The Church of England teaching document on sexuality

One of the great reliefs of the last sessions of General Synod in York (on July 6th to 10th) was the absence of any acrimonious debates about sexuality in the main chamber. The Business Committee had taken the bold and commendable decision that, in the light of the planned teaching document on sexuality, any private members’ or diocesan motions on related issues would not be taken until after the document was produced and discussed. The teaching document was announced after the ‘rebellion’ in February 2017 when Synod decided ‘not to take note’ of a report from the House of Bishops’ report on the state of play in discussions following the long and drawn out (and expensive!) process of ‘Shared Conversations‘.

There had already been an announcement that there was going to be a change in name for the document.

Living in Love and Faith: A new name for the Episcopal Teaching Document

As the work of the Episcopal Teaching Document has progressed it has become clearer that the word ‘document’ does not do justice to the emerging vision for the resources that the groups working on it envisage. Furthermore, ‘teaching’ does not reflect the working groups’ aspiration to produce teaching materials that will invite active engagement in mutual learning. So, after several months and the participation of many people, a new title for the project has been agreed by the Archbishops: Living in Love and Faith: Christian Teaching and Learning about Human Identity, Sexuality and Marriage.

This provided plenty of fuel for the suspicious, that there was a retreat from the idea that the Church of England might actually have a clear position on sexuality that needed ‘teaching’. But Justin Welby had said from the beginning that this was going to be a ‘mapping’ exercise, highlighting areas of agreement, the areas of disagreement and possible ways forward—which in itself suggests that this, another costly process, would not lead to any clear resolution. Personally, I was intrigued at the idea that ‘teaching’ on its on does not ‘invite active engagement in mutual learning’, but in fact in Higher Education it is common to talk about a ‘teaching and learning strategy’, recognising that the focus needs to be not simply on what is offered, but also on the effect that it has in enabling learning to take place.

So instead of any debate, the Saturday afternoon of Synod was given over to a series of workshops and seminars, some of which focussed on other topics (including digital evangelism) but which included presentations on the work of the different groups involved in the process (Bible, theology, biological and social sciences, history and a slightly separate Pastoral Advisory Group). I attended the ones on Bible, theology and science, and what emerged was a rather mixed picture of what we might expect from the process.


Each seminar session included three presentations, accompanied by various opportunities for questions and discussion. The first biblical presentation was an excellent overview offered by Dr Isabelle Hamley, currently Justin Welby’s chaplain. She highlighted the fact that the modern agenda is often focussed around questions of identity, whereas ‘identity’ as such was not a subject addressed directly in scripture. We therefore needed to ask some interpretive questions which centre on what it means to be human—the question of ‘theological anthropology’, and she ended with a helpful series of questions, which included something like this:

Are there aspects of being human which are ‘given’?

If some aspects of being human are ‘given’, are they given by God?

If they are given, and given by God, are they immutable, that is, can they change or are they fixed?

My immediate response to these questions was ‘Yes, those are the questions which are central and which matter!’ We then turned to our neighbour, and I shared my response with the person sitting next to me, who was a lay person—not a theologian, but someone with important lay responsibility in the C of E. When I shared my response, this person replied: ‘I have no idea even how you would get to those questions. I have never thought about “anthropology”.’ This highlighted a fundamental dynamic, which appeared to be widespread in the room, that the issued being raised, which were fairly bread-and-butter for the theologians present, were issues that many of the lay people in the room had rarely, if ever, thought about.

For me, it explains the nature of conversations I often have about the questions of sexuality being currently debated by the C of E. I can see the impact of different discussions and decisions, but many (both clergy and lay) struggle to see the issues. I don’t mean that to sound patronising or superior; it is simply a reflection of differential levels of engagement in some of the key issues. And it highlights the first enormous challenge for the process of producing a ‘teaching and learning’ document: there is a vast gulf of understanding and level of engagement that has to be bridged between different parts of the Church, even before we get on to questions of method. This was highlighted even more in the second presentation, a slightly complex analysis of Eph 5, and the third, an eccentric consideration of an academic thesis that the relationship between Jesus and the ‘beloved disciple’ were in a pederastic homoerotic relationship, where Jesus was the erastes and the disciple was the eramenos. This might have been entertaining as an occasional contribution to a postgraduate seminar—but in this context it was completely ill-judged.


The second session I went to was looking at theology, and particularly the question of what we are doing theologically in different aspects of the discussion. Mike Higton, Professor of Ministerial Training at Durham (so overseeing the Common Awards process for ordination training) argued that there has never been a single, agreed, ‘Anglican’ theological method when it comes to making ethical decisions. At the time I thought his argument quite persuasive. On reflection, I wonder if there is really no common factor in different Anglican statements at different times—I simply do not know enough about Anglican history to be able to say (do feel free to comment on this below if you have a view). But I did also wonder why we need to find an Anglican method. Why are good disciplines of interpretation and hermeneutics not sufficient? Of course, questions of method in these areas are contested, but there are better and worse ways of reading texts and connecting them with the questions we face today—and a leading authority in this area in a past generation (Anthony Thiselton) is, as it happens, Anglican.

The third session I went to, on the biological and social sciences, was the most disturbing. Andrew Davison, Starbright Lecturer in Science and Theology at the University of Cambridge, gave a straightforward presentation of the views of Augustine, Aquinas and Calvin on the importance of considering what science says as we think about our theological position—not least in an apologetic context where we are hoping to persuade others of the reasonableness of Christian claims. My question from this is: what do we do about the distorting effects of sin, in the form of ideological bias, so that ‘science’ as we experience it in our social context is not necessarily telling us about reality. I cited the fact that it has long been argued that 85% of medical research papers are actually presenting false results, from a combination of biassed financial interest of drugs companies, and the need for journals and academics to produce positive, rather than ‘null’ results from research. The answer I got (an airy dismissal) was neither convincing nor reassuring. If the relatively hard science of medicine is hopelessly ideological skewed, what are we going to expect in the hotly contested areas of sexuality and the related psychiatry issues?


My concerns were confirmed by the presentation of Chris Cook, Professor of Psychiatry also at Durham. He offered us a series of statistics about sexuality, and appeared blithely ignorant of either the fact that the statistics might be biased (‘1.5% of the population is likely to be transgender’) or that they tell us more about what is happening in culture than offering any objective insight into sexuality (‘43% of 16–24 year-olds don’t identify as either exclusively homosexual or exclusively heterosexual’). This same naivety (or wilful ignorance?) is evident in  what I can only describe as the abysmal article written by Cook in last week’s Church Times.

Cook begins by claiming:

The Christian debate about human sexuality has primarily revolved around a small number of sexually specific biblical texts. What effect might it have if we were to select our material differently?

