christianity and you can’t edit it out without profoundly changing the nature of what’s left.

        Once you remove the homophobic references from the Bible, what’s next? Disobliging remarks about women? All the passages about divine slaughter and the virtuousness of dashing out the brains of babies to satisfy God’s thirst for revenge? Where do you stop? And what will you be left with?

        Don’t get me wrong: I support efforts to edit the Bible. But not to make it more “inclusive”. Rather as a step in the process of changing people’s perception of it from divine revelation to human philosophy. Because that’s what it is. And once people realize this, they stop being Christian in the traditional sense of the word.

        • Clive November 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

          The Bible is not really homophobic

          The Bible does not really speak against women

          The Bible is not for editing

          • Etienne December 1, 2014 at 10:14 am #

            The Bible is homophobic. It demands that gays be punished with lifelong celibacy and if they refuse, that they be murdered. And if anyone thinks that Jesus abolished the death penalty, let them read Luke 19:27.

            The Bible does really speak against women. It tells us they are subservient to men.

            The Bible is not for editing. On this we can agree. It can only have value if it really is revelation. If it’s just a human text that we can edit to our own liking, it’s more of a political manifesto than anything else.

            Only the Bible has been edited, several times, by several councils and multiple subsequent translations. If it comes from God then only the original texts can be canonical. So where are these original texts, what do they say, and why aren’t all Christians reading facsimiles them in Greek and Hebrew?

            An English Bible is an edited Bible and can therefore only point you to an edited version of the faith, which basically means no faith at all.

          • Clive December 1, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

            Dear Etienne

            You are wrong wrong on many, many accounts.
            You wrote:
            “Only the Bible has been edited, several times, by several councils and multiple subsequent translations.”
            No the Bible hasn’t and, even now, I can buy the original texts in koine greek and in hebrew and I can analyse it for myself.

          • Tom December 6, 2014 at 10:55 am #

            Im dont find it very convincing when I hear claims that the Bible advocates murdering gays. The Old Testament was big on capital punishment, but Jesus didnt seem keen on it (John 8). Likewise I dont entirely buy the idea that the Bible teaches that gay people should not be accepted in the church. Sure gay sex is disallowed, but one of the first gentile converts was from a sexual minority (Acts 8) and the Bible specifically says that the early church included people who had formerly practised gay sex (1 Corinthians 6).

  2. Jonathan Tallon November 27, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Where to start?

    Genesis 19 – Does Davies seriously argue that gang rape isn’t being threatened, when a large gang of people surround a house and threaten the owner if they don’t get the people they want? I am incredulous at Davies even attempting to argue this seriously. All his subsequent points on this verse depend on his denying the reasonableness of Wilson’s reading.

    Leviticus 18 & 20 – I have little to comment on Davies here, other than to say that the worship angle isn’t covered at all, and that I haven’t read Flame of Yahweh, so feel unable to comment on that book’s scholarship.

    Romans 1.26-27 – (I just note in passing he quotes you, Ian. Do women have to have long hair today?) I note that he rejects idolatry as a context. This keeps happening, and I can’t understand why. The immediate previous context is explicitly about idolatry, and the historical context means that Romans 1.26-27 fit the practice of idolatry extremely well. I have yet to see anyone explain why it CAN’T be idolatry. I also don’t see lesbianism in 1.26; again, please explain why it CAN’T be goddess worship?

    1 Cor. 6 & 1 Tim.
    Davies seems extremely certain he knows what arsenokoites means. I have no idea where this certainty comes from, given this is the first time we find it used in ancient literature. Yes, I know people suggest it refers back to Lev. – but even if it does, that still doesn’t tell us much about the connotations. It’s dangerous to go from etymology to meaning. It’s something to do with same-sex male activity – beyond that, everyone is guessing. Davies also seems certain that malakoi is also to do with sex. It may be – but that’s certainly not the only reading possible.

    Strand 5
    a. in the bible
    Again, Davies relies heavily on Davidson. However, if Genesis 1 & 2 are so utterly clear about appropriate marriage, and polygamy only being as a result of the fall, it is surprising that Judaism up to and beyond the time of Jesus accepted polygamy as being completely legitimate. I am intrigued – where does the OT say that polygamy is the result of the fall? Davies argues that marriage is exclusively seen as permanent – yet we allow those who have been divorced full participation in the church (talking of CofE here).

    b. in history of our society
    The big challenge to Canon B.30 surely came from divorce? I note that Davies allows that exceptions can be made to the expectation that marriage would lead to having children.

    Strand 6
    I agree that what counts as adiaphora is itself an issue, and should not be assumed by anyone.

    However, the issue of the stumbling block is two sided. Frankly, the church’s official position on same-sex marriage is a stumbling block to many (both within and outside the church), who find it offensive and scandalous. What do you do when both sides are scandalised by the other’s position?

    Davies then argues that it is impossible to argue that the relationships could be a matter of adiaphora. His argument here is circular – it is because sexual immorality is not such an issue. But this is the whole crux of the issue – Wilson and others are arguing that same-sex activity in a committed relationship is not sexual immorality.

    Strand 7 the impact
    Davies raises three concerns. Suffice to say I don’t accept any of them. Two of them are variants of the slippery slope argument. Davies then argues that God’s will is clear. Well, no it isn’t. Because a significant number of people (including evangelicals, including those who study the bible carefully) disagree with Davies.

    I haven’t read Wilson’s book, but I am longing for someone from the ‘traditional’ position to engage seriously with those from the ‘revisionist’ position. The traditional position can put forward a generally coherent reading of scripture in support. What hasn’t been addressed is that so can the revisionist, and no one has yet shown me why it isn’t legitimate.

    • Clive November 27, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

      Jonathan wrote:
      “What do you do when both sides are scandalised by the other’s position?”

      If both are really scandalised by the other’s position as you suggest then how does that equate to “a good disagreement” as ++Canterbury hopes for!

    • Thomas Renz November 28, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

      You’re right on Genesis 19. The argument in Davidson is not that this incident is not an attempted gang rape but that the narrator does not mely condemn the attempt because it would involve rape (see below my reply to Alan Wilson).

      The “worship angle” in Levitus 18:22 and 20:13 is not covered because there isn’t one. There is no reason to think that these verses refer to cult prostitutes or idolatry. Davidson discusses this on pp. 152-159.

      • Jonathan Tallon November 28, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

        I have now read Davidson on this, and feel that he has failed to address the arguments. From my (so far quick) reading of his chapter, he acknowledges that the main form of same-sex activity considered acceptable in the surrounding cultures was connected with cult activity. If (idolatrous) worship involving sex is the dominant form of same-sex activity in the surrounding culture, then it seems at least reasonable to suggest that the Levitical passages may be referring to this. I am unconvinced by Davidson’s attempts to persuade that this cannot be the case (there seems to be too much dependence on intertextual parallels).

        • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

          Gagnon also agrees that the main form of same-sex activity in ANE culture was in cultic contexts. But he also points out the significance of this.

          Same-sex activity was generally disapproved of, but tolerated in the cult. In Israelite culture, even this toleration was outlawed. In other words, the blanket prohibition on SSA was without parallel in other ANE contexts. It is also worth noting that the cultic term ‘kedoshim’ using in the Deuteronomic literature is absent from this, priestly, strand, and the primary context here is that of preserving familial relationships.

          I would not go so far as talking of ‘intention’ here, but the effect of all these prohibitions is to set boundaries around sexual and sexualising behaviour.

          And, as Gagnon points out, there are strong echoes of the Genesis language of male/female.

          Significantly, Jesus picks up both the Genesis language and appears to confirm the prohibitions on ‘porneiae’, immoralities (plural).

          Altogether, this means the biblical texts are completely consistent in rejecting all forms of same-sex activity.

          • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2014 at 12:24 am #

            Ian, have you read Tobias Haller on porneia? I would be extremely careful in making a straight link between porneia and the Levitical prohibitions.

            On Gagnon’s argument – I just don’t buy it. The passages are condemning male same-sex activity in a culture where that is associated with idolatrous cult prostitution. Of course it’s going to be condemned. The links to Genesis 1 rely on the use of ‘male’ – which was necessary because another feature of the same-sex activity within that culture was an age gap. ‘Male’ covers men and boys. Is it a link to Genesis, or just the appropriate term?

            But why are we talking about these Levitical passages anyway? Why not Leviticus 18:19 – having intercourse during a period? This would affect far more people in churches than same-sex activity. And it is clearly in line with the command in Genesis 1 to be fruitful. The activity is defiling, an abomination. Both of the people involved should be ‘cut off from their people’ – Leviticus 20:18. Yet I’ve never heard this preached. Why not? Because we don’t rely on Leviticus for what is right and wrong. Because you cannot pick and choose within the law. Because if you pick one bit as important, you are ‘obliged to obey the entire law’ (Gal. 5:3).

          • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 10:19 am #

            ‘But why are we talking about these Levitical passages anyway?’ Because ‘revisionist’ are trying to argue that they don’t actually mean what most readers and commentators have agreed that they mean for millennia, that’s why…

            ‘Because we don’t rely on Leviticus for what is right and wrong.’ Of course not. Who ever said we did? No sensible ‘conservative’ is arguing that we should simply follow Levitical law. The only reason why these texts matter is because they have canonical connection with Genesis 1 and 2, and with the NT texts in the gospels, Acts 15, Romans 1, 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1. If you are debating only on the basis of the meaning of this individual text, then I think you are shooting at the wrong target.

          • Jonathan Tallon December 2, 2014 at 9:21 am #

            Ian, if you want porneia to mean the Levitical prohibitions, that we need to keep today, then you need to include Leviticus 18.19 as part of these prohibitions.

          • Ian Paul December 2, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

            Yes, I think I do…I would agree with you that this would also be considered a part of the continuing regulation.

            So we need to consider in Christian ethics why we think we can dispense with this, and whether these ethical criteria would also apply to SSA.

    • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      Jonathan, thanks for taking the time to engage. I think there are good and robust answers to most of your objections.

      On Gen 19, like you I don’t think I go with Davie here. But Wilson is mistaken in saying that ‘The gang rape of female strangers would have been as bad’. As Thomas Renz comments below, there is a triple offence, and it is completely unconvincing to suggest that the same-sex nature of the proposed activity has no relevance. In terms of the reception of the text, it heightens the sinfulness because same-sex activity is so strongly rejected within the textual tradition.

      Interestingly, I attended a session of the Queer Hermeneutics seminar at SBL last week, and the presenter argued that the ‘sodomite’ tradition of reading NT texts, linking them to this episode, was to be preferred to the early NiV tradition which translates key terms as ‘homosexuality’, which the presenter saw as antigay.

      This is one of several points where people like Wilson within the church are quite out of step with the wider gay community in its own position.

      • Jonathan Tallon November 30, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

        Ian, it is relevant, but I would suggest in a way not highlighted by Davidson or Davie. The predominant sexual categories in the ancient world revolve around dominant / passive. Same-sex rape is not only violent, is not only rape, but in that context deeply shaming because the victims are put into the ‘passive’ category. Thus the sexual element is important, but in a different way from that suggested by Davie.

        I am not surprised at the reaction in the Queer hermeneutics seminar – to translate NT terms as ‘homosexuality’ is to import a cultural category that did not have a named equivalent or cultural space in the ancient world.

        • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 10:21 am #

          ‘The predominant sexual categories in the ancient world revolve around dominant / passive.’ Indeed, and that is why it is really striking that:

          . Gen 2 is not framed in these terms
          . Lev 20 condemns both parties, so it appears that this dynamic is not the pertinent one in this condemnation
          . Paul makes the extraordinarily egalitarian statement of 1 Cor 7.4

          All this warns us that the biblical texts don’t simply conform to the context that they are in, but appear quite markedly to speak against their context.

    • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      On Lev 18 and 20, As Thomas mentions below, Davidson’s position is very convincing and coherent, and I don’t think is that far from Robert Gagnon.

      On Romans, the reason why most commentators reject a specific practice of idolatry as the social context for what Paul is talking about is that it is really clear from the shape and function of Romans 1-4 that this is not what Paul is considering.

      His use of ‘idolatry’ is adopting classic Jewish critiques of pagan culture to depict the state of all humanity. Having deployed such Jewish rhetoric against Gentiles, he then turns back on Jewish readers to denounce them drawing on a key strand of OT texts (one of which we have this Sunday, Advent 1, in Is 64). These two critiques together form two strands of a single argument, that ‘all have sinned’ (Romans 3.23), which is why we need the gospel, ‘the power of God for salvation for all, first the Jew, then the Gentile’ (Rom 1.16).

      The fruitlessness of idolatrous humanity is contrasted with the fruitfulness of faithful Abraham at the end of chapter 4.

      This reading has very wide support, including from a good number of scholars who support SSM, but who are clear that they cannot derive this support from the Bible. To quote William Loader, who has written more on this than just about anyone else:

      ‘It is very possible that Paul knew of views which claimed some people had what we would call a homosexual orientation, though we cannot know for sure and certainly should not read our modern theories back into his world. If he did, it is more likely that, like other Jews, he would have rejected them out of hand….He would have stood more strongly under the influence of Jewish creation tradition which declares human beings male and female, to which may well even be alluding in 1.26-27, and so seen same-sex sexual acts by people (all of whom he deemed heterosexual in our terms) as flouting divine order. (p 323-4)’

      Loader is basically in agreement with Robert Gagnon here:

      ‘Professor Gagnon and I are in substantial agreement that the biblical texts that deal specifically with homosexual practice condemn it unconditionally. However, on the question of what the church might or should make of this we diverge sharply. (p 93)’

      They both presented in last year’s SBM Queer Hermeneutics seminar, where Gagnon listed all the points they agreed on. They were substantial.

      • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2014 at 12:40 am #

        Now I am getting really confused. You acknowledge that Paul is adopting a classic Jewish critique of pagan culture. You say that he is using idolatry to do this. But then you refuse to allow that idolatry may be the immediate context of Romans 1:26-27. Why?

        Let me give you the issues I have with your reading:
        Romans 1:26 introduces women first. Why? This is unusual within the culture. The least bad answer to this is that Paul is ahead of the game when it comes to mentioning women. But it is at least surprising.
        Then, Paul talks about women same-sex activity. Why on earth would he do this? It’s really not that common in the culture (yes I have read Brooten). More importantly, pagan culture looked down on it. Why attack pagan culture for something that it didn’t value? This makes little sense if you want a big, broad-brush stereotypical attack. Not only would pagans fail to recognise their culture in this attack, so neither would Jewish hearers recognise pagan culture.
        Finally, the earliest Christian commentators on this verse didn’t understand it to be about female same-sex activity.

        The alternative:
        Women are mentioned first because they are the priestesses – the most important figures in pagan goddess cults. They indulge in unnatural sexual activities – with men – as part of the cult.
        Men are mentioned next because they are the galli – those who cut themselves in sexual frenzy (receiving the due reward for burning with desire in this way).
        The link to idolatry is straightforward, and both pagan and Jew can recognise pagan culture in this attack.
        This reading has the benefit of being how early Christian commentators understood these verses.

        Worth reading on this issue: Townsley (2011, 2013). Miller (1995).

        • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 10:29 am #

          I think you are getting confused because I am not sure you are reading what I am saying. ‘You say that he is using idolatry to do this.’ No I don’t. What I say is that he is condemning humanity as idolatrous, and mentioning same-sex activity as an evident sign of this.

          To pursue your argument about the specific context, I think you would then need to assume that all the vices in vv 29-31 are present in first-century pagan idolatry, which would be exceedingly odd.

          And, yes, I agree with you that a first-century reader might well not recognise themselves in what Paul says. That does not appear to be what he is attempting.

          • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

            I refer you to Wisdom 14 for an example of how an attack on behaviour linked to idol worship then moves immediately into more general immorality. Reading Romans in this way is entirely consistent with how stereotypical pagan attacks were constructed.

            I look forward to you addressing the other points.

          • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

            And the result is what? That Paul would in fact have approved of committed same-sex unions? Is that what you are proposing?

            Or that this text, because it links idolatry with SSA means it is irrelevant to our discussion today? So Paul would have had no view on committed SSA?

          • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

            I am arguing that you need to understand the passages properly before you begin to use them in interpretation. I am arguing that differing interpretations may result from different understandings. I am arguing that Romans 1:26-27 is clearly one of the key texts, if not the key text. I am arguing that one understanding of Romans 1:26-27 as being specifically about cultic practice has not been properly addressed.

            I have given specific points about this text, pointing out problems with one understanding and the advantages of a second understanding. I’m looking for these to be addressed.

    • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

      On arsenokoites, the reason why Davie is right to be certain about the meaning is because of the work of David Wright, who demonstrated that it was, on the evidence we have, coined by Paul from the LXX of ‘mishkav zakur ‘ in Lev 18.22. Good supporting evidence for this comes from the fact that the Hebrew term was used in rabbinical literature to refer to all forms of same-sex activity, including men in both ‘active’ and ‘passive’ roles, and women.

      Many current pro-SSM commentors simply ignore this well-established evidence, and mutter about uncertainty, without actually engaging with the extant literature. The evidence is set out in detail in Gagnon, but also more briefly in Hays ‘Moral Vision’ and I document it in my Grove booklet.

      • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2014 at 1:02 am #

        I’ve read David Wright’s article. He is attacking a particular position of Boswell (the article dates from 1984). Most of the evidence used for arsenokoites is dated after Paul – because Paul was the first one to use it. Wright shows that it could have come from Leviticus – but other combination words he looks at in the article show that this isn’t necessary (though personally I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a link). But derivation doesn’t equal meaning. What were the semantic limits of the term? We don’t know – because we don’t have enough evidence.

        Wright’s article also notes that after Paul arsenokoites seems to be parallel to paidophthoria – pederasty (the dominant cultural form of same-sex activity).

        Any attempt to go straight from arsenokoites to condemning every form of same-sex activity and relationship is just going beyond the evidence.

        • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 10:40 am #

          That’s weird. Are you disputing what Wright is concluding?? He ends his article:

          The presumption is thus created that arsenokoitia came into use under the influence of the LXX of Leviticus, to denote that homoerotic vice which Jewish writers like Philo, Josephus, Paul and Ps-Phocylides regarded as a signal token of pagan Greek depravity. It is not apparent that investigation of the sources of the New Testament’s Lasterkataloge serves to establish further than this the meaning of the term. But it is probably significant that the word itself and comparable phrases used by Philo, Josephus and Ps- Phocylides spoke generically of male activity with males rather than specifically categorized male sexual engagement with paides. It is difficult to believe that arsenokoitia was intended to indict only the commonest Greek relationship involving an adult and a teenager. The inter-changeability demonstrated above between arsenokoitia and paidophthoria argues that the latter was encompassed within the former. A broader study of early Christian attitudes to homosexuality would confirm this.

          In other words, Wright does argue and demonstrate that arsenokoitia refers to same-sex activity in the most general sense.

          • Jonathan Tallon December 3, 2014 at 11:49 am #

            I am disputing his conclusion. I agree that Wright argues that arsenokoitia refers to same-sex activity in the most general sense. I don’t think he demonstrates this (particularly for Paul). Without wishing to endorse everything in the article, Martin (1996 – in Biblical Ethics & Homosexuality: Listening to Scripture, edited by Robert L. Brawley) critiques Wright on this point.

            Wright finds various (later) parallels between paidophthoria and arsenokoitia. But rather than assuming they are parallel terms, he widens the scope of arsenokoitia and then argues than encompasses paidophthoria. I remain unconvinced of his arguments for this wider sense.

            I still remain unconvinced by the necessity of the Levitical background for arsenokoitia. I note that Wright finds parallel terms – klepsikoites (illicit sex); doulokoites (sleeping with slaves); metrokoites (incest). If these parallel terms can emerge without requiring Leviticus, then why not arsenokoites? But, as I have said elsewhere, even if it derives from Leviticus, it still doesn’t tell us how it was used in practice in the first century.

    • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

      On your other points:

      Davie is on strong grounds in relation to Gen 1 and 2. Jesus appears to have confirmed opposition to polygamy, hence the Christian tradition of monogamy. But polygamy has been looked down on, presumably precisely because of Gen 1 and 2, throughout Judaism, even though it was tolerated. The Jewish Encyclopedia sets out the evidence fairly clearly http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12260-polygamy

      The fact or condition of having more than one wife or husband at a time; usually, the practise of having a plurality of wives. While there is no evidence of a polyandrous state in primitive Jewish society, polygamy seems to have been a well-established institution, dating from the most ancient times and extending to comparatively modern days. The Law indeed regulated and limited this usage; and the Prophets and the scribes looked upon it with disfavor. Still all had to recognize its existence, and not until late was it completely abolished. At no time, however, was it practised so much among the Israelites as among other nations; and the tendency in Jewish social life was always toward Monogamy.

      That the ideal state of human society, in the mind of the primitive Israelite, was a monogamous one is clearly evinced by the fact that the first man (Adam) was given only one wife, and that the first instance of bigamy occurred in the family of the cursed Cain (Gen. iv. 19). Noah and his sons also are recorded as having only one wife each (ib. vi. 7, 13). Abraham had only one wife; and he was persuaded to marry his slave Hagar (ib. xvi. 2, 3; see Pilegesh) only at the urgent request of his wife, who deemed herself barren. Isaac had only one wife. Jacob married two sisters, because he was deceived by his father-in-law, Laban (ib. xxix. 23-30). He, too, married his wives’ slaves at the request of his wives, who wished to have children (ib. xxx. 4, 9). The sons of Jacob as well as Moses and Aaron seem to have lived in monogamy.

      On divorce, the canons are clear that this is again not an ideal, but a failure which is allowed. You only have to ask someone who has been divorced and refused remarriage in church whether or not they have been treated equally.

      I am not clear that the Church’s teaching on SSM is really much of a stumbling block to people coming to faith. It is clearly a stumbling block to many who have no interest in coming to faith, as Linda Woodhead’s research shows. But if you were correct, then we would expect to see churches which adopt SSM thriving and growing. In Europe, the exact opposite is the case.

      • James Byron November 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

        “On divorce, the canons are clear that this is again not an ideal, but a failure which is allowed. You only have to ask someone who has been divorced and refused remarriage in church whether or not they have been treated equally.”

        How is this position biblical? Mark and Matthew record Jesus as condemning remarriage after divorce as adultery, with Matthew allowing a narrow exception for divorce on grounds of sexual immorality; Paul lists adultery alongside homosexuality in his 1 Cor. 6 list of “salvation issues.”

        The plain fact is that the Church of England allows ministers discretion to remarry couples after no-fault divorce, something which, according to Jesus and Paul, imperils their salvation every bit as much as homosexuality. If the remarriage of divorcees can be tolerated, then ipso facto, so too can gay relationships.

        • Clive November 29, 2014 at 7:33 am #

          Dear James,

          There are several passages in which Jesus himself speaks about divorce and so the position is Biblical.

          Jesus speaks about divorce in

          Matthew 19 verses 1 to 12 deal with divorce (as do other gospels) and we can clearly see that divorce is for the “hard-hearted” and is not perfect and, in that sense, is imperfect. Matthew 19 verse 8 sums it up. Notice Jesus says that divorce did not exist at the beginning and will not exist in heaven (cf Matthew 22 verses 23 to 33).

          Notice also that marriage in Matthew 19 verse 5 is between a man and a woman.

          The first three gospels being largely synoptic I have not repeated references in other gospels.

      • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2014 at 1:13 am #

        Not convinced about monogamy. Out of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, two practised polygamy. The main king – David – practised polygamy. Deuteronomy mandates polygamy through levirate marriage, and anyone who refuses this is looked down on. Judaism still practised polygamy beyond the time of Jesus. It was Rome, rather than Judaism, which valued monogamy. The verses cited in the Jewish Encyclopedia don’t support their argument (adultery and polygamy are conflated).

        About stumbling blocks – when a normal sixth form spontaneously start booing when the church’s policy is explained, it’s at the least unhelpful.

        • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 10:43 am #

          Not convinced by what? The Jewish Encyclopaedia article sets out the issues pretty clearly.

          ‘a normal sixth form spontaneously start booing when the church’s policy is explained’ Really? They booed when someone explained that the church believes that sex isn’t everything, and that you are much more than your sexuality, which doesn’t define you? That policy?

          • James Byron December 1, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

            No, they booed discrimination against LGBT people. This “sex isn’t everything” line rings hollow when the church enthusiastically promotes (straight) marriage, and preaches about the joys of conjugal relations in the marriage bed!

            If the church preached celibacy for all, it’d be thought of as prudish, not discriminatory. ‘Course, it also wouldn’t be around for very long. 😉

    • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

      On your final point, I hope my Grove booklet engages seriously with the issues. At greater length is Gagnon’s tome. You might not like the style or tone, but you cannot criticise him for not engaging with the arguments. His website includes extensive additional material.

      I don’t think I would go with him on every detail, but he certainly offers much to refute positions like Wilson’s quite comprehensively.

      • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2014 at 1:20 am #

        You do engage seriously with the issues – apologies if you read direct criticism of yourself earlier. But this review, in my opinion, doesn’t.

        I’ve read Gagnon. I don’t like the style or tone. And I often disagree about his arguments. I’m familiar with his website.

        In particular, though, I have not found anywhere addressing the arguments about Romans 1.26-27 seriously. Miller is occasionally cited (but usually not). Townsley – not. This is key, because they are foundational for the ‘traditional’ side.

        • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 10:57 am #

          That’s extraordinary! Are you really suggesting that in the mountains of literature on this, you have a reading of Romans that *no-one* on the other side has engaged with? That there is a more-or-less knock-down argument which is so obvious that you see it, but so difficult to deal with that all ‘conservatives’ have avoided it because they have no answer? Seriously?

          Here’s an alternative view—that perhaps you are looking for something that is never going to be there. It sounds a little as though you need to text of Romans to say something like this before you will accept the ‘conservative’ reading:

          ‘Same-sex activity is sinful, and in case anyone is reading this in a different context, let me make it clear that I am not here referring to any particular forms of same-sex activity that might be present in my culture; I am making reference to all forms in whatever context they occur, just for the elimination of any doubt.’

          I am happy to accept that many popular readings to appear to take Paul to be writing this—but I am not sure any informed ‘conservative’ commentators are.

          In fact, most ‘conservatives’ would agree that SSA isn’t really the main point of Paul’s argument here. He is just assuming that his readers will take for granted his general rejection of SSA, primarily based on the Genesis accounts which are pretty clearly alluded to here, and the texts in Leviticus which (as Wright demonstrates) are behind his neologism in 1 for 6.9 and 1 Tim 1.9.

          And that is just the point. First century Jewish culture appears to reject all forms of SSA out of hand, and Jesus and Paul, in this regard, appear to entirely accept the judgement of that culture.

