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Same-sex marriage and moral debate

Mark-RegnerusIn the C of E, and more widely in the UK, the church discussion about the moral status of same-sex unions tends to take place in isolation from other moral issues. (Perhaps the one exception to that is the recent debate about women in leadership—but I argue here that these two questions are quite distinct.)

Christian social scientist Mark Regnerus has explored exactly that question, and come up with some interesting conclusions. His particular interest is in the sociology of sexual behaviour and morality, so it is no surprise that his conclusions have often proved controversial, particularly his study of family life of same-sex couples with children in 2012. (He includes a full account of the controversy and his response on his website.)

His latest research seeks to ask an important question:

What exactly do pro-same-sex-marriage Christians think about sex and relationships in general?

I’m not asking what perspectives on sexual behavior people ought to hold. Instead, I’m trying to discover what perspectives churchgoing Christians who disagree over same-sex marriage actually express.

To answer this, he made use of the Relationships in America survey, a data collection project that he oversaw which involved asking 15,738 Americans, ages 18-60, a series of questions about sexual morality and which took place in early 2014. The conclusions are summarised in the following table:

Regnerus-Graph

From this, Regnerus makes some interesting observations—though perhaps the most interesting thing is what he does not conclude from it. For one, this says nothing about individual beliefs; it cannot be inferred from this what view a particular supporter of same-sex marriage will have on other issues—and of course the majority of those approving of same-sex marriage do not approve of pornography, premarital cohabitation, and so on. For another, approval of same-sex unions is not about the ‘thin end of the wedge’ in terms of sexual morality. Approving of same-sex unions does not lead to change in other areas; instead, the issues are more integrally connected:

I’m not suggesting any “slippery slope” sort of argument here, implying that a shift in one attitude will prompt lock-step adjustments in others. In reality, our moral systems concerning sex and sexuality tend rather to resemble personalized “tool kits” reflecting distinctive visions of the purpose of sex and significant relationships (and their proper timing), the meaning of things like marriage and gender roles, and basic ideas about rights, goods, and privacy.

In other words, changing attitudes to same-sex unions are not a cause of changes in other moral outlooks—they are (if anything) a symptom of them. And there is a ‘clear fissure’ across the board between column 1 and column 2, those who oppose and those who approve of same-sex marriage. Regnerus goes on to note some other interesting points. First, whilst Christians who approve of same-sex marriage have been influenced by the views of gay and lesbian Christians and non-Christians, their views are distinct from them—but the influence has pulled to match, almost exactly, the population as a whole.

Churchgoing Christians who support same-sex marriage look very much like the country as a whole—the population average (visible in the third column). That answers my original question. What would a pro-SSM Christian sexual morality look like? The national average—the norm—that’s what.

Second, he notes that both groups in the first two columns have a sense of feeling ’embattled’, the second group in two directions—in relation to more ‘conservative’ Christians as well as in relation to the more ‘liberal’ world about them. But the changes in attitudes have less to do with individual decisions, and much more to do with ‘reference groups’ to which people relate. This means that there will continue to be change in all groups; as attitudes in the population become more liberal, ‘and it would be shrewd to presume that this will occur’, attitudes of SSM-approving Christians will likely also continue to shift. 

Given the rather massive divide in attitudes about sexual and romantic relationships evidenced in the table above, reference group theory—if employed here—would suggest that the current division between these groups of churchgoing Christians will remain far into the future.

Although the survey was conducted in the States, there is no reason to think similar principles do not pertain here as well.


Beeching-1The other event illustrating the nature of the debate was Vicky Beeching’s recent announcement that she is gay. Two things are in no doubt. The first is that Vicky has been through significant trauma on this issue, and has been on the receiving end of some hideous ‘pastoral’ treatment which should have no place in the church. It has clearly taken considerable courage (not to say careful planning) to make the disclosures that she has. It has been heartening to see support of her statement from Christians of all hues, regardless of their view on this particular issue. Her disclosures can only be a good thing in terms of encouraging all Christians to be more honest about their own struggles, and in calling the Church to account over abusive pastoral practice. The most moving reflection on this comes from my friend Wes Hill over on Spiritual Friendship:

It’s easy for me now, as someone who writes and speaks publicly and frequently about these matters, to forget how difficult it was at first to talk with anyone about my sexuality. Despite the fact that I had a loving, close-knit family, an especially committed group of friends in high school, and an unusually sensitive, thoughtful youth pastor, it still took me until college to tell someone about my feelings. And even then, I was deathly afraid of what my peers would think…

The first person I came out to listened to me for as long as I wanted to talk. I could barely form a coherent sentence. My face was red with embarrassment. It felt like I had sawdust caking the inside of my mouth. He waited for me to finish before he spoke. Perhaps because he was a professor, I felt that I needed to end my story with a question for him. But he quickly waved that away and simply assured me that God loved me and that he wanted to meet again. And there was something healing in that—to know that, whatever questions remained, the God I had met in Jesus Christ would somehow provide the grace I needed to move forward.

I hope Vicky Beeching experiences that same love.

Second, her comments will have a significant impact on the debate within the church on this issue. A number of people have commented to me that ‘Vicky is my hero’ (or words to that effect) ‘and this is a number 1 issue for me as a Christian.’ She had already accepted the role of Ambassador for Accepting Evangelicals, a pressure group on this issue, and her interview—just before appearances at Greenbelt—make it clear that she is now in campaigning mode for change in the Church’s teaching.

But the nature of the announcement, and the shape of the argument, are problematic, and I think that they will make future discussion of the issue more difficult, as both sides entrench around it. Dean Roberts, in his blog, writes warmly both of Vicky and her ministry, but expresses frustration at the mode of communication:

I feel disappointed by the way in which she decided to share the news – I do question Vicky’s motives to an extent in that I have a problem with the fact that rather than on her personal blog (which attracts thousands of visitors a day), Vicky decided to meet someone and basically sell a story to the national press. Clearly, she may feel that this would help and inspire others, but for me personally, I’d have benefitted from a stripped back, acoustic feel to the story in that it would be coming from her mouth, rather than through the filter of someone else. This, for me, creates other knock on problems.

These problems include the portrayal of prayer ministry in the church, the dropping of names, and the wider approach to the issue:

For me, the article seems to be a facet of Vicky’s quest to harmonise same sex marriage with the Bible and with the tradition and reason of the Church for the last 2,000 or so years, but simply saying “I’m gay” isn’t going to do justice to that quest, if it can be done. And of course, where I stand is that I don’t think it can.