It might not be unreasonable to read a subtext here: ‘Look at how narrow these evangelicals are in reading the Bible; let me take a broader and more mature approach’. But what it actual says is that Cook must have been hiding under a rock for the last 20 years, or has decided simply not to engage in the debate. Even in my Grove booklet (which is specifically focussed on the ‘boo’ texts’) I look much more broadly, considering issues of the creation narratives and (once again) issues of theological anthropology; I consider the question of Jesus’ ministry, and in what sense it was ‘inclusive’ (as recorded in the gospels); and I go on briefly to explore questions of the way we use texts. I guess Cook hadn’t read it. And he can’t have read Richard Hays’ The Moral Vision of the New Testament, or the arguments about the meaning of friendship, or essays on what does it mean for us to hope for bodily resurrection, or his colleague Robert Song’s argument about covenantal friendship, and critiques of why Song includes a sexual element in this without explanation, or questions about what it means for Scripture to be authoritative in Anglican discussions, or the debate about sexuality and relationships in the first century…and so on. How could we have gone through all the pain and time—and expense—of the Share Conversations process, and end up with someone on the science group who appears so lamentably ignorant of the breadth of the debate?

Cook then offers us a well-worn liberal cliche: Jesus, in proclaiming the kingdom of God, was opposing those narrow-minded religious people who were all concerned about doing God’s will, being holy and keeping the law, and Jesus showed that they were all wrong. Translation: anyone who is concerned about what the Bible actually says is just being a narrow-minded Pharisee, and we liberals are doing Jesus’ work of the kingdom. Perhaps we do have to set aside what Jesus actually says, perhaps we have to ignore his evident concern for holiness of life and purity, including mentions sexual ethics in every one of his ethical exhortation lists, perhaps we have to pass over his explicit claim that he is not ‘doing away with the law, but fulfilling it’, we might ignore the terminology of the Holy Spirit, and we could even dislocate Jesus from his historical context, both within a multiplicity of competing ‘Judaisms’ in the first century, but also the shared distinctive that all known Jewish movements had from their pagan neighbours, not least in the area of sexual ethics. But do we really, at this stage in the life of the Church, need to put up with such a thin, caricaturing and patronising argument as this?


The third colossal error that Cook makes is his association of scientific ‘fact’ with moral position.

Science shows us that homosexuality is not a medical disorder but a part of the natural diversity of God’s creation.

Since when has Anglican (or any Christian) moral discourse moved uncritically from what is to what ought to be? Does Cook think we are all stupid, and we never realised that some people appear to be gay for life? Does he think that when Paul uses the language of ‘nature’ in Romans 1, he is just showing what a primitive, pre-scientific idiot he is? Perhaps he does; if so, what on earth is he doing on the science group contributing to the teaching document.

And I suppose it means that this group will avoid looking at the comparative evidence of violence and abuse in male same-sex coupling compared with other-sex couplings. Or the evidence of widespread multiple sexual partners, even in ‘closed’ committed relationships? Or the research evidence of environmental factors predicting men entering same-sex relationships? Or the instability of self-identified sexual orientation, particularly amongst younger women? And the comparative instability of same-sex marriages? If the ‘science’ group doesn’t explore these and other key issues, and I not sure what the point of it is.

I didn’t visit the seminar on the Pastoral Advisory group, but was intrigued that the chair, Christine Hardman who is bishop of Newcastle, was adamant in the opening presentation to Synod that the group would be working within the current teaching position of the Church—and she emphasised this by drawing a rectangle in the air, and admitting that this would upset everyone, some because they were suspicious, and others because they were disappointed. A friend commented that, in the seminar he attended, the main thrust of the questions was ‘How can we get on with changing the teaching of the Church without losing too many people who disagree?’


All this shows that the challenges remain immense. The issues around sexuality have thrown up a large number of questions. Do Church of England congregations understand their Bible and know how to read it well? Do we have a shared view on how we move from our authoritative text to our ethical practice? And are we alert to the ideological corruption that is an ever-present danger in our interpretation of ‘science’ and the world around us—which is no less of a hermeneutical challenge than our reading of texts?

At the moment, we are still a long way from answering any of these questions in the affirmative.


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477 thoughts on “The Church of England teaching document on sexuality”

  1. From what you say here it appears to me that the Anglican Church is being prepared to accept something that goes against orthodox teaching of the Church on sexuality. And will be using the ‘fog’ of pseudoscience and supposition to confuse members and to force the liberal agenda on sexuality on the community.

    Reply
    • Well, as it stands the science group are avoiding the challenging data–but I have now been invitated to suggest material that they need to consider, so that is good.

      Reply
      • Morning Ian,

        cautiously, I think that is a good sign… I hope and pray that they consider all the data carefully and critically. No small task…

        in friendship, Blair

        Reply
      • Since that is the case (good news), there are good summaries by the Whiteheads, Michael Brown (A Queer Thing), Gagnon, Schmidt, Dallas, R R Reilly, my What Are They Teaching the Children? ch11, Muehlenberg, Satinover.

        Reply
  2. Thanks, Ian. Overall sounds pretty disappointing and crude. Are so few people in key positions really following these crucial debates properly?

    How can science possibly show that homosexuality is part of the natural diversity of God’s creation? I suppose all forms of sexual attraction are then http://caldronpool.com/tedx-speaker-says-pedophilia-is-a-natural-sexual-orientation/

    Was shocked to hear that queer theology ideas like Jesus being a pederast were actually presented at General Synod in the context of this teaching document. The love that dares to speak much too loudly, it seems.

    And the result isn’t even planned to be a clear teaching of the Church’s position on sex, marriage and human identity. What is Welby playing at?

    I’m pretty sure that the CofE has always sought to interpret authoritative scripture by the application of reason to present social and cultural realities. William Temple introduced the ‘middle axioms’ approach which was followed for much of the 20th century, at least by the Board for Social Responsibility. But that was basically the same thing just in new clothes.

    Reply
    • “What is Welby playing at?”

      Juggling, Will, juggling, as befits a company man trying to please everyone. But fear not, the oily one would pledge fealty to Anton LaVey before he dared to alienate the conservative provinces, so the balls will ultimately come down on your side.

      Reply
      • I think not. I think the balls will never come down with Welby in charge. I suspect prevarication is the strategy. Kick the can down the road, and then when you catch up with it kick it again. Ignore Gafcon. Never allow anything to reach a point of crisis and don’t acknowledge those who are trying to take it there. Just carry on, walking together in ‘good’ disagreement. The idea being that if we can wait it out long enough then enough conservatives will leach, die off, be worn down, and the facts on the ground will have changed enough, to make walking together in good disagreement the status quo, the default, and opposed only by a diminishing hardcore who will have to accept the inevitable or leave.

        Reply
        • Welby certainly loves frolicking through the long grass, Will; but the teaching document (or whatever it goes by now) has been committed to, and Communion politics dictate its outcome.

          Besides, so long as Welby keeps juggling, it keeps a conservative status quo that declares homosexuality to be a sin that calls for repentance, and mandates celibacy outside heterosexual marriage.

          You’ve nothing to fear during his tenure … or at least, so long as events don’t overtake him.

          Reply
          • Except that Welby has said that the ‘teaching document’ is actually a mapping exercise, so it will neither shore up orthodox teaching nor initiate revision. The status quo is formally conservative, but in practice very lax in checking the spread of liberal practices or ideas, and the facts on the ground change by the year – not least in the wider Communion as more provinces adopt liberal regimes.