          Any argument like Alan Wilson’s has to make multiple, cumulative, special pleading. It has to argue, against all the evidence of the text, that Gen 2 does not have gender difference in view. It has to argue that, against the actual form of the wording, Lev 18 and 20 are strictly limited in their condemnation. It has to argue, against all historical evidence, that Jesus would have made an exception if faced with covenanted SSM. That Paul was really only referring to cultic practice, and that for some reason the terms he uses in 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim have limited meaning, despite being coined in the most general sense when perfectly good specific terms were available.

          In other words, it has to argue that each and every of these few texts does not mean what they appear to mean, and in fact allow something that was not known in their cultural context.

          That is why commentators on both sides of the debate often *agree* that the biblical texts do not allow SSA. I think we would do ourselves a favour in just being honest and acknowledging that. If to be ‘anti-gay’ is to see SSA as morally deficient, then most people agree the Bible is ‘anti-gay’. What I do not accept is this definition of ‘anti-gay’, booing sixth-formers notwithstanding.

          But here’s the question: if I could persuade you that the biblical texts were as I suggest above, would you be willing to change your mind on the question of SSM?

          • Jonathan Tallon December 2, 2014 at 9:10 am #

            Ian, you’re right. There is a mountain of literature out there, and I haven’t read all of it. I’d be grateful if you could signpost me to where the reading of Romans 1.26-27 is discussed.

            Incidentally, it isn’t my own, unique reading. I am only following up (fairly) recent scholarship. But it is scholarship which has been used by those arguing for the acceptance of gay relationships on popular Christian websites. It didn’t take me long to find these arguments.

            I am happy to agree that the New Testament (Paul and others) is against same-sex activity. However, I think the context for this condemnation is, in the case of Romans, cultic, and in general in a culture where same-sex activity meant older man and younger boy (often in an abusive power relationship such as master-slave).

            You can see a modern example of this in Putin’s statements around the time of the Winter Olympics. He said something like ‘homosexuals can come, so long as they leave our children alone’. His assumption comes from a culture where homosexuality and paedophilia are conflated. The ancient world had a similar conflation.

            I do not believe anything Jesus said is directly relevant to the argument – links argued by both sides always seem a little tenuous to me.

            I haven’t defined anything as ‘anti-gay’ – it’s not a phrase I use. And the sixth formers weren’t booing the bible, they were booing the Church of England.

          • Ian Paul December 2, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

            ‘I am happy to agree that the New Testament (Paul and others) is against same-sex activity. However, I think the context for this condemnation is, in the case of Romans, cultic, and in general in a culture where same-sex activity meant older man and younger boy (often in an abusive power relationship such as master-slave).’

            Jonathan, I think that is a really helpful statement, because it seems to me that this is bringing us to the central point of this discussion.

            As I read Wilson, Vines, Beeching and a number of others, they appear to be arguing that the NT (and also OT texts) are ‘not really’ against SSA, and offer a new exegesis of the texts which I think is fairly implausible. If we can all agree that the NT is in fact against SSA, I think we could have a more fruitful conversation.

            However, you go on to say that, since the context for Paul is either cultic or abusive, what then? Are you arguing that:

            a. Paul simply knew of no examples of non-abusive or non-cultic SSA? or

            b. that Paul did know of such examples, but approved of them, and that his texts make no reference to them?

            c. Similarly, are you suggesting that Jesus didn’t know of SSA? or

            d. that he did know of SSA, that it was disapproved by his culture, but that he did not comment?

            I do think that the narrative shape of Romans 1 mitigates against your reading—Paul is fairly clearly making an argument about the state of humanity as a whole, and not just those actually involved in cultic idolatry or SSA, since the whole shape of chapters 1 to 3 depends on this. This is the position of just about all substantial commentators I think. And all the evidence is that 1 Cor 6.9 is using a general, unqualified term. But we don’t need to agree on this in order to debate the above options.

            If I were to grant you the limitations of reference of the actual texts, which of the above options would you then go for?

          • Jonathan Tallon December 3, 2014 at 10:14 am #

            Quote:
            However, you go on to say that, since the context for Paul is either cultic or abusive, what then? Are you arguing that:

            a. Paul simply knew of no examples of non-abusive or non-cultic SSA? or

            b. that Paul did know of such examples, but approved of them, and that his texts make no reference to them?

            c. Similarly, are you suggesting that Jesus didn’t know of SSA? or

            d. that he did know of SSA, that it was disapproved by his culture, but that he did not comment?”

            With regard to Paul:
            I don’t think I’d accept these as the only alternatives. As a sketch of a third option, I’d go something like:
            “We don’t know whether Paul did or didn’t know of examples of non-abusive SSA; he is referring to the dominant form of SSA in his culture (which was abusive) without referring to possible exceptions or culturally marginal alternatives”.

            I think this is similar in approach to how I view Genesis 1: it is talking about the dominant form of how humans relate. It does not address exceptions to this (eg those who remain single; those who are infertile; other categories may be added…). It is also how church tradition has generally dealt with lending money at interest. It was condemned universally and consistently, because the dominant form was abusive. When alternative patterns emerged which weren’t abusive, the church reconsidered its position (Calvin is I believe the first example of this). I find it extremely unlikely that Paul would have been faced by a loving, monogamous, Christian gay couple in his churches within that culture. So I don’t think Paul is addressing that situation directly.

            We then have to ask, what would Paul think? However, in asking this, we also need to transfer Paul to our culture, so that he could take our cultural context into consideration. And views seem to differ as to what Paul would then say.

            You also ask a similar question about Jesus. Having a high Christology, of course my answer is that Jesus did (does) know of SSA. I don’t believe he commented (talking about the gospel records of his statements).

            A side note on the reading of Romans I offered – it also ends up at the same place of condemning all humanity. First the gentiles, who turned to idolatry, which in turn leads to all kinds of wrongdoing. Then the Jews, who despite not being idolatrous, end up being no better. However, I don’t think Romans 1 ends up with a condemnation of all humanity. This, to me, goes against the whole flow of Paul’s rhetoric, which is to start with a condemnation of gentiles that Jews would be nodding along to, only to turn the tables and include them in Romans 2. It is Romans 1 and 2 together that condemn all humanity, not Romans 1 on its own, which is specific to gentiles. This understanding of the general shape of Romans 1 & 2 is pretty mainstream.

  3. Chris Bishop November 27, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    “Frankly, the church’s official position on same-sex marriage is a stumbling block to many (both within and outside the church), who find it offensive and scandalous. What do you do when both sides are scandalised by the other’s position?”

    Considering that Jesus himself was a stumbling block to both Jews and Gentiles and offensive to many, since when does ‘offensive and scandalous ‘ become a criterion to accommodate cultural mores?

    • Rev Peter Kane December 1, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

      The reality is that the churches which are declining most are the ones which have compromised with the world by liberalising their teaching on homosexual behaviour. The real stumbling blocks to people coming to faith are those church leaders who have abandoned the clear teaching of the word of God on this matter and are simply caving in to pressure from wider society. “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim 4:3)

  4. James Byron November 27, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    I’ll not argue with Davie’s points. We come from such different places we’d be talking past one another. He clearly speaks for the current Church of England leadership on this.