And there is a different side to the story—though one which will never be given anything like the same coverage. Ed Shaw is pastor of Emmanuel Church in Bristol, and also came out last year. He shares some of Vicky’s frustration with the way evangelicals have responded to the issue—yet there is more to be said.

But Vicky’s story is not the whole story. I’ve personally experienced so much genuine acceptance and love when I’ve shared my experience of same-sex attraction with fellow evangelical Christians. Rather than looking down on me they’ve looked up to me–wanting to benefit from my perspective…So we need to hear Vicky’s story, but then listen to other same-sex attracted Christians who have a different story to tell. Our stories rarely make the national newspapers or TV news, but large numbers of us want to remain faithful to the teaching of the Bible. We do this, not only because we believe that God’s word is good, but also because, in the end, we believe it signposts the route to human flourishing–and to life itself.


What is going on in this debate and the way it is being conducted? We cannot underestimate the impact of social media on the discussion. Although social media has done a lot of good (including allowing you to read this blog!) it also, as someone said to me recently, tends to blur the distinction between personal and public, personalise every issue, promote the idea that morality rests on sincerity and empathy and assert that the expression and experience of pain trumps any argument of principle. It can lead to the deconstruction (and relativisation) of any higher or external authority, centre discussion on self-promotion and self-defence, and wrap all this up with the need to collect allies, affirmation and public acclaim. Or (in the words of another friend) ‘experience is the new god’.

All this can lead to the closing down of discussion and mutual engagement. Because we all have ‘experiences’ and these experiences appear to be telling us different things, then there can end up with very little in terms of points of contact. If we are not allowed to critically reflect, with respect and responsibility, on the claims such experiences make, the conversation quickly ends. In fact, experience can never be absolute in itself—or at least, our account of experience cannot be absolute. Experience can never be a ‘given’, something that ‘just is’, since when we talk of our experience we are locating events and feelings in our lives in an interpretative framework, through which we make sense of who we are in the world. Our account of our experience, then, is as much an interpretative construct as is our reading of Scripture. When the two do not appear to correspond, or when they offer conflicting interpretations of who we understand ourselves to be, we need to re-read both ourselves as well as Scripture. It is not possible simply to dismiss or reinterpret Scripture or claim that it is irrelevant. As we attempt to read Scripture, we must also be committed to allowing Scripture to read us. This is, in fact, the common experience of all Christians as they read—there are times when each of us is reluctant to see ourselves as Scripture depicts us.

It is too much to hope that both public debate, and the ‘facilitated conversations’ might allow us to do this?


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77 Responses to Same-sex marriage and moral debate

  1. Rachel Marszalek August 17, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

    Important. Thank you. It will be interesting to follow the discussion here.

    • Chris Bishop August 17, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

      These are very interesting statistics. This might be slightly tangential but it would interesting for Regnerus to extend his study to see if Christians who support SSM would also have a preference to the population average on other divisive issues like abortion. My guess is that pro-SSM Christians also .tend to gravitate to liberal theology. I have yet to come across a pro-SSM christian who is for example, an arch-Calvinist.

      • Dave August 18, 2014 at 9:08 am #

        Chris, I was wondering something similar. I would expect a large proportion of “churchgoing christians who support SSM” to be in liberal churches.

        What we really need is a survey of attitudes amongst evangelicals, to learn what their views on all these other subjects are. It would be interesting to see if evangelicals who support SSM are in favour of pornography, infidelity, etc etc.

        Regarding “arch-calvinists” and the like, it’s important to remember that people do, by and large, absorb the values and beliefs of their faith community, also calvinist churches tend to be quite authoritarian. So there’s a lot of pressure on people to keep in line with the accepted doctrines. Even in the broader world as represented by the Evangelical Alliance, having pro-SSM views does result in you being ostracised – as exemplified by Steve Chalke.

        • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 9:16 am #

          Dave, at one level your last point is true. But at the point where Chalke announced this, was ‘evangelicalism’ really any more his world?

          A similar comment has been made about Vicky Beeching. Someone commented to me that this shows how evangelicalism is changing. But in what sense is Vicky an evangelical any more? She does not attend an evangelical church—and she does not even listen to her own (evangelical) songs any more.

          It is much more convincing to see her (and Steve Chalke) as actually having moved (in Regnerus’ terms) from one reference group to another.

          • Brian August 18, 2014 at 9:37 am #

            I have to agree with you here. Steve Chalke was leaving classical evangelicalism for some years before all this (remember the battles over ‘The Lost Message of Jesus’ etc, and his current views on Scripture are not any that an evangelical could affirm).

            VB isn’t an evangelical, whatever her heritage, any more than Brian McLaren is one. People change, and it can be painful to break with one’s past. But it happens. I had a school acquaintance who became a brilliant Catholic priest (published NT doctorate) who did a second doctorate in philosophy and is now an atheist. Richard Holloway used to be a believing Anglo-Catholic – now he’s an atheist too.

            But still a bishop, strangely. Why hasn’t he been formally deposed from the ministry?

  2. Chris Bishop August 18, 2014 at 12:01 am #

    Urgh! I should have read the chart more thoroughly – they do!

  3. Brian August 18, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    I’m not surprised that columns 2 and 3 track each other very closely. SSM is simply a salience of secularisation, a society shedding its residual Christianity as a statistical majority enter adulthood as religiously uncommitted. The baby boomers abandoned the liberal church but retained liberal social commitments. Spirituality was always a thin thing in liberal churches – more neo-Kantian moralism than anything else – with little staying power as scepticism took hold in the mind.

    • deacongill August 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

      I’d like a ‘like’ button for these sensible comments!

  4. Chris Bishop August 18, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    The dominant ethos of modern western liberal thought that guides its beliefs and ideals is that of inclusivity and its stablemate, tolerance. The difficulty for Evangelical Christianity in the modern world is that it asserts exclusive positions regarding faith and salvation which challenge this prevailing ethic.

    Some -so called evangelicals are embarrassed by this and play down aspects of God such as his judgment, righteousness, and holiness. The emphasis on God’s love overrides anything else. So we see people like Rob Bell in his book ‘Love Wins’ and Steve Chalke in his cosmic child abuse. I would be interested to know BTW what Chalke actually thinks on subjects like hell or eternal judgment. This must be a bit of a bummer for them. I wonder if Vicky Beeching also takes the same view as they do?