          • James I think your analysis is interesting, except for two factors.

            One, following the roaring success of GAFCON, if many bishops do boycott the Lambeth Conference then the Communion will have de facto come to an end, so that will no longer be a constraint.

            Second, the process has had the effect of paralysing most clergy, so congregations form their views from social media and culture, and not good teaching. The longer this goes on, the greater the tension between the Church’s position, and views on the ground. At some point this will snap.

          • “… following the roaring success of GAFCON.. ”
            This made me laugh! Of course it was roaring success…for the GAFCONITES! Why wouldn’t it have been? But ask the 99.9% of people in England if they have even heard of GAFCON, and if they have heard of it, if they even care what it stands for and what would the answer be? (Rhetorical question, and we fully well know the answer). Ask 99% of English congregations if they have heard of GAFCON and the answer would be pretty much the same. It’s a total irrelevance as far as England is concerned and the Church of England is here to serve England, not the rest of the world.

            The Anglican Communion is interesting, but basically a collection of churches with different agendas who have historic links. If some churches don’t want to come to Lambeth or maintain those historic links, then that’s a shame but not the end of the world. GAFCON is a side show.

          • Well, you are just wrong there. GAFCON (of whom I am not a part) just held the largest gathering of Anglicans anywhere since 1962. Justin mentioned the meeting at Archbishops’ Council, saying there would be 500 bishops and 2000 people in total.

            That looks like a significant meeting in the Communion by anyone’s estimation.

          • So Ian do you think lots of people in England (by which I mean 75% or so ) actually know or care about this one jot? (which was my main point, if you read a bit more carefully).

            And GAFCON is not actually all Anglican. ACNA, for example, are not part of the Anglican Communion, and as part of the Archbishop’s Council you would be fully aware of this as the Archbishop himself has made it clear. GAFCON means nothing in England.

          • Well ACNA are certainly confessionally and culturally Anglican, but no, they have not yet gone through the process of institutional recognition, which of course they could do if they wished.

            No, I don’t think all that many people in England are interested, but that is not my point. I was responding to James observation about the role of the Communion in Justin’s thinking.

            And it would be great if your contributions could be more along the lines of engaging in debate, and less along the lines of triumphant point-scoring. Thanks.

          • Andrew

            ACNA are certainly Anglican in ethos and culture, but no, they have not yet undergone the process of institutional reception, which they could if they chose to.

            No, I don’t think that many in England are that bothered–but my comment was in response to James’ about Justin’s options. I think GAFCON does matter to him in his role as titular head of the Communion, and he has demonstrated that by putting much more time and energy into the Communion that Rowan Williams ever did.

            And it would be great if your comments could look more like engagement in discussion, and less like an exercise in triumphant point scoring.

          • “And it would be great if your comments could look more like engagement in discussion, and less like an exercise in triumphant point scoring.”

            Likewise Ian.
            I was responding to your point about GAFCON. GAFCON are triumphalists, without doubt. And let them rejoice in it. ACNA is full of tensions about the ordination of women, and faux Dioceses like South Carolina are falling apart over the buildings issue, now settled in the Supreme Court. But I don’t think ACNA is likely to want to be part of the Anglican Communion whilst it has its own problems, and many of their churches won’t want to be associated with the Anglican Communion whilst TEC is a full member – which it is, and which Justin doesn’t seem to want to change.

            This thread is, however, about the Church of England’s teaching document. And GAFCON should have no influence on that, should it?

          • Hi Ian
            I think people (except, perhaps, in conservative evangelical churches) have always formed their theological hermeneutics from many sources and not just from the pulpit. I have been thinking about this a good deal since I read this posting. I agree with some, but not all, of your reflections on Synod.
            Many people do not understand the technical terms. Many participants in the Shared Conversations did not read your or Loveday’s essays because they found them too academic. Should such people therefore be banned from the process? Should only white, male, western hegemonic readings of scripture be admitted? What about the queer, feminist and post colonial readings? I don’t agree with that particular reading of Jesus and the Beloved disciple. Are people not to encounter it because I think it’s flawed?
            Sorry that’s a bit truncated. Low battery.

    • Would those debasing Jesus’s relationship with the Beloved Disciple treat John’s Gospel as historically reliable under normal circumstances?

      Reply
  3. Am I to take it that my (probable) genetic propensity to skin cancers is part of Gods diversity and to be celebrated? Should I stand the surgeon down and thank God? That’s not a comment in SSA but on what I see as crass thinking. Is this the best General Synod can do?

    At this level of thinking (if I’ve got hold of him correctly) it’s hard to seriously engage and will encourage the exact opposite.

    Reply
  4. Research Reliability:
    1 I can recall attending a lecture in the NHA by Muir Grey (now Sir) which was one of a number of talks on Knowledge Mangement, the overall theme being reliability of “knowledge.” Grey was a main player in the setting up of the Cochrane Collaboration and the Cochrane Library for medical reseach, as they were so concerned about the lack of good quality, peer review, or even any aboutwhat passed off as “evidence based.”
    2 There is also a difference in quanatative and qualitative research. Social Science research (quanatative) seems to be more problematic even in the drafting of questions seeking essentially subjective responses. It leaves open a risk to confirmation bias in the researcher.
    3 Funding. Many years ago my GP pointed out the bias in the award of funding, depending on the subject matter. Was it last year when a University in Bath did not accept an application for a research project into …. gender was it?
    4 Personal experience. As a result of a number of medical interventions in my life I’ve been asked to take part in some “research”, and I’ve been appalled at the standard of questions and gaps and box ticking exercises they are. How have they attracted funding? Also others didn’t really know how to complete them. As simple example that after a stroke therewere a series of questions, about what I could now do. Even after a stroke I could see the starting out omision. That was an assumtion that I, or anyone ,could do these things before a stroke!
    5 Why is there only one Psychiatrist? How about Glynn Harrison? I can recall management in the NHS joking that if you get 4 GP’s in a room you’d get 12 different opinions. Ditto Senior Anglicans? May as well bring back Don Cupit and his (all at) Sea of Faith.
    6 Is it really surprising that lay members don’t know anything about anthropolgy in a theological systematic setting: theologically, what it is to be human?

    Reply
    • Hi Geoff,

      late as this reply is… just to note that the Cochrane library / database of systematic reviews is still alive and well, and in use.

      Also, I don’t mean to patronise you here but i think there is some confusion when you write about types of research: “There is also a difference in quanatative and qualitative research. Social Science research (quanatative) seems to be more problematic even in the drafting of questions seeking essentially subjective responses. It leaves open a risk to confirmation bias in the researcher”.
      I’m no expert but I think you mean quantitative vs. qualitative research here? The former tends to ask numerical / quantifiable questions, e.g. what proportion of a population, probability, etc; the latter tends to ask questions of meaning or experience, e.g. the experience of patients undergoing chemotherapy for a particular cancer. To my knowledge, social science research could use either method or a combination of both. There’s a risk of bias in any kind of research but there are ways to mitigate and be open about this.