    I will say, though, that accepting (for sake of argument) that gay relationships aren’t adiaphora, can we not try to find a way to agree to disagree regardless? On a “on your own head be it” basis? We already agree to disagree on “salvation issues” like Calvinism and Armenianism, and on profound points of doctrine like the eucharist and the nature of the priesthood.

    Is it truly impossible to find a way past sexuality, and sexuality alone?

    • Thomas Renz November 28, 2014 at 11:03 am #

      Do we agree to disagree on some of these other issues? There was a great deal of wrangling about words in producing Common Worship, was there not? It is true that our Bishops tolerate the use of non-authorised liturgy in celebrating the Eucharist but it is tolerance in its original sense – suffering rather than intervening to stop something that is wrong. A campaign for approving the Roman rite within the CofE or allowing people to make it up as they go along would find no less opposition than the campaign to approve liturgies for “sex-blind marriage”.

      • Tom December 6, 2014 at 11:14 am #

        It’s difficult to agree to disagree with someone and to regard them as a true brother or sister in Christ, while believing that they have not even gained salvation (1 Corinthians 6). But there are churches that take a non-orthodox approach to this, as a matter of policy. So in some ways, there are churches for everyone.

  5. Tony Oliver November 27, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    Thanks Ian for posting Martin Davie’s excellent review. I’m only sorry that you allow remarks that elsewhere would be termed ‘hate speech’:

    “My enemy’s enemy is my friend even when he’s a traitor to both my enemy’s cause and mine. But we’ll deal with them afterwards.”

    What do remarks like these contribute? Promises of a modern day version of ‘la Terreur’ really aren’t funny.

  6. Bishop Alan Wilson November 28, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    This is desperate stuff. If someone turns up on your doorstep and demands to rape your guest, the intention of rape is not being read into the text by me but was inherent in the story!! Martin’s Leviticus reading rests on two fallacies — (1) the linguistic one criticised by James Barr years ago in his Semantics of Biblical languages (2) the judgment of the meaning of the text by a construct he has made of “BIblical sexual anthropology,” which is a posh name for his cultural assumptions, read into the text and then, hey presto, read out again. Martin’s desperate attempt to make Leviticus apply to Lesbians is pitiful, but indicates the method. By contrast, of you want to know what Paul means by Nature in Romans 1, you can begin with what he means by the term elsewhere in his writings — a notable absentee from Martin’s reading! His point about immorality only makes sense if you define homosexuality as a form of immorality. This technique, taking a microscopic number of texts to establish that gayness is sinful then applying every text about sin int he Bible to it is the way people spin up a pitifully small amount of Biblical material into a big deal — a huge ball of candyfloss from six grains of sugar! As to Jude 7, strangely, I agree with Gagnon’s reading of that particular text — not all same sex desire is morally virtuous, any more than all opposite sex desire. Both are subject to the same moral judgment and need to be hallowed and directed aright. Directing any desire towards rape is always wrong. All these increasingly desperate attempts being made to rubbish the book without actually engaging with it on its own terms are most encouraging. The ceiling is sagging!

    • Thomas Renz November 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

      Genesis 19 looks to me like attempted rape because there is no sense that the demands to have sex with Lot’s guests will take their consent or lack thereof into consideration. (I wonder whether this means that the earlier revisionist arguments by Bailey, Boswell etc. to the effect that the inhabitants of Sodom had no sexual intentions can now be set aside.) The point made by Davidson, who builds on exegetical literature, especially Hamilton, is that the choice of words indicate that for the narrator attempted homosexual rape on Lot’s guests was triply wrong (rape, homosexuality, breach of hospitality). Martiin Davie’s apparent suggestiion that rape was not an issue at all is misleading. The argument is that it was not the only issue the narrator had with the demand made.

      Barr’s Semantics of Biblical Language seems to make no reference to the passages in Leviticus under discussion. The broad thrust of Barr’s scholarship would seem to favour R.M. Davidson’s reading over D.S. Bailey’s on the grounds that Barr consistently warned against reading more specifics into a word than is warranted.

    • Ian Paul November 28, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

      I don’t think this is desperate stuff. As I say above, I would not go with everything Martin says here, but I think there are some good and clear arguments which need a better response than this.

      I note that you haven’t responded to either mine or Andrew Goddard’s review either.

      If you are proposing the that church changes its position on the basis of sagging ceilings i.e. weight of (quite often uninformed) opinion, I think I would rather the church took its theology a little more seriously.

      • Clive November 28, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

        I agree. Bp Alan says he doesn’t like a few points but noticeably fails to respond to the detailed critique of his book.

      • Jonathan Tallon December 1, 2014 at 1:23 am #

        Two elements of the review deserve the ‘desperate’ adjective.

        1. Davie’s comments on the science.

        2. Davie’s comments on Sodom.

        It becomes harder to treat the rest seriously after the science comment.

  7. James Byron November 28, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    I see Robert Gagnon referenced a few times. This man saw fit to make deeply personal claims about Vicky Beeching. Without going ad hom, it does nothing for PR, does it?

  8. Don Benson November 28, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    Bishop Alan
    You really need to get out more and take a look at the real world God created. Before you attempt to reinterpret scripture, stop and think how the natural world (designed, created and owned by God) works. Consider how every cell of the human body carries an X and Y chromosome, declaring the inbuilt nature of sexual complementarity. Every child is conceived by a man and woman together as a result of the creative nature of their sexual union. Girls and boys, men and women, are attracted to each other because God put that attraction mechanism at the heart of their bodily and psychological design. None of this is remotely questioned in scripture – quite the reverse. No alternative choices of sexual behaviour are suggested, condoned or even tolerated. If you think you have found ambiguities in verses, approach them with humility, don’t spin a convenient web for your cause but test them against the broad sweep of what the Bible says as well as the intricacies of other verses.

    It is never a good thing to approach scripture with a particular agenda and then seek to try and interpret what you read so that it will support that agenda. Moreover, when that agenda is conceived in politically correct dogma you are aiding a self-appointed secular elite who are undermining ordinary people’s confidence and right to think and speak for themselves. People right through society and now within our Church are unwilling to say what they really think for fear of the predictable backlash and name calling. The result of this negative and destructive approach is clearly evidenced in the Church of England at present; how could God bless something which is being promoted in this way? How can He bless a church where crude internal political tactics are used rather than gracious and humble discussion?

    • James Byron November 29, 2014 at 12:39 am #

      “Girls and boys, men and women, are attracted to each other because God put that attraction mechanism at the heart of their bodily and psychological design.”

      And yet, Don, girls and girls, and boys and boys, men and men, and women and women, are also attracted to each other. Their attraction can blossom into loving, supportive, and passionate relationships, just like girls and boys, men and women. Its expression does no harm; its suppression does a great deal.