    No one with an objective eye can read the Gospels and fail to see the number of statements that Jesus made regarding salvation which were judgmental, exclusive, dogmatic and in many cases downright scary. From a true evangelical perspective Jesus was inclusive insofar as the forgiveness of sins is available to all given the knowledge of God and repentance. So verses like John 6v 37 are qualified by verses like Matt 7 v21-23 (which might upset a few charismatics) – there are conditions…

    There will be sheep and goats, there will be a separation and final judgment, the wicked will be turned away from the Kingdom of God (into hell -whatever that may be?), – unless they repent. This is hardly inclusive is it?

    We see the Gospel first preached by the early church in Acts 2 and in particular verse 38 with its emphasis on repentance. God is going to Judge the world in as much as it will be inclusive in that we will all be judged, and exclusive as some will be found wanting and excluded (shock horror!) from the Kingdom. God is being discriminating here is he not?.

    So I think the real battle within evangelicalism between those who are what might be termed ‘Evangelical traditionalists’ and those who are seeking to revise it like Bell, Chalke and now Vicky Beeching, is essentially to do with the limits on inclusivity within the Gospel that has been delivered to us.

    • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

      Chris, I wouldn’t disagree with your observations about Jesus…though I think I would express them differently. This Jesus is rather embarrassing to us! I tackle this in my other post here:

      http://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/was-jesus-inclusive/

    • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

      As I think I have already commented, I am not really sure this is a contest *within* evangelicalism as such. I think the debate on women is, but I am unclear in what way Vicky Beeching could be considered evangelical.

      • Chris Bishop August 18, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

        “As I think I have already commented, I am not really sure this is a contest *within* evangelicalism as such. ”

        I agree, but I think Chalke, Bell and Beeching are trying to turn it into one .

        • James Byron August 18, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

          Chris, an evangelical split needs no help; it’s happened already.

          Just in England, there’s David Gillett, former Bishop of Bolton; David Runcorn, lecturer at Trinity Theological College, who contributed an affirming evangelical essay to Pilling; and Jody Stowell, who resigned from Fulcrum’s leadership over the issue. Although he opposes equal marriage, Justin Welby himself has said that he hasn’t made up his mind about whether other teaching should change.

          Outside famous names, there’s a divide in the comments on sites like Christianity Today and the Evangelical Alliance.

          Why are some evangelicals so determined to deny what’s already happened? Is it because accepting that evangelicals can disagree on affirming gay relationships undermines their idea of evangelical boundaries?

          • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

            James, I think you are right to highlight tribal anxiety.

            But beyond that, there is a real concern about method in reading scripture, and the way that, in these ethical debates, there is poor thinking arising from a reader-centred hermeneutic which silences scripture when we don’t like what we are reading.

            This has far-reaching consequences for the theology and integrity of the Church.

  5. Andrew Godsall August 18, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Aha so we will see the same happen to those who call themselves evangelicals as happened to Anglo Catholics who supported the ordination of women – they will be told, as Ian Paul tells Vicky Beeching here, ‘you aren’t a real evangelical’.

    Ian, a straight question to help me get in the mind of those who seem obsessed with this topic. Do you think those who engage in, or who support same sex marriage are destined for eternal damnation? A straight yes or no would be helpful.

    • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

      Andrew, thanks for commenting on the blog. As I think I said to you on FB, I just don’t understand why people want to hang on to the label ‘evangelical’. I think you commented that ‘evangelical’ means ‘sharing faith’, but that isn’t in fact the meaning of the term. It actually goes back to being shaped by Scripture and biblical theology in a particular way, and as I think I demonstrate in this link, Steve Chalke left that position a long time ago:

      http://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/is-god-a-murderer/

      • Andrew Godsall August 18, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

        In that case Ian ‘evangelical’ is just a bit of a club and an increasingly meaningless term. Engagement with Scripture and biblical theology by that particular club has changed a great deal since the likes of Charles Simeon et al so I think you are just way off the mark here.

    • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

      On the second question (I like a ‘straight’ question!!), first, I don’t know who you are referring to when you mention those ‘obsessed.’ I am certainly not. This issue has, yet again, been pushed into the headlines by someone wanting change in the Church, and who is now committed to campaigning on it, and is looking to enter a same-sex marriage. I simply would not comment on it if it were not in the news.

      Secondly, I gave you a short answer on FB, but here is a longer response.

      1. The question you ask is a pastoral one, and social media is not the place to do pastoral work. If you were in my congregation I might want to address the question with you, but you are not, and in fact we don’t know each other.

      2. I admire the work Robert Gagnon has done in this area, in drawing out the shape of the debate and resourcing it with primary texts. But I do not agree with his approach to individuals and what he says to them.

      3. In particular, I disagree with Robert on the question of whether ‘actions’ can cause you to ‘lose’ your ‘salvation’, even if these are the right terms (which I doubt). When Paul says in 1 Cor 6.10 ‘such as these will not inherit the kingdom’ he is referring to the different elements of pre-Christian life, and still talks of salvation as a gift from God. The discussion should not be cast in terms of whether certain actions disqualify people; the biblical text ask whether these actions belong to kingdom lifestyle, which is a different question.

      4. As I said on FB: it is not for me to pronounce. My calling is to teach what Scripture says and offer that to God’s people. I’m happy to make judgements about what the text says, but I’m not prepared to make judgements about people’s destiny. That’s God’s prerogative.

    • Chris Bishop August 18, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

      James, I take your point. but I think what Ian is getting at here is that Chalke, Bell, Beeching et al are essentially abandoning an evangelical hermeneutic. They are starting with the ‘here and now’ i.e. the post-modern liberal ethic instead of the original intent of the biblical text and have read into the text meanings that were never intended. If you do this then your hermeneutics becomes one of total subjectivity- one’s interpretation is just as good as any others. I think this is very evident in Beeching’s writings. It also helps to explain why their is such a close correlation between columns 2 and 3 in Regnerus’ table.

      • James Byron August 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

        It’s more trying to reconcile scripture and experience. If we know a good thing by its fruits, then scriptural condemnation of gay relationships is baffling.

        Exactly the same thing happened with women in leadership. Evangelicals saw their undoubted ability clash with what scripture appeared to say. Many evangelicals have reinterpreted the Bible in light of experience. It’s no coincidence that a pro-equal ministry hermeneutic has appeared alongside women’s liberation in general.

        Now when it comes to sexuality, the specifics may be different, as Ian has argued at length, but the underlying process is identical. Even traditionalists are now reaching a consensus that same-sex relationships are just as healthy as opposite-sex relationships, and the misery caused by traditional teaching is likewise acknowledged.

        In light of this incongruity, if the Bible is revealed truth, then perhaps it’s been misinterpreted?

        • Chris Bishop August 18, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

          James,

          I think the issues between the acceptance of gays and women are very different and cannot really be compared. Ian has outlined why in his article ‘Unhitching from Gays which i think you will find in his archive.