      “Why is there only one Psychiatrist? How about Glynn Harrison? I can recall management in the NHS joking that if you get 4 GP’s in a room you’d get 12 different opinions”
      …well, indeed, but i think that points towards something to bear in mind – that psychiatrists don’t all agree on this (as on other things i would guess) and, extending that, that ‘the science’ is not monolithic or univocal and needs interpreting.

      in friendship, blair

      Reply
      • Hello Blair,

        If you can get to read it, you may enjoy a short article in today’s, 26/07, i Paper newspaper by Gary Lewis, senior lecturer in Psychology at Royal Holloway: “How I got a journal to fall for my fake study on MP’s toilet habits”, amusing but with a serious conclusion.

        Yours,
        Geoff

        Reply
        • Hi Geoff,

          thanks 🙂 just braved the heat to head to the shops and had a look at Gary Lewis’s article. As you say it is amusing – but with a warning, to be alert to the possibility of fake science journals publishing junk science (interestingly I think climate change was the other example Lewis gave). I thought it especially disturbing that he was in effect pursued by this ‘journal’ for something to publish, and that they (initially) wanted hundreds of dollars from him as well as an article…

          thanks again, in friendship, Blair

          Reply
  5. Thanks Ian. Pretty depressing. Also it is very very hard to get rid of the notion that there is a particular way of doing “Anglican” theology. It used to be argued that Hooker developed an “Anglican” way that differed substantially from just the normal reformed way but that notion has long been shown to be a hang over from the Tractarians. It really is pernicious as it is used as an excuse to broker in all kinds of nonsense under the guise that it is “Anglican”….

    Reply
    • Philosophically, there may be a Platonic ideal of Anglican moral theology, which actual instances of moral reasoning have approached more or less, but whether there has been in practice such a thing as Anglican moral theology is also a historical enquiry.

      In his essay in Morris, B. (ed.) ‘Ritual Murder’ (Manchester: Carcanet, 1980), Fraser Steel summarises Edward Norman’s first book ‘Church and Society in England, 1770-1970’ (1976) in the following terms: ‘Throughout the period… the leading voices of the Church of England have tended to derive their views on current questions of social and political morality from the prevailing attitudes of the lay intelligentsia of the day. Instead of defining and developing a distinctively Christian view of such matters, they have on the whole contented themselves with secondhand versions of the current secular moral seriousness — and as the currents of secular seriousness have shifted, each generation of churchmen has tended to identify the new ideas with essential Christianity, and to dismiss its predecessors as inexplicably deficient in prophetic understanding… [Anglican ministers’] training… predisposes them to respect, and draw upon, ideas which emanate from the well-regarded professional intellectual disciplines (… Economics, Psychology, Philosophy,… Sociology). But largely untrained in these specialist areas,… they are dependent on second-hand and vulgarised versions of the ideas for which they are avid… while the leadership of the Church struggles to exhibit the fundamental consonance of Christian teaching with current enlightened consensus.’ (op. cit., p. 119)

      From memory, this is a pretty fair summary of Dr Norman’s argument, but this book was worth a read for other reasons too, mostly reminding me of various forgotten episodes in the history of the C of E such as its response to the French Revolution.

      Reply
    • I regrettably find myself agreeing on the sad predictions of what is likely to emerge in 2020. Namely that is is almost certainly the intention to produce a document sufficiently vague as not to provoke more orthodox folk to depart or overly protest but to open the floodgates to libtrality on the presenting issue of biblical teaching – sexual orthodoxy. In this I think that Justin badly underestimates the orthodox constituency who are on the verge of departure anyway. I love the church which ordained me as a servant of the Gospel 28 years ago but fear it will no longer be there to support me when I retire in five years. How can I remain in a church which commends what the Bible identifies as sin? I would do better to put a millstone around my neck…

      Reply
      • Thanks Karl–but I am not sure the ‘orthodox’ are on the verge of departure…and I wouldn’t encourage them to either.

        I think a better scenario is that they do develop mutually supportive financial relations, and politely withdraw from central finance—which will quickly lead to dioceses going bankrupt.

        Reply
        • Of course if they withdraw from central finance then they will in due course loose their clergy, their clergy housing, their support and all the rest of it. Which will quickly lead to them leaving buildings, and having to form a new diocese apart from the Anglican Communion – rather like what has happened with ACNA. So – much better for everyone to find a settlement.

          Reply
          • Not at all. They could quite easily pay whatever is appropriate to cover the costs of clergy and housing, but withhold anything further. It has repeatedly been emphasised that ‘share’ is voluntary, not mandatory, and it would mean that central diocesan functions would have to end, and unsustainable parishes (i.e. those not able to pay for the clergy) would close or amalgamate. So I think for that reason a settlement would be preferable, at least for the other traditions in the C of E.

          • “They could quite easily pay whatever is appropriate to cover the costs of clergy and housing”

            That isn’t exactly withdrawing from central finance then is it?

          • “They could quite easily pay whatever is appropriate to cover the costs of clergy and housing”

            That isn’t exactly withdrawing from central finance then is it?

          • Yes, it is withdrawing from the central funding of central services and the subvention of non-sustainable ministries. That is all I was imagining, so it’s odd for you to criticise your own interpretation of what I said, rather than exploring what I was saying.

          • Ian: I think in most dioceses clergy stipends and housing are funded from common fund – which is central finance. How else do you think these things are paid for?
            Many dioceses also have a policy which means that if a vacancy occurs and a parish has not paid its share, it delays the appointment of any further clergy until that has been resolved.
            Which central services were you thinking of?

  6. Look at the composition of the Social and Biological Sciences Working Group. Apart from Cook and Davison, whose presentations are reviewed in this blog post and who have been public in their rejection of the Church’s orthodox position, the membership is skewed in favour of revisionism.

    Revd Duncan Dormor (Dean, St John’s College, University of Cambridge) has recently heralded the ‘softening’ of global Christian attitudes towards transgenderism:
    http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/global-christian-attitudes-towards-transgenderism-softening-study-suggests

    He also co-edited, An Acceptable Sacrifice? Homosexuality and the Church, a series of essays, the foreword of which invokes the over-used and unwarranted analogy between racism and refusal to affirm same-sex sexual behaviour.

    Part 3 of that selfsame book was written by another member of the working group, Revd Canon Dr Jessica Martin of Ely Cathedral.

    Yet another member of the group, Professor Michael King, founded UCL’s LGBT special interest group. He has been an outspoken critic of all sexual identity therapies, although a very vocal proponent of ‘gay affirmative’ therapies.

    Yet another member of the group, Dr Jo Sadgrove (University of Leeds) provided the keynote introduction and facilitated the concluding discussion at an event entitled, Christianity and Non-Normative Sexualities: A Critical Agenda.

    Perhaps, Professor Mark King is the only member who doesn’t appear to have revealed his sympathies.