      Did the authors of scripture know this? No, they did not, anymore than they knew the earth orbited the sun, mental illness was not the work of demons; or knew that slavery was wrong, and women the equal of men. They were humans as we are humans. If they were divinely inspired, that inspiration did not eliminated their flaws and biases, it worked through them. They did write some very sensible things about buildings idols. I’d like to think they did not intend their words to become such.

      Let’s have some humility about the limits of our knowledge: biblical authors included.

      • Clive November 29, 2014 at 7:39 am #

        Dear James

        You wrote “Did the authors of scripture know this?” and tried to answer this, but the real answer to your question is “Yes they did!” and the references given show how the Bible refers to it.

      • Ian Paul December 1, 2014 at 11:00 am #

        James, just to clarify, no-one here is arguing for ‘suppression.’

        • James Byron December 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

          As I’ve asked before Ian, why d’you think “suppression” is an inappropriate word for asking lesbian and gay people to never express their sexuality with another person?

          You might not believe that you’re arguing for suppression, but many would disagree with that opinion.

  9. Etienne December 1, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    They’re not arguing for suppression now.

    But if they ever get their way and same sex marriage is outlawed, they’ll soon start arguing for further reduction in the rights accorded to gay people.

    Once there’s no more marriage, they’ll start lobbying for the suppression of civil partnerships.

    Once there are no more civil partnerships, they’ll start lobbying for the criminalization of all gay sex.

    Once gay sex is illegal, they’ll start lobbying for the penalties associated with it to be increased. Up to and including the stake, I shouldn’t wonder.

    The slippery slope argument is just as easy to apply to their agenda as it is to ours.

  10. etseq December 3, 2014 at 5:35 am #

    So we are not only promiscuous, diseased, and generally morally depraved but we also are a danger to our own children! He just about hit every ignorant stereotype possible – this read like a press release from Focus on The Family in the US. Substitute jew for gay and try to get away with this these smears. What a window into this man’s soul…

    • Etienne December 3, 2014 at 10:46 am #

      But that’s what the Church really thinks of us. At least he’s honest about it rather than trying to wrap it up in Welbyesque fudge. “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship,” said the good archbishop to BBC News. What he failed to add, at least in public, was the priviso: “it’s such a pity they’re so warped and offensive to God.”

      This is the essence of real Christianity and there’s no place for us in it unless we’re willing to make living sacrifices of ourselves on the altar of “complementarity” and live out our lives as pet virgins.

      Of course you can sweep it all away and replace the God of the Bible with an accepting God who makes a place for us in his creation. But such a deity will be your invention. He’ll be no more fictional than the Christian God, of course. But unless you’re willing to transform yourself into a prophet and claim divine inspiration for your new religion, he won’t be a God of revelation either. Just a deity based on common sense and expediency, which unfortunately aren’t the best founding principles for any religion. A faith without mystery, magic and contradiction soon fades away into secular realism. Just look at TEC.

      It’s a binary choice: accept the God of the Bible and place all of your faith in the truth of his revelation (in the WHOLE truth, homophobic bits included), or reject Christianity as fictional and untrue. Anything in between is just an attempt to reconcile ancient myths with personal desires and will result in a bastardized and untenable faith, the religious version of clutching at straws.

      IMHO, of course.

  11. Clive December 3, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    Dear “etseq” (and Etienne),

    I am struggling to find a really nice way to say to you that you really haven’t read the letters and the piece before writing. The whole debate is about what the Bible actually says and about Biblical authority. So please take your american phrase (“Substitute jew for gay and try to get away with this these smears”- your phrase) to some other website where they belong, because they don’t belong here and, as you do so, bear in mind in the UK the prejudice against the family and discrimination against children now being shown by both the administration and the same sex community here in the UK. The irony of your response is that the DfE today had to try to meekly defend their prejudice and discrimination in Parliament here in the UK. It wasn’t fair on the Secretary of State for the DfE (yes I’m old fashioned) because the reality is that the whole thing was rushed through Parliament so the whole real problem stems from MPs not having enough time to debate the consequences of the issue. So we have OFSTED instructed that no child can refer to traditional marriage whereas the law actually does retain traditional marriage and Nicky Morgan MP has had to defend the indefensible.

    It was, I think, an accident of the UK law that children just become commodities with no right to know their genetic parents. Children are just objects yet doctors actually DO need to know who the genetic parents really are. I write as someone who has real experience of this issue.

    I have included Etienne in this response because Sarkozy in France has also proposed to rewrite the law to remove the discrimination against children endemic in the same sex community and the administration. So the discrimination isn’t just English it’s French as well.

    Prejudice against the family and discrimination against children is widespread – but this all belongs on another website.

    • Clive December 3, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

      Just to be clear … same sex of unions could have been introduced in the UK without prejudice against the family and discrimination against children if MPs had not been rushed and had debated the consequences properly.

    • Etienne December 4, 2014 at 11:37 am #

      Ah, Christian entitlement rears its head once again.

      This is Dr Ian Paul’s blog, Monsieur Clive. As such, it’s for him to issue stern warnings about who can and can’t post here and what they can post. For the present, the Worshipful Doctor has not censored my remarks, nor has he even commented on them, or told me to take my beliefs and opinions elsewhere. So why do you feel entitled to do so on his behalf?

      If you’re itching to play the censor, why not set up your own blog instead of trying to police someone else’s?

      And yes, “Sarkozy in France” has indeed proposed the abrogation of our equal marriage law. He wants to replace it with a new law that will give us civil unions without the right to adopt, although he’ll probably still call it “marriage” in a vain attempt to sweeten the pill.

      His proposal is unlikely to succeed for two reasons. Firstly, he isn’t president and his party is not in government. So he can’t pass any legislation because he has no parliamentary majority. He has to win two elections first. He has to be voted president of the Republic, and then his party has to win a majority in the Assemblée Nationale. He already has a majority in the Sénat, but there’s no guarantee he’ll keep it. French politics are volatile at the moment and the rise of the Front National means that all bets are off as to how the next elections will go. So don’t count your chickens just yet. The eggs haven’t even been laid, so you’re being a bit premature.

      Secondly, here in France we have a little thing called a Constitution that guarantees us the perpetual enjoyment of all rights previously acquired. As a law was passed with a large majority granting us equal marriage, it cannot now be rescinded and replaced with legislation that gives us fewer rights. If Sarko does become president and his party is able to form a government, he’ll find that any attempt to take marriage and adoption rights away from us will be vetoed by the Conseil Constitutionnel, which is the official guardian of the Constitution and can (and frequently does) overturn legislation that attempts to restrict constitutional rights.