          “It’s more trying to reconcile scripture and experience. If we know a good thing by its fruits, then scriptural condemnation of gay relationships is baffling. ”

          Not really. it makes perfect sense if you consider that we live in a fallen and sinful world which is separated from God.

          • James Byron August 18, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

            Problem is, gay relationships show no sign whatsoever of being “sinful” and “fallen.” Just the opposite: as Justin Welby put it, they can be just as “stunning” as some straight relationships. Doing “good” brings misery and oppression, while doing “bad” brings joy and wholeness.

            What God supposedly commands — same-sex relationships are a sin to avoid on pain of salvation — is at-odds with a ton of extra-biblical evidence. If you believe the Bible to be revealed truth, this is bizarre, just as its commands about women looked bizarre as millennia of patriarchy were overthrown.

            (I think Paul, and whoever wrote the pastorals, was simply wrong, but if I believed in biblical authority, I’d be questioning my received views on this like crazy.)

  6. Anita Mathias August 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Hi Ian,

    “She does not even listen to her own (evangelical) songs any more.” Where did you get that from? Has Beeching repudiated the theology and sentiments of her own songs? If so, perhaps she should withdraw them?

    What upsets me about this is how it has divided the church, and set everyone at each other’s throats. I am not sure if Vicky realised this would happen. Surely there was a better, more Jesus-like way to come out.

    Watching developments with interest.

    • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

      Anita, as I commented to you elsewhere, she says this herself. It suggests that there is a much more radical rethink going on. She now attends Cathedrals to worship.

      Yes, I agree with you. As I hint in the last but one full para above, I think this is a really destructive way to conduct the debate—personal disclosure actually presented as a PR campaign—and I think it will make conversation harder, not easier.

      • Dave Warnock August 18, 2014 at 11:38 pm #

        Ian,

        I assume the ABC attends Cathedral worship fairly often. Is he no longer an evangelical because of this?

        • Ruth August 19, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

          Dave, my thoughts entirely. The levels of assumption and judgement on display here are quite eye opening

          • Ian Paul August 19, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

            Ruth, what assumptions are people making? My comments are based on what Vicky herself has said. And her comments offer some really severe judgements on a number of groups in the church. Is that a bad thing?

    • Chris Bishop August 19, 2014 at 9:58 am #

      “(I think Paul, and whoever wrote the pastorals, was simply wrong, but if I believed in biblical authority, I’d be questioning my received views on this like crazy.)”

      Therein likes the difference between us!

  7. Phill August 18, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    One of the things which often seems to be missing from Christian supporters of SSM – in my limited experience of those I’ve talked to at least – is a theology of the Fall. It cannot be enough to say “God made me this way” – as VB seems to do. And without an understanding of the Fall, what becomes of salvation?

    It’s classic liberalism by any other name.

    There’s a quote from Hilary of Poitiers which sums it up for me:

    “And yet our disbelief tilts even against obvious truth; we strive in our fury to pluck even God from His throne. If we could, we would climb by bodily strength to heaven, would fling into confusion the ordered courses of sun and stars, would disarrange the ebb and flow of tides, check rivers at their source or make their waters flow backward, would shake the foundations of the world, in the utter irreverence of our rage against the paternal work of God. It is well that our bodily limitations confine us within more modest bounds. Assuredly, there is no concealment of the mischief we would do if we could. In one respect we are free; and so with blasphemous insolence we distort the truth and turn our weapons against the words of God.” (De Trinitate III.21)

    • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

      That’s interesting, thanks. yes, this is the big theological issue—though a criticism of conservative theology is that it puts the fall centre stage and forgets about creation and grace…

  8. Dave Warnock August 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    I came here from http://admiralcreedy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/ungenerous-love.html while thinking about the perception of whether those with traditional views are loving or not.

    Yet again I find something very typical that always winds me up.

    A bunch of men deciding who is in and who is out. Just look at the comments above where these men feel perfectly qualified to decide who is or is not an evangelical.

    It is a very common thing to reduce being an Evangelical to your views on sexuality and it sucks! Sadly over the years I have had many EVANGELICALS shout at me and tell me that I am not an evangelical because I don’t accept their redefinition of it (for example to limit it to Calvinists or to believers in Male Headship). To feel that you are in a position to declare whether someone else fits the criteria of an evangelical is an unpleasant misuse of power.

    I find it disingenuous to say:

    “Although social media has done a lot of good (including allowing you to read this blog!) it also, as someone said to me recently, tends to blur the distinction between personal and public, personalise every issue, promote the idea that morality rests on sincerity and empathy and assert that the expression and experience of pain trumps any argument of principle.”

    My experience is that many in the Evangelical community delight in making principles personal. Witness the comments above which dive straight into applying so called principles into declarations of which individuals are no longer evangelicals. This is not about the media, it does not rely on social media. It happens in books, on TV (look at the C4 interview with Vicky), in conferences as well.

    To ma a key issue is the subconscious threat posed by accepting someone who does not completely agree with me. The response to the threat is to exclude rather than handle the internal conflict that not everyone has the same understanding of Scripture as I do.

    • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

      Dave, I am sure there is a lot of subconscious stuff going on, but that is not the whole story.

      I’m sorry that I can only comment as a man…that’s what I am! And I certainly don’t discourage women from contributing, but there is a gender dynamic operating in social media. Interestingly, the comment you call ‘disingenuous’ was actually made by a woman. Perhaps the strength of your criticism is one thing that puts women off from commenting explicitly. (There is quite a lot of material above that I have learnt from women…wonder if you can tell which!)

      I think you are mistaken about the ‘deciding who’s in and out’ thing. I am not concerned about saying who’s in and who’s out. I am concerned about reading scripture responsibly, and I am fairly clear that neither Steve Chalke nor Vicky Beeching are doing this, for whatever reasons.

      I think this has long-term significance for the church.

      • Dave Warnock August 18, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

        Ian,

        “Perhaps the strength of your criticism is one thing that puts women off from commenting explicitly.”

        It would be a pretty impressive statement of my influence if even before I have left my 1st comment on your blog the strength of my criticism has put women off commenting. I certainly never had that problem on my own blog. Occams razor suggests a different solution.

        I made it clear I was responding to the comments above (by men) which rushed into deciding who is in and out.

        Who gets to decide who is reading Scripture responsibly? The usual Evangelical metric seems to be “I decide and anyone reading it differently to me is out”. I reject the premise that there is only my way to understand Scripture. Both Steve and Vicky have published (and linked to) a great deal about how they understand Scripture, the very high view they have of it and their interpretations.