    On this basis, there is clear evidence of intentional bias in the composition of this working group. They are appointed to give scientific gravitas to their own (and the Archbishops’) forgone conclusions of sexual identity essentialism.

    And that’s how the Archbishops can guarantee that their vision of “radical new Christian inclusion” will be based “in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.”

    Orthodox commentators may well intersperse this charade of deep reflection with thought-provoking concerns, but the 2020 publication will eliminate every thoughtful objection as the Episcopalian party with Presbyterians at the Savoy Conference.

    And they might even toast their Pyrrhic victory as a Settlement.

    Reply
    • Indeed David S,
      As you will know, a key element in reliability of research and purported independence, is a “declaration of interest”, so that it is known where there may be a “conflict of interest,” a presupposition or in modern parlance, “confirmation bias.”
      At law the judiciary has to declare, and withdraw when their own interest (such as membership of a particular group) may conflict with the subject matter upon which a judgment is sought. The principle is that not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done.
      In my experience in the NHS the principle of conflict of interest was a difficult one to grasp for many professions. Likewise senior Anglicans?

      Reply
      • Hi Geoff,

        Just briefly to mention that virtually every research article I’ve seen in nursing, has a declaration of interest appended…

        In friendship, Blair

        Reply
        • Hello Blair,
          That well may be so, but it doesn’t negate the point David S is making in drawing attention the a priori, “interest” of those named. In fact it may support David’s implied point, that there is no open declaration of interest. Nor does it deal with the other aspects of research and presentation of papers.
          I recall having a disussion with a senior nurse about evidence, burden of proof, standard of proof and was surprised at how much subjectivity and “values based” was in her “evidence based ” practice.
          A really good paper at that time was “Whose values” produced by the Sainsburys Centre for Mental Health, written by profs which drew attention to differing values in different professions, which may be in conflict, how “evidenced based” practice was greatly affected by professionally taught and personal values and where they may be in conflict anfd how they affect outcomes (as opposed to outputs). The application of the Whose Values, was wider than the field of mental health
          Such “values” seem to be in view , highlighted in this post, in the input of the Prof of Psychiatry
          Yours
          Geoff

          Reply
        • Hello Geoff,

          thanks – I’m not really disagreeing with you here, nor trying to negate David S’s point. It was more a little comment just pointing out that in my experience, for what that’s worth, declarations of interest are made in (a sub-section of) medical research, given some of the scepticism expressed here about such research (not all unjustified I accept).

          As a slight aside, I think it worth pointing out that there are a number of easily-available tools for helping to read research critically. See CASP (Critical appraisal skills programme) for instance: https://casp-uk.net/casp-tools-checklists/

          in friendship, Blair

          Reply
    • That sounds like a group put together to pit ‘science’ against scripture so the former can win and force a reassessment of the latter. For how could the Church maintain a theological position disproved by science? The phrase stitch-up springs to mind.

      Reply
      • Ian references numerous sources that show how extremely distant much of the science is from the hopeful media-led orthodoxy.

        Reply
          • We hold them to account, and every time they ignore important data, we call them out. In my experience, there is multiple important data being regularly ignored. So we ask the question, why are you ignoring it, and does this not compromise your wish to be seen as even-handed?

          • Or, as Ian says below:

            “All the studies I link to are either peer-reviewed research, where any statements of relevant interest are declared, or they link through to or are based on such research. To my knowledge none of them has been disputed within their academic field.”

          • They are not disputed within the academic field, they are just ignored or reversed by the media, politicians, and in the public space generally.

  7. Hello folks,

    Just a couple of quick lunch break thoughts…

    Surprisingly, or not, I agree entirely that the presentation about Jesus and the beloved disciple sounds completely off beam.

    Ian, could I ask why you don’t question the reliability of the statistics you link to in the paragraph beginning, “And I suppose it means….”?

    Also, I think you are misrepresenting Robert Song. I’m aware you don’t accept his argument but it is not the case that he “includes a sexual element…without explanation”. He does give reasons for arguing that covenant partnerships could be sexually expressed – can give page refs when I’m at home.

    In friendship, Blair

    Reply
    • Thanks Blair. All the studies I link to are either peer-reviewed research, where any statements of relevant interest are declared, or they link through to or are based on such research. To my knowledge none of them has been disputed within their academic field.

      Indeed, a number of them actually originate with gay advocacy groups or individuals, many of whom argue that gay relationships do *not* mirror other-sex relationships, and shouldn’t have face the same expectations. It is well known, for example, that gay US academic and campaigner Lisa Diamond highlights the fluidity of sexual ‘orientation’ and argues that advocacy on the basis of group identity and rights should be abandoned, and that gay rights should be pursued on the basis of freedom of expression.

      Reply
      • Hello Ian,

        thank you for your response.

        You ignored my comment about Robert Song; I still contend you misrepresent him. On pp59-61 of ‘Covenant & calling’ he sketches his reasons for arguing that covenant partnerships may be sexually expressed. I’m well aware you don’t agree with them, and indeed he could have expanded this section, but it is inaccurate to say he doesn’t explain this (just as it is to say, as you have on previous threads, that he ‘smuggles in’ the sexual element).

        On the studies you mention in your later paragraph (“And I suppose it means…”): again you’re not strictly accurate in at least one case. Dickson et al. (2013) does not prove “the instability of self-identified orientation”; the abstract carefully distinguishes attraction, experiences and identity and states, “Same-sex attraction was much more common than same-sex experiences or a same-sex identity, especially among women, with no major sex differences in these latter dimensions. Women exhibited much greater change in sexual attraction between assessments than men; for change in experiences and identity, sex differences were less marked and not statistically confirmed”. I’m taking it that your phrase “self identified orientation” links up most closely with the authors’ “identity”.

        It may well be that many “gay advocacy groups and individuals” argue “that gay relationships do *not* mirror other-sex relationships, and shouldn’t have face the same expectations”; but what of it? I thought what was under discussion was what is licit for gay *Christians*. I have pointed before to authors such as Eugene F Rogers, Sarah Coakley, Rowan Williams, Jeffrey John, and Gareth Moore OP who advocate only committed, monogamous same-sex partnerships. Also, the Deseret News article you linked to contains the sentence, “Undoubtedly, many gays and lesbians yearn to experience a lifelong, committed marriage that resembles traditional norms” – suggesting that there is an opportunity here for Christian same-sex couples to establish this as a pattern (perhaps as a single gay person I should say that more tentatively….).

        in friendship, Blair

        Reply
        • Thanks for picking this up Blair. Perhaps I should have qualified this: Song offers a very thin and unpersuasive case for allowing covenant relationships to be sexual.

          First, he simply claims that, if you think contraception is possible, then you have completely detached sex from procreation—and therefore have allowed any relationship to be sexual. There are at least three false moves in this claim (half way down p 59).

          He then claims that the Song of Songs points to the idea that sex (of any kind) points to desire for God, and therefore has some kind of transcendent status. Again, that is a bizarre argument which depends on ripping the text out of its canonical context–and is illogical. At most, this text suggests that sexual desire *can* point to the divine.