      I have no idea what will happen in Britain because the murky and unclear mass of laws and conventions you call a “constitution” lets just about anything happen as long as it can command a parliamentary majority. This is not the case in France. Our Constitution enshrines eternal values that cannot be set aside by the government of the day for the purposes of political expediency. So equal marriage is safe here. Sarko knows it, but he’s grandstanding because he wants to woo the Catho-fascists of the Manif Pour Tous away from the Front National. They’re certainly gullible enough to believe him – after all, they let themselves be persuaded that an invisible sky fairy will give them eternal life if they love, worship and appease it, so we have convincing proof that they’ll swallow any lie as long as they like the sound of it.

      And they certainly love the sound of “let’s crush the vile homosexuals”. It got hundreds of thousands of them out on the streets last year. Versailles marched on Paris, which was certainly a reversal of the usual roles. But one that was doomed to failure from the beginning. Stagnant backwaters like Versailles cannot change the course of the rivers they’re cut off from. All they can do is sit there giving off a pestilential stench as they slowly evaporate away…

      • James Byron December 4, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

        “Stagnant backwaters like Versailles cannot change the course of the rivers they’re cut off from. All they can do is sit there giving off a pestilential stench as they slowly evaporate away…”

        Damn Etienne, that was poetic and insulting all in one, nicely done. 😀

  12. Clive December 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    So at least Etienne agrees in his response that Sarkozy wishes to rewrite the law to remove discrimination against children. He claims the law is safe but it will be interesting to see how the french constitution withstands open discrimination by the same sex community against children (who do actually have rights if adults are prepared to stand and speak up).

    Discrimination, in Etienne’s opinion, must be a good thing for him, but as I pointed out, you could have same sex unions without discrimination against children.

    • Etienne December 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

      As this “discrimination” you’re talking about is all in your head, the French Constitution doesn’t recognize it.

      I know this because a group of right wing députés challenged the equal marriage law before the Conseil Constitutionnel on those very grounds. They claimed that the new law discriminated against children by removing their right to a mother and father. The court dismissed their claim. They noted that the Constitution obliges the courts to act in the best interests of the child in all cases of adoption and that nothing in the equal marriage law conflicted with this obligation. In other words, they explicitly recognized that a child’s best interests could be served by being adopted by a same sex couple.

      If Sarko tries to rewrite the law to ban adoptions by gay couples, he’ll run foul of the equal protection principle of our Constitution that obliges judges to apply the law in a uniform manner. If even one married gay couple is allowed to adopt (which many already have) then the right of all married gay couples to be considered as prospective adoptive parents can never be rescinded.

      It’s done and dusted and Sarko knows it, but he’s so desperate for votes that he’ll do or say anything to get people on his side. If he wins the next election, he’ll quietly drop the proposals and everything will carry on as it currently is. There’s no way around it short of modifying the Constitution, for which he needs a two thirds majority, which is functionally impossible in our political system unless an amendment garners the support of all parties. The Socialists will never vote to remove constitutional guarantees of equal protection, so gay marriage and adoption are secure.

      • Clive December 6, 2014 at 10:51 am #

        Sarkozy has moved to erase the discrimination precisely because it isn’t “in my head” as you wrongly claim.

        • Etienne December 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

          True, it’s not just your delusion. It’s also in the heads of many of the poor gullible fools Sarko’s trying to get to vote for him. This is why he’s attempting to beguile them with a vision of reversing a constitutional reality they don’t like.

          The Conseil Constitutionnel has made its decision. Same sex couples can marry and adopt children. The only way to reverse this decision is, as I said above, to alter the Constitution. And the only way to do that is to get all parties to support such a change.

          In our pluralistic and diverse society with its multiple points of view, this will never happen. And Sarko knows it, but he needs more votes so he’s willing to promise anything to anyone whether he can keep his promises or not.

          French politicians are no different than any others, after all. But luckily, Christian voters are. They’ll support anyone who tells them what they want to hear and won’t look too closely at the fine print or ask difficult questions about how promises will be delivered. Truly the Bible describes them well: sheep, just waiting to follow someone, anyone, as long as they don’t have to think for themselves.

          • Clive December 9, 2014 at 7:01 am #

            Interesting that you’ve contradicted yourself in your own responses.
            It wasn’t Sarkozy who brought the cases and it would be interesting if Sarkozy changed the law and the Conseil tried to change the law again to put the prejudice and discrimination back into it, because we haven’t even got on to the subject of prejudice against the family. Carry on contradicting yourself, its wonderful.

  13. Etienne December 9, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    Responding to Clive’s last feeble attempt to understand how the French political system works…

    The Conseil Constitutionnel cannot change a law. It can only validate or invalidate it. If invalidated, it’s up to parliament to reformulate the law to make it conform to the Constitution. In the case of an attempt to deprive same sex couples of their rights to marry and adopt, that will not be possible. A right once acquired cannot be rescinded.

    Something similar happened in Spain when the conservative government attempted to overthrow the equal marriage laws there. They passed a new law with a significant majority and the constitutional authorities vetoed it. Equal marriage is still the law in Spain and no government can change that situation short of revising the Constitution, which is no easier there than it is here.

    I know that’s difficult to understand for an Anglo-Saxon with your tradition of “flexible” legislation and political horse-trading, but here in Europe certain rights are enshrined in law that cannot be modified by politicians avaricious for political advantage.

    • Clive December 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

      The Conseil Constitutionnel doesn’t make laws, as you said yourself, it ” can only validate or invalidate it” (your words, Etienne, not mine – I have merely repeated your words to reveal how you contradict yourself).

      Therefore the government makes the law to remove the prejudice and discrimination and faces the Conseil Constitutionnel with the choice of validating or invalidating it. It cab validate the removal of the prejudice and discrimination or it can put the prejudice and discrimination back.

      (kindly leave out the word “feeble” this time and try to read what you yourself have written)

      • Etienne December 10, 2014 at 12:55 am #

        Your ignorance of the legislative process here in France is comprehensive, I see.

        New laws only take effect once they’ve been validated by the Conseil Constitutionnel, so until it validates any new marriage law, the current one will remain in effect.

        You believe the current law contains prejudice and discrimination. The Conseil Constitutionnel disagrees with you, but in any case if a new government decides to alter the marriage law to remove the right of same sex couples to marry and adopt, the existing law will remain in force while the Conseil Constitutionnel is examining the new bill. Their decision when they reject it will not “put the prejudice and discrimination (that you believe the current law contains) back”, because the legal situation will remain unchanged. Nothing will have been “put back” into the law, because it will never have been changed. A law passed by parliament doesn’t take effect until it has been judged to be in conformity with the Constitution. Until that happens the current law remains in effect, unchanged and unmodified.

        If you can’t understand that then perhaps you should refrain from giving your opinion on a topic you so clearly don’t grasp.

        • Ian Paul December 10, 2014 at 1:19 am #

          Clive and Etienne, I have no idea how a discussion about French constitution relates to the original discussion.

          Again, can I remind you that debate here is only of value to the extent to which each party respects and engages with the views of the other.

          thanks

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