        The only thing you can say is that it is different to your understanding and different to the “traditional Protestant Evangelical” reading. But so of course is Tom Wright’s perspective on Paul and we could go on.

        By the classic Bebbington marks of an Evangelical there should be no problem for either Steve or Vicky to identify as an Evangelical. Of course the more excluding Evangelicals are the less people will want to identify as Evangelical.

        • James Byron August 18, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

          “Of course the more excluding Evangelicals are the less people will want to identify as Evangelical.”

          Totally agree, Dave. Rachel Held Evans has dropped the label “evangelical” out of disgust at the homophobia on display in the recent World Vision fiasco. She too would fit squarely into the B.Q., but no longer wants to be part of a community that displays such behavior.

          It’s to evangelicalism’s credit that many inside the tent shared her outrage. With them does its hope lie.

          • Holly August 21, 2014 at 5:03 am #

            I could be wrong, but I don’t believe that RHE has gone all the way and torn up her “evangelical” card. She originally said that she was going to, then hesitated a bit, back-tracked a little. It’s all a very interesting thing, the way that some today are walking past the boundaries of what is generally considered “evangelical” (even though those boundaries can be considered quite generous,) yet still want to cling to the term. I have become a bit suspicious that it is not a genuine desire to remain evangelical as such, but more that the desire is to break down the barriers to full inclusion and find full acceptance across the wide swath of evangelicalism. One of the greatest markers of evangelicalism has to do with authority of scripture and how scripture is read and then applied today. Once one has stepped over scripture to go on to some pseudo happy place where God loves them and requires nothing by way of holy, submitted living – it is difficult to understand why they don’t want to simply drop the term “evangelical,” unless it’s because there’s still so much space to conquer here.

        • Ian Paul August 19, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

          Dave, it’s a widely attested phenomenon that men are quite happy sounding off their views on social media, and women don’t like it, so often keep quiet.

          Your description of ‘who decides’ is a rather sad parody, which might be true in some places, but can’t be used to write off the serious questions that have been explored on this issue. I have tried to summarise them in my Grove booklet.

          Bebbington offers a historical description of the phenomenon of evangelicalism, but as I have explored is not actually a very good theology of what is going on.

          http://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/what-is-an-evangelical/

          ‘The only thing you can say is that it is different to your understanding and different to the “traditional Protestant Evangelical” reading.’ I’m sorry, but that is nonsense when you start to look at the actual texts.

          • Dave Warnock August 19, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

            Ian,

            “it’s a widely attested phenomenon that men are quite happy sounding off their views on social media, and women don’t like it, so often keep quiet.”

            It may be well attested as an urban myth. However, on my blog I have 10 years of experience with many women commenting. The tone, welcome and attitude is critical.

            “I’m sorry, but that is nonsense when you start to look at the actual texts”

            Oh I do love that assumption that anyone disagreeing with you either hasn’t read or understood the actual texts. After all I’ve never heard it before.

            Dave

          • Ian Paul August 19, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

            Great to hear women contribute to my blog. I agree with you about tone…which is why I was surprised at the tone of your first comment.

            I didn’t assume that ‘anyone disagreeing with [me] hasn’t read or understood the texts’. But I think it is fair to bat away the kind of generalised, dismissive comment that you made above.

            Happy to engage in debate—and good to have you here—but please don’t write my view off without proper engagement. Thanks.

  9. James Byron August 18, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    Thanks for such a thorough piece, Ian.

    A caveat about Mark Regnerus’ research: his methodology’s been criticized by his fellow sociologists, professional medical associations, and a federal judge. He’s on the record as opposing equal marriage. This doesn’t necessarily invalidate his research, but needs to be considered.

    As for whether Vicky Beeching’s an evangelical, she identifies as one, and has a high view of scripture. Her attending cathedrals is beside the point: plenty other evangelicals respond to liturgical worship. She’s been courageous in coming out, and I hope that, at the least, it can now be accepted that reappraising human sexuality is a debate within evangelicalism.

    • Ian Paul August 18, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

      Thanks–yes, I mention the caveat above…but I think it was specifically in relation to the 2012 piece. No-one has offered any critique of this piece of research, which seems straightforward and not very contestable. SSM is supported by people with liberal theology–wow, what a surprise!

      Vicky does not go to an evangelical church; she does not follow evangelical commentators in her exegesis; she no longer sings her own ‘evangelical’ songs. No-one is going to say in public ‘I don’t have a high view of Scripture’, so that doesn’t really mean much.

      In what way is she evangelical?

      • Dave Warnock August 18, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

        Ian,

        “she no longer sings her own ‘evangelical’ songs” can you reference this please as it contradicts what I have read.

        She has said they don’t sing her songs where she currently worships (which is not the same thing).

        She has expressed sadness that she might not get invites to sing her songs at big worship events.

        What do you think I have missed?

      • James Byron August 18, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

        Theological Liberals say they think the Bible is wrong. Vicky Beeching’s said nothing of the kind: she thinks that it’s been misinterpreted, a classic evangelical position, stretching back to the reformation. She cites a variety of sources on her blog, including evangelicals like Andrew Marin and James Brownson.

        What does attendance at cathedrals have to do with defining belief? Her given reasons are that she likes meditative worship, the space of a large congregation, and doesn’t have to worry about being asked to join the worship band! It has no bearing on whether she’d fit into, say, the Bebbington Quadrilateral.

        As for Regnerus, I should have noted your own caveat, apologies for the omission. His latest research has only been out a few days. The uneven sample sizes suggest many of the same problems. Given the 2012 debacle, the onus in on him to provide evidence that this new study is a break with the past.

        • Dave Warnock August 18, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

          James, I agree completely.

          Aside: I hope these maths questions don’t get any harder!

          • James Byron August 18, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

            I know! Google calculator is splendid in mine sight. 😀

        • Phill August 18, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

          “Theological Liberals say they think the Bible is wrong. Vicky Beeching’s said nothing of the kind: she thinks that it’s been misinterpreted, a classic evangelical position, stretching back to the reformation”

          Vicky Beeching hasn’t really stated her position yet (other than the conclusion), she basically said “wait for my PhD / book to come out.” All she did was link to a bunch of books, some of which would fall within the evangelical tradition and some not. I think she does claim that the Bible has been misinterpreted, but exactly how she gets to that conclusion we don’t know yet and as such it’s hard to judge what her exact doctrine of Scripture is.

          In my view, the ‘who is evangelical’ question boils down to interpretation of Scripture. If you claim a high view of Scripture, is that enough, or do you have to demonstrate it?