          And he completely ignores the consistent restriction of sex to other-sex marriage, and sets aside the central importance celibacy outsides marriage in the NT–I know not why.

          Reply
          • Hi again Ian,

            thank you for your response here – this is much more like it, I’d suggest. But pedant that I am, I still don’t think you’ve quite done him justice. He does not say that allowing contraception means *any* relationship can be sexual. “…it does not immediately follow from accepting the morality of contraception that same-sex sexual relationships are also justified… Nor does it follow that once sex is separated from a necessary connection with procreation, it is morally acceptable in any context whatsoever” (p58).

            Again, Song does not argue that the Song of Songs “points to the idea that sex (of any kind) points to desire for God, and therefore has some kind of transcendent status”. The context is given by his statement that, “What opens the path to affirming sexual same-sex relationships is rather, first, determining what kinds of relationships we are called to be *committed to*” (p59, my emphasis); and again near the foot of the page, that both marriage and his proposed covenant partnerships are “called to reflect the faithfulness and permanence of God’s self-commitment”.

            I’m well aware you disagree with him and aren’t convinced by his argument, but I still think you could have summarised rather better. & yes, I do expect to be held to such standards myself 😉

            in friendship, Blair

          • Thanks for continued response. But I think you have made my point for me.

            This key phrase “What opens the path to affirming sexual same-sex relationships is rather, first, determining what kinds of relationships we are called to be *committed to*” is just arbitrary. On what basis does he assert this?

            It cannot be anything he finds in scripture, in the sense that scripture never says that the distinctive thing is the *quality* of relationships–it only ever talks of a particular form, that is, one man and one woman. This whole section is just assertion—and is different in character in that regard for the earlier part of the book. And in doing so, he is arbitrarily setting aside the example of covenant relationship that *is* present in scripture, namely celibate relationships.

            If permanence and faithfulness are the key elements sexual relating, then why does the relationship need to be limited to two people only? Or even people only?

            At this point he doesn’t appear to be doing anything different from Jeffrey John in Permanent, Faithful, Stable, which similarly extracts qualities and leaves behind the clear direction on form of relationships, for no obvious reason.

            I think that is what I meant by my shorthand ‘without explanation’. you are right: Song is *describing* what he is doing; but he is giving no *reason* for doing this.

  8. In September 2014 (Church Times) Dr Chris Cook claimed that the fact that arsenokoites is translated in several different ways means that people are unsure what it means.

    His new proposal that we address the topic by avoiding the texts that actually deal with it is a remarkable one. Would we treat any other topic that way? There is a good reason why someone would make that remarkable proposal: they do not like the texts. That probably explains his proposal, but not his authority to make such a proposal.

    My 2014 letter in response made the following points:

    (1) He is not writing as a New Testament specialist. However, there are a lot of NT specialists around. So why should we pay particular attention to what he says on this topic? When I am outside my own area[s], I restrict myself to commonly-agreed territory, namely quoting overall research-conclusions, which are (it’s agreed) as they are. By contrast, he opposes the many commentators on Romans and 1 Corinthians. On what authority?

    (2) The word is a compound of 2 very common general and unambiguous terms: male and lie [with].

    (3) There is one interpretation that *far* exceeds the others in terms of how many experts hold to it: that men lying with [NIV2011 having sex with] men is being referred to. That core of agreement is all we need to prove the main point.

    (4) The fact that there exist several different translations of the term are irrelevant. It is mostly accounted for *not* by disagreement about the meaning, but by (a) the fact that different languages do not map onto each other, so that while translators may agree entirely on what something means, they may nevertheless express that differently – and they do like to be fresh and original in their expression; (b) the fact that a literal rendition would in this instance be rather unpoetic and infelicitous!

    The only main disagreement is over whether the term is to be paired with malakos in a complementary manner or not.

    (5) The 2 terms precisely echo the Septuagint of Lev. 18.22, 20.13. D F Wright VC 1984. This is beyond coincidence.

    (6) There is not space in a short vice-list to mention obscure or recondite vices. Consequently what we have here is a general and/or widespread one.

    (7) Romans 1, where this vice is prioritised and seen as quintessential, shows that Paul would be likely to make such an inclusion in a vice-list that comprises 10-20 terms.

    (8) Especially he includes sexual terms prominently and in numbers in his vice lists. Pace Matthew Vines, arsenokoites is not an economic term, nor can it be suggested to be such purely by what it is juxtaposed to. Every term is juxtaposed to 2 others. Translation on the basis of juxtaposition can lead to any result you want it to.

    (9) The word is a coinage (not unusual for Paul) and a compound word (ditto) because this is a list of one-word terms. He makes the coinage as straightforward and obvious as possible, something that is only further accentuated by the Lev. background.

    Reply
  9. Dear Ian, do you not think it possible that when Scripture speaks of ‘fulfilment of the Law’ – as having been completed by Jesus – especially in the light of his inauguration of the ‘New Commandment’ – that Jesus actually DID FULFIL all the requiremnts of the Law up until that time – knowing that we could never do so?

    Reply
    • Dear Ron,
      Jesus said that he had come to fulfil the law, but in the Sermon on The Mount – no accident that Matthew places this teaching on a new Sinai. Read the context in Matthew 5. The law is not set aside in any way, rather it is intensified and applied to the heart as well as to action. Our righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees, and we should be perfect like our heavenly Father.
      I agree we cannot do it – by ourselves. But we have the Holy Spirit to change us and to conform us to His image, if we are willing.

      Reply
  10. “For me, it explains the nature of conversations I often have about the questions of sexuality being currently debated by the C of E. I can see the impact of different discussions and decisions, but many (both clergy and lay) struggle to see the issues. I don’t mean that to sound patronising or superior; it is simply a reflection of differential levels of engagement in some of the key issues. And it highlights the first enormous challenge for the process of producing a ‘teaching and learning’ document: there is a vast gulf of understanding and level of engagement that has to be bridged between different parts of the Church, even before we get on to questions of method.”

    Surely that is a very good reason why a teaching document is required before all parts of the C of E can properly debate this issue together.

    Reply
  11. Given that liberalization would cause several major provinces to immediately secede from the Anglican Communion, there’s zero chance the not-a-teaching-document either a) endorsing equal marriage, or b) endorsing homosexual relationships outside of marriage. There’s some small chance that it’d allow totally-not-blessings of “friendships” between same-sex couples, but on the strict understanding that these “friendships” are celibate.

    In short, chill, you’ve won this one before it’s begun.

    That’s the battle: as for the war, unless the wider culture lurches off towards social conservatism, the CoE will inevitably schism over sexuality, or move to “good, honest guv’nor” disagreement, with the inevitable departure of the congregations unwilling to accept it. Personally, I suspect a traditional teaching document will persuade England’s much-battered liberals to finally pick up the shreds of their dignity and, decades too late, stand up for themselves; but given their natural aversion to conflict, may take a few more years for it to finally sink in.

    Meanwhile, as energies are consumed by fighting the inevitable, numbers continue to fall and the church becomes more irrelevant by the day. Bravo, I suppose.

    Reply
    • James I don’t agree that it is won at all.

      I do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that is why I am a CHRISTian. What I am seeing instead is the leadership of the church finding ever new ways to lead the Church to disregards Christ and commit suicide.

      Reply
      • Dear Clive and others
        I have been watching this debate with interest. Of course I do not see this as a debate in which liberal revisionists are aggressively pushing a secular agenda. Like many revisionists I see it as a debate in which LGBTi people and ‘allies’ (for want of a better word) hold a different (but no less ‘orthodox’) reading of scripture and tradition. And a debate in which most LGBTi people are heartily sick of being debated about, and having their lives and identities pathologised. We do not need to consider whether ‘they’ are welcome in the church, because ‘they’ are already here (although some would exclude them from fellowship, simply for being).

        The debate is about on what terms are LGBTi people part of the kingdom, and even that is ‘othering’. Revisionists claim inclusion. That might be radical, but it is not aggressive. What seems to me to be aggressive is the passive aggression of GAFCON, many of whose members continue to flout Lambeth 1.20 and who constantly try to blackmail the CofE into acquiescing to their heteropatriarchal theology. LGBTi Christians and their allies threaten nothing, it is the extreme conservatives who threaten schism and withholding parish chare until the CofE come into line with ‘their’ views. (And, I might add, by employing some very dodgy Eucharistic theology).

        I thought Jayne’s comment on Franklin Graham’s visit. was one with which most moderate and mainstream Christians would agree. Inviting a hate preacher to speak at a Christian conference is not a good look. Graham has repeatedly demonised Muslims and gay people; he has uncritically supported a US president who has married three times and has had several affairs, whilst criticising a black president who has been a model husband and father for 27 years. Graham has uncritically supported a President who puts children in cages and toddlers in court without legal representation. I don’t see much of Christ in that.

        Reply
        • Penelope

          You have no real basis for saying “Graham has uncritically supported a President who puts children in cages and toddlers in court without legal representation. I don’t see much of Christ in that.”

          This is a president that does NOT put children in cages or toddlers in court without legal representation, and so on. Clearly you have decided to massively exaggerate beyond reason. Therefore the real question is why are you making all this up?

          Reply
          • Clive
            I suppose the videos of children in court without legal representation because they cannot afford it, is both a massive exaggeration and a figment of my imagination.
            My question is why do you defend the inviation to an Islamophobe and homophobe who has traduced his father’s memory, and the actions of an egregiously corrupt president?

          • Penelope,

            Your question is a vain attempt at deflection when responses below show that you are too often speaking about fake news that all too often turns out to be the actions of the Obama presidency of which you seem to approve irrespective of the facts.

          • Clive
            I have said nothing of the Obama presidency other than observing that Obama has been a faithful husband and father for 27 years in contrast to his successor.

            Leaving aside Trump’s personal morality for a moment and his approval of the KKK and the NRA, would you really trust a President who one week castigates the EU as a foe and the following week is courting them on tariffs?

            And leaving aside all the foibles of Trump’s immediate predecessors, I see Christian virtue in a retired president who is still, at 92, helping to build houses for the homeless.

        • Penny, thanks for your exposition of your case. But I am not sure the evidence supports it.

          When a member of Synod argues in a secular academic context that many of the most important movements in the Church of England should be proscribed and that some of their core beliefs should be made illegal, then this has gone a long way beyond careful argument.

          Look at the new Facebook page from Lichfield Diocese, which has a video broadcasting how terrible church is to disabled, black and young people. It could have been produced by the National Secular Society.

          I think most advocates on your side would agree happily with Speaker of the House when he said that gay rights should trump religious rights. That is a first step to making Christian faith illegal.

          Reply
          • Hi Ian,

            a gentle challenge on these points.

            “a member of Synod argues in a secular academic context that many of the most important movements in the Church of England should be proscribed and that some of their core beliefs should be made illegal” – who is / was this?

            I haven’t seen the video you mention (I’m getting a bit allergic to Facebook I think…..) but surely the important question is whether what it says is true?

            “I think most advocates on your side would agree happily with Speaker of the House when he said that gay rights should trump religious rights” – but again, what evidence do you have here? I think it’s crucially important not to impute views / motives to those we disagree with, even more important given what a tensely tribal state the ‘debate’ is in if there’s to be any hope of lowering the temperature and speaking and listening well. I urge you: please name names and quote people.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Dear Blair,

            Even I have seen the reports of John Bercow’s talk to LGBT in Pink News saying he wants LGBT rights to trump religious rights.

          • Hi Clive,

            I’m not disputing that John Bercow spoke, nor what he said; I’m asking for evidence of Ian’s point, “*I think most advocates on your side would agree happily* with Speaker of the House when he said that gay rights should trump religious rights”[emphasis added]. I think the manner in which this debate is conducted is very important and that part of this is not imputing views or motives to those we disagree with, without good grounds. …just as i fear that I too fall short of the standards I’m trying to hold.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Ian
            Are you referring to Simon Butler’s post about orthodoxy being written by the winners. I agreed with most of that. Similarly, that the church has always been influenced by cultural mores, hence the support for slavery in the NT. we are no more a slave of the zeitgeist in the 21st century.
            I couldn’t find anything objectionable on Lichfield’s FB page, apart from a short video featuring a mother of an autistic child and a gay vicar.
            I think most rights should trump religious rights. Do we want to mandate FGM or teach creationism in schools?

          • …but Penelope your views are against the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations Conventions on Human rights and so on. In all of these there are no gay rights – but there are religious rights which leaves you believing that a Human right should always be trumped a non-Human right leaving all of the treaties on human rights completely meaningless for you.

    • Meanwhile, as energies are consumed by fighting the inevitable, numbers continue to fall and the church becomes more irrelevant by the day

      Ah, so if the Church of England were to cease ‘fighting the inevitable’, numbers would soar, and it would stop being irrelevant, just like… the United Reformed Church…

      … I guess?

      Reply
      • No, ’cause nothing’s automatic. Inclusivity’s just one factor. Others, such as offering comprehensive social support, and making services culturally accessible, are just as crucial to growth. If the CoE weren’t obsessed with sexuality, however, she could devote far more of her energies to that mission.

        Reply
        • Hi James.

          Can you point to places which show that what you’re proposing brings growth? All evidence I’ve seen is that, on average, orthodox churches grow while liberal churches decline.

          Also you do realise that the only reason the CofE is obsessed with sexuality is because of all the people who want to change its position? If that stopped then we’d stop almost all talk of it overnight.

          Reply
          • Hi Will,

            Just look at the Archbishops Council Budget 2019 – https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2018-06/GS%202097%20-%20Archbishops%27%20Council%20Budget%20%282019%29.pdf

            The Council received £2.25M in grants from The Corporation of the Church House, which was only possible because of a recent amendment to its Royal Charter.