          I would hope all those who claim the label ‘evangelical’ would affirm certain things, such as the divinity of Christ. I would hope that someone who denies Christ’s divinity would see the conflict between that position and evangelicalism. However, Christ’s divinity is not a ‘given’ – it must be proved by the Scriptures. There are arguments against it – just ask any Jehovah’s Witness (who would claim the Bible as their authority). They’re not good arguments, to my mind, and the church throughout history has rejected them.

          I don’t see what the problem is with thinking similarly about matters of sex and sexuality. If Scripture is clear, then evangelicals must obey it. Otherwise the case must be made and accepted – you can’t just make any old attempt at revising the church’s 2000 year old unbroken teaching on this matter without an extremely Scriptural case. And frankly I don’t think there is a case to answer.

          • Dave Warnock August 19, 2014 at 12:40 am #

            Phil,

            “Vicky Beeching hasn’t really stated her position yet”

            But let’s not let that stop us telling everyone that she can’t be an Evangelical!

            🙁

            Dave

  10. Don Benson August 18, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    I do agree that discussion of theological or (even worse) personal pastoral issues on the basis of Christian ‘celebrity’ pronouncements is no way to home in on the truth.

    If you are an Evangelical your confidence in and love for Scripture is the touchstone of your faith; but your approach to it has to remain both intelligent and humble. You mull things over; you learn to test Scripture at place A with Scripture at place B; you ask yourself what is the fundamental teaching when verses seem to conflict with each other. Where questions still remain you have to be humble and not assume any interpretation beyond what is clearly evident.

    Thus, even without instant recourse to Scripture, the true believer’s thought processes will be Godly, and if they are Godly they will tend to be in line with God’s way of thinking. And if they are in line with God’s way of thinking they cannot fail to be logical and wise because God is the source of logic and wisdom. So true Christians will have an instinct for what is likely to be the logical and wise approach to any issue even before they consult the Scriptures; and of course they can confirm or correct what their instincts have told them as they do so. It is a constant circular process, done with humility and not to prove yourself right and others wrong.

    When our own experiences or desires seem to be at war with the Bible we have a choice – and none of us should deny the extent of the pain which such choices may involve. The SSM issue happens to be today’s challenge to the Bible and we can be sure there will always be such challenges. But personal testimonies that present a public challenge to the authority of the Bible (however heartfelt or tearfully conveyed) are in danger of deceiving both the one who testifies and those who listen.

    • Jane Newsham August 19, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

      “But personal testimonies that present a public challenge to the authority of the Bible (however heartfelt or tearfully conveyed) are in danger of deceiving both the one who testifies and those who listen.”
      Don, to talk about ‘the authority of the Bible’ betrays an investment in maintaining a certain theology. God is not a book but a living being. The Holy Spirit has, at various points in Judaeo-Christian history, had to shout a whole lot louder than Scripture in order to bring his Church on to a new and life-affirming place – and many of us believe this is happening now with this issue. If we are in fact in the process of moving on from a binary position of heterosexuality=good /homosexuality= bad to a new position of promiscuity=damaging/marriage =flourishing (and God knows if an opposite-sex or same-sex marriage would be flourishing for you) then many of us see this as the outworking of the Holy Spirit’s calling on individual people, one after another, to make the crossing to an inclusive viewpoint. God still has every opportunity to convict of sin in individual lives as he wills, but the Church no longer has the opportunity to decide who is in and who is out. The advent of the internet has allowed thousands of stories to be told and heard anonymously in a way that simply wasn’t possible in earlier generations – and if we are hearing stories that present a public challenge to the authority of the Bible, those same stories are a testimony to faith in God at work in their lives. If you wish to continue to believe that they are being deceived you are free to do so, but this will have no effect whatsoever on those lives,experiences.and relationships with God.

      • Ian Paul August 20, 2014 at 8:12 am #

        Jane ‘to talk about ‘the authority of the Bible’ betrays an investment in maintaining a certain theology’.

        Of course it does…and I guess that should be the concern of every Christian. The message of the gospel needs to be contextualised afresh in each generation—but I would want to argue that it is the same theology which needs fresh expression.

        That is partly because it appears to be a central concern in the NT, for instance in Paul’s discussion of ‘what was handed to me I had on to you’ in 1 Cor 15, as well as in the motive which actually led to the writing of the gospels in the first place.

        But it is also about being Reformed and Catholic as the C of E. To be Catholic means holding on to the apostolic tradition as we have inherited it, and to be Reformed means to ensure (against Scripture) that this really is the apostolic faith.

        The reason why the issue of SSM has become so important is that it is highlighting differences on these core questions.

        Your position appears to me to be displacing all this with ‘my experience of God.’ Whilst experience is important, and a key pole of the interpretative task, I don’t think it is a locus of authority in the way you appear to.

        • James Byron August 20, 2014 at 9:25 am #

          As I’ve said before, Ian, we can’t escape subjectivity. “My interpretation of scripture” is no more objective than “my experience of God.” Yes, we can test interpretation against the text, but we can also test our experience against the testimony of others.

        • Dave Houlton August 20, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

          What is enlightening to me is the number of people commenting here who seem to be willling/wanting to reject whole ways of understand the biblical texts, and biblical theology, in order to substantiate their positive views/experience of same-sex sex.

          Similarly, people elsewhere who are thinking about gay blessings are saying that they are “confused” about it biblically/theologically.

          The reason is, I strongly suggest, that our Scriptures clearly reject homosexual sex – both explicitely in the Epistles and implicitely in the Gospels (eg Matt 19:15 where it would be one of the (many) sexual behaviours caught under the umbrella term of “fornication”).

          Natural Law also clearly points to same-sex sex not being God’s Will, so all the liberal argument has left to start from is peoples desires.

          I would argue that that inevitably leads them to have to reject most of the Christian Scriptures, including much of what Jesus taught us!

          Jesus once asked “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

  11. Simon August 18, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    I do wonder why we wish to keep trying to define each other with labels like evangelical, liberal, catholic etc – who’s in, who’s out. Is our theology really supposed to be like neatly tied packages of which we have to choose one or another? It all sounds suspiciously like the Corinthian church, split between their favourite teachers Paul, Apollos etc. I think many of us get rather tired of being told we don’t quite tick all the right boxes for this or that group. Or hearing of others being told the same thing. And I often wonder what God thinks of all this, too.

    • Ian Paul August 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

      Simon, at its best, the concern with labels is a pastoral concern for members of our churches. For example, a member of a church where I was formerly in leadership has commented ‘Vicky is a hero for me; this is a number 1 issue now.’

      But of course it turns out that this person has not explored the issue, and has not had good teaching on what is at stake. Because many Christians either allow others to think for them, or in their own thinking are influenced by ‘big names’ it really matters which names they listen to.

      Labels *can* offer guidance on this, if used aright. The pastoral concern for good teaching is key, especially in the ‘everyone’s an expert’ age of the internet.

      • Simon August 19, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

        “At its best” and “used aright” you may have a point. However, so often these labels are used in an exclusionary way eg the now notorious (or famous, depending on your tribe)”farewell Rob Bell” tweet. While it may matter who we listen to, I become concerned that all these labels end up as a means of prejudging, of not listening to particular arguments on their merits because of who said them. This is no way to get people to think (and pray through) for themselves, because the conclusion has already been decided on advance. In the end we end up with a Protestant equivalent of the RC imprimatur and index.
        I also increasingly object to the way these labels represent theological packages, rather like Amazon recommendations – if you believe this, you’ll also believe that. That may once have been true ( though I believe it’s always been more nuanced than that), but it’s certainly not the case now. But then a certain type of evangelicalism has often relied on “slippery slope”/” thin end of the wedge ” arguments, as though to concede that someone else might have a point would bring the whole house of cards tumbling down- and perhaps it would.

        • Ian Paul August 19, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

          Simon, ‘This is no way to get people to think (and pray through) for themselves’. No the way to do that is to explore the issues carefully, with discussion, on say a blog…!

          I am slightly baffled at the idea that this blog represents some sort of ‘imprimatur’. Have you looked around…??

          • Simon August 20, 2014 at 12:16 am #

            Ian, I am baffled by your inference that I was saying *this* blog represents an imprimatur. You seem to have taken a general point personally where that was not intended. My point was that the labelling of scholars and authors, with some being recommended as “trusted” or “sound” (according to tribe) tends to have this effect. I know of certain churches where people are actively discouraged from reading/exploring certain authors and ideas, where party lines are expected to be toed.
            Amen to the idea that issues should be explored carefully, and blogs *can* be a good place to do that. They can also be a terrible place to do that if the tone is wrong, if the discussion focuses on personalities and their perceived or assumed motivations, if the conversation descends to the level of ad hominem attacks, if the content and quality of a person’s contribution is judged largely on where they are perceived to fit on a theological spectrum (which may or may not be accurate, and may or may not reflect where the person might self-identify). I might add that none of this should be taken as implied criticism of Psephizo per se.

          • Ian Paul August 20, 2014 at 8:07 am #

            OK, thanks Simon. But I guess the reason was that it was me who used labels and it was me who defended that!

            I agree with you that it is sometime quite harmful and unnecessary…but I also think that it can be important from a pastoral point of view.

            Yes, responding to people on the basis of whether they tick boxes is really poor. My real hope is that here we can engage on the questions.

  12. Dean Aaron Roberts August 19, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Thank you so much for the mention of my blog post in your article. I thoroughly enjoyed reading yours! 🙂

    Dean

  13. Brian August 19, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    A ‘high view of Scripture’ is a pretty slippery description. Lots of people – even atheists! – can have a ‘high view of Scripture’, but this isn’t the same as saying it’s inerrant, infallible, true in all it asserts, the supreme rule in faith etc.

    Which is pretty much the evangelical doctrine.

    It is also possible to be a traditional catholic and affirm the evangelical doctrine of Scripture – as historically catholics did.

    What commentators may not appreciate is the systemic nature of Christian doctrine, something that doesn’t become apparent at once but usually only over time as an idea works its way into the system – like medicine (or toxins) in the bloodstream. The trajectory that Steve Chalke has followed (along with Brian McLaren, and probably with Rob Bell to follow) is entirely predictable, for good or ill. It is a well-trodden one as well. Do people not realise that people like Kevin Holdsworth were evangelicals before?

    To assail the trustworthiness – or the sufficiency – of Scripture on particular issues of sexuality doesn’t stop there, nor can it, because here are weightier issues lurking in the wings: the nature of marriage, the fate of the unevangelised, the status of other religions, the existence of hell, and beginning and end of life issues.
    It isn’t surprising that a liberal approach to Scripture will – in time – end up configuring and answering these questions in an entirely different way.

    Before this is dismissed a as ‘slippery slope scaremongering’, let me say that the consequences of an action are not usually apparent to us at the beginning.

    • Simon August 19, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

      It might be good to acknowledge that there is no single “liberal approach to scripture”. In fact, I suspect that there is no longer a single evangelical approach to scripture either, if there ever was. I suggest that what we have looks rather more like a spectrum of claims and understandings about sufficiency, authority, inspiration, infallibility, inerrancy and the rest: about what these terms might mean in the first place and how these may or may not be relevant to us in determining what it means to follow Christ in our time.

      • Brian August 19, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

        There is no ‘single view’, but I don’t think it’s as diverse as a spectrum; it’s more of an oscillating pendulum, depending on the intellectual climate of what is ‘believable’: Trinity, divinity of Christ, miracles, hell, Second Coming, Christian uniqueness and so forth. The liberal view of Scripture is coherent enough: the Bible is a human record of the experience of God, with a range of confidence in its truthfulness. The meaning isn’t really disputed; rather it’s whether it can be believed. Conservative liberalism affirms quite a lot of the historic faith, while liberal liberalism discounts much of it (following form criticism, anti-supernaturalism, Sachkritik and so forth).
        Conservatives can be liberal and conservative as well (usually about Genesis), but you won’t find them, as a rule, denying that Jesus said X, or that he rose bodily, or that he’s the incarnate Son of God; nor will they pit Jesus against Paul.
        If you have a ‘spectrum of claims’ rather than a continuum you run the risk of having different religions claiming the same name (e.g. Unitarianism vs trinitarianism).

  14. Clive August 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Dear Ian

    I am bemused by Dave Warnock and Brian et al.

    Yesterday a vicar, Simon, was trying on FB to understand same-sex Marriage (“SSM”) and he found that it was gay people from his own parish that were against him changing his position on SSM from a scriptural one. Gay people basically said that if he changed from a scripturally based position on SSM then he was undermining all his teaching altogether, on the Eucharist, on money etc etc.

    The N.T. is God on earth so it is fundamentally different to the O.T. which is God revealed in history (and by implication a lot of what happens in the O.T. is not what God wanted). I long to hear a Christian view of marriage coming from the N.T. and I am fed up of seeing O.T. quoted to the exclusion of the Christian view of marriage,

    Jesus does talk about marriage (8 quotes I found), Jesus does NOT talk about women priests – There is NO collorary.

    It is gay people themselves who are asking vicars not to change view on SSM from a scripturally based one.

  15. Allan Johnston August 20, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    Dear Brothers. This article and the following comments have been helpful but I would like to ask a couple of questions that relate to the Mark Regnerus survey results.

    1) Would it be true to say that those who express or act on a sexual attraction towards anyone other than their spouse are perverse? So those who are drawn to children, other people’s married partners, people of the same gender or the ‘virtual adultery’ of porn, are acting perversely?

    2) Obviously some will object and say that most of the above are harmless. Is ‘harmless’ our new definition of right and wrong?

    3) Are evangelicals now left to define ‘holiness’? Is cultural relevance and the grace of unconditional acceptance more important than the call to deny self?

    I would be most grateful if you could include these questions in your robust debate.

    Allan

  16. Clive August 21, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    I have had a night to think about it.

    This website is supposed to be about Scripture study. Unfortunately a lot of people have waded into this argument with no intention of looking at the Scripture at all. They simply want to pretend that the Bible is a man-made book and remove all the inconvenient phrases.

    When in doubt they quote the O.T. even though the O.T. and N.T. are different. The N.T. is God on earth so it is fundamentally different to the O.T. which is God revealed in history and, by implication, a lot of what happens in the O.T. is not what God wanted. So you can always find some man-made bits in the O.T.

    This is the internet and this website is about Scripture study. Go elsewhere on the internet if you don’t want Scripture study. Ian Paul disagree sometimes and we agree a lot, but I, for one, am not going down the route of calling the Bible a man0made book.

  17. Clive August 21, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    Sorry about the typos

  18. Allan Johnston August 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Sorry Clive. We live in a world of non-biblical questions so please forgive me if my question was one such. I am however looking for biblical answers.
    I’m also eager to stick with the Bible definition of itself.

  19. Clive August 22, 2014 at 9:15 am #

    It’s OK Allan, I don’t mind your question.

    I am searching for the truth and I am totally fed up with the deceipt and dishonesty coming from those in favour of same sex marriage. I am trying to study the Scripture to find out what it actually says.

    Reference is made to the ECHR but ECHR has heard three variations of same sex marriage and 3 times the ECHR has ruled that SSM is NOT a human right. The latest case from Finland now removes the right to appeal the ECHR decision, it is simply not a human right (I do appreciate that the media are very much better at quoting the cases SSM wins compared to the cases they lose).

    We get appeals to infertility which completely ignore the significant differences in the new law between marriage of a man and a woman and all other marriages. The infertility claim just doesn’t actually work.

    I have recently moved to Wales. I am shocked that the Church-in-Wales paper gives 3 options NONE of which is the Christian view of marriage. All of the views expressed are the secular understanding of marriage not the Christian one. Options 1 & 2 are allowed to criticise each other, and I have referenced the relevant paragraphs, but amazingly option 3 isn’t criticised by any of the paper or options anywhere.

    The Christian view of marriage has NOT changed in time, the secular understanding of marriage might have changed, but the Christian view from the New Testament has NOT changed. Henry VIII is often quoted but Henry VIII didn’t change marriage at all, he was really interested in divorce not marriage. Divorce even appears in the O.T. It is not new. I was sent a paper claiming that marriage had changed but not one of the points made withstood any examination at all. The paper fell at every turn for the nonsense it really was.

    If you claim the Bible is just a man-made document then you can rewrite anything in it and it no longer has any authority at all in the Church. This is fight for the New Testament particularly. Canon B30 says that Jesus supported marriage being only between a man and a woman. Did Jesus speak the truth or not? Mark 10:8 seems to only be a man and a woman.

    Gay people are NOT a homogenous group who are all liberals and all want to change the rules. There are a wide variety of different types of people and many gay people want the rules on SSM to stay the same, yet many of the respondents here are seeming to treat gay people as if they were of only one type.

    • James Byron August 22, 2014 at 10:23 am #

      Clive, the ECHR doesn’t define universal human rights; it applies the Convention, just as American courts apply the Constitution. Both are specific and limited documents. Courts must operate within the parameters of their jurisdiction.

  20. Clive August 22, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    James,

    Same sex marriage is NOT a human right as defined in either the European Convention on Human Rights or the United Nations Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR is now refusing appeal on this matter. The jurisdiction of the court makes no difference to the point made.

    • James Byron August 22, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

      Jurisdiction is crucial, Clive, as the Strasbourg court can only work within the boundaries of the Convention. Both it, and the UDHR, are documents of their time.

      Human rights aren’t defined by specific documents. Depending on your POV, they’re either unalienable, or social constructs that continuously evolve. All we can say is that, currently, the ECHR doesn’t grant a right to equal marriage.

      • Clive August 25, 2014 at 10:56 am #

        No James, the United Nations Convention on Human Rights is universal. You can’t make everything relative and leave no truth anywhere.

  21. she August 28, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

    hi

    I am not a scholar but I have a question since the comments discussion is back to scholarly matters:

    There is a body of scholarship that suggests that the words malinkos and arsekoitne in the greekthe New Testament (post gospels) writings may be translated as an overly simplistic term homosexuality, and offers the possibility that our understanding of biblical writing may not be accurate in the simplistic way that we commonly view homosexuality. I hope I have got the phonetic description identifiably correct. The words are harvested from Jennifer Knapp speaking on the The Larry King show with Jennifer Knapp and 2 evangelical pastors. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0Pm_pPYkYA . I feel Jennifer Knapp in her question is asking an honest question and hoping for an intellectually and emotionally honest answer….

    and I ask what is your view regarding the issues of translation?.

    GOD BLESS!

    Peace and Love,

    yeah… sorry I seem to have made a pigs ear of the first attempt… I like the discussion here btw and am thankful for a gracious description of VB.

  22. Shadrach September 3, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    I am always intrigued as to how LGBT types have a compassion factor because they can’t help it.
    There are many others that get caught up in Biblical sin who likewise say they can’t help it. Men who have obsessions about other women, Women who are obsessed with entreating men, whether they are married or not. Jesus decries the infidelity in the mind, whether they do it or not. There are gamblers and pornographers and kleptomaniacs. They all say they can’t help it.

    No sin is different to any other sin and the only solution is to stop doing what you do. This may require therapy or counselling but in the end its like smoking, the way to stop smoking is to never put another cigarette in your mouth. OK, a bit trite but yes, with God’s help we can control our feeling and desires.
    God would not command us to not do something if we did not have the power to achieve it.

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