            £1.75M will fund the National Safeguarding Team and £0.5M will go towards increasing the funding of Training for Ministry (Vote 1) to meet the increased influx of ordinands resulting from the Reform and Renewal initiative.

            At the same time, the 2019 Diocesan Apportionment has gone up 3.3% to £33M.

            So, we now await the next exciting installment of Statistics for Mission in October, which, I bet, will focus more on ‘worshipping communities’ stats, instead of the normative indicators of growth and decline, such as . It will be like a ‘Find the decline’ shell game.

            Expect further ‘bail-outs’ from the Church Estates Commissioners, but, with this level of intentional bias in the working parties for the Episcopal Teaching Document, there’s no surprise that Reform and Renewal will neither pull the CofE back from the brink, nor erase the writing on the wall foretelling doom. (Dan. 5:25; Matt. 5:13)

          • Sure: HTB and her many plants, all of which emphasize accessible worship, social support, and downplay sexuality. (An HTB plan in Brighton even welcomed a pride march.)

        • Perhaps if liberal revisionists weren’t intent on pushing through an aggressive secular agenda to change 1900 years of Church doctrine and practise, Orthodox christians wouldn’t need to spend their energies defending the faith as once delivered and could get on with gospel ministry – for that is our passion. We orthodox anglicans are not obsessed with sexuality at all, it is those pushing for change who are obsessed with it – we would much rather devote ourselves to gospel mission (unlike the revisionists). It is those demanding change and conformity to culture not scripture who picked the fight.

          Reply
          • Simon
            Who exactly are you talking about? I would agree there are some extreme views out there – and some conservative voices are among them actually. But on these thoughtful and often painfully engaged discussion threads that Ian so generously continues to host, who (unlike you?) can be accurately described in these terms – obsessed with sex, pursuing secular agendas, outside any Christian Orthodoxy, ‘demanding’, ‘aggressive’, conforming to culture, picking fights, uninterested in defending the faith or scripture and without any passion for gospel mission?

          • David R,

            The question asking Simon to identify ‘on these thoughtful and often painfully engaged discussion threads’ is a bit of a ‘straw man’, since he was responding to James Byron’s observation about the whole CofE, not just those represented here (‘If the CoE weren’t obsessed with sexuality, however, she could devote far more of her energies to that mission.)

            There is a tendency for any single-issue advocacy group (e.g. for or against same-sex sexual relationships, for or against women’s ordination, for or against Brexit, etc.) to focus so much on that issue as their raison d’etre and, in each case, for that focus to border on obsession.

            I’ve sought to contribute comments relating to the wide range of topics covered by Ian’s blog posts. Same with Will Jones, Matt Sheffield and yourself.

            In contrast, don’t you find it strange that several ‘affirming’ commenters reserve most, if not all of their energies to comment here almost exclusively on blog posts which relate to sexuality, while having so little to contribute to comment threads on, say, scriptural reflection, psychological studies relating to clergy, whether Anglican leadership is biblical, the historic reading of 1 Tim 2, the EU as the ‘greatest human dream realised’,or celebrating Iftar meals in church?

            Yes, I understand that it’s almost guaranteed that posts relating to current disputes concerning human sexuality will generate ‘thread-loads’ of comments. However, those who so readily comment on sexuality issues, only to have little or nothing to contribute to any other topic are, by definition, obsessed.

          • David R

            David S answered better for me than I could for myself

            But I stand by my claim that it is the liberal revisionists who are consciously and aggressively picking a fight with evangelicals and traditionalists and seeking to re-read scripture so as to reject tradition so as to go their own way ethically.

          • Simon and others here …
            Well I know when a discussion has a reached a dead end. But I continue to grateful for those people and places where courtesy and mutual respect in Christ still shapes honest discussions around the issues.
            As I leave I am scratching my head to work out how how you think this analysis in any was describes, for example, Vicky Beeching’s story?

          • Dear David

            I too am scratching my head at your failure to understand where I and those orthodox conservatives are coming from. What about being sensitive to us who feel our very theological foundations under constant attrition? You ask by whom? Oh please David, you know precisely where this exigency is coming from. I have not sought to be discourteous – I have tried to convey the strength of feeling and indeed my comment you criticised was as David S said a response to James had charged conservatives with being sex obsessed and militant. I simply tried to say that’s not true. But it is we who find ourselves having our traditional views pushed back and our traditional boundary stones moved. And were you where we are, you would understand how we feel.

            David – I have always respected your open heartedness and graciousness to the inclusive tradition, indeed here on this blog I have more than once stood for you when I felt someone was personally and inappropriately harsh towards you in comment. But you do not seem to show the same respect to the traditional ones amongst us. Indeed, when I stand up and speak up you take umbrage and become passive aggressive.

            In answer to your question about whether I feel those who I earlier described were ‘uninterested in defending the faith or scripture and without any passion for gospel mission’ – regrettably I increasingly think that – I think they have a different gospel and a different mission.

          • David R,

            In the interest of fairness, if you can chip in on comments that I address to Penelope, then I can chip in on comments that you address to Simon.

            This is a refreshing alternative to the irony of ‘liberal’ blogs being so heavily moderated and censored, like Thinking Anglicans.

          • Simon
            Thank you for responding.
            I am really sorry – I did not pick up you were reacting to James – whose comment I didn’t not agree with incidentally. Nevertheless your response to him was to locate the sexuality debate as entirely driven by aggressive ‘liberals’ with the worst of godless motives. I felt you reversed one extreme accusation for another. Above all you are not describing my motives or convictions in this debate at all when you write like that. ‘you know precisely where this exigency is coming from’. If you mean only from godless, secular liberalisers that is manifestly not true. I am as committed to Christ and the centrality of scripture as you are my brother.
            I really do appreciate that more than once you have defended me here. I am very grateful. I remember thanking you then, not ‘taking umbrage’? – and I guess that was partly why my reaction here as a bit stronger (I even wondered which ‘Simon’ this was).
            I have been thinking, praying and journeying with this subject – in the context of my whole discipleship for forty years – since I started at bible college and long before there was even anywhere to discuss it in honestly and openly in the evangelical world. That doesn’t make me right but it is nothing to do with a careless slide into cultural accommodation.
            So Simon are simply not describing me or many evangelical friends in your analysis. I believe I am preaching the same gospel and am as passionate as you about mission.
            But we disagree very deeply on this issue – and I feel the pain of that too. Grace and peace.

          • David R
            I do respect you and honour you
            I do not include you in that group that is did, admittedly, speak harshly about.
            Things have intensified since we first discussed these things here – lines are being drawn, greater demands made for change by revisionists. Once there was debate around scripture – now I sense there is demand on evangelicals to surrender.

            I believe you to be a priest motivated by kindness above all. And that is a virtue I covet. I did not intend to include you in the category of those who I believe compromise on the gospel and skew our mission.

            But David, we disagree profoundly on this profoundly critical issue.

            Grace and peace

          • David S
            You were indeed entirely free to chip in. I do the same at times. I simply wished to wait to hear from Simon having addresses my comments to him.
            By the way TA is not heavily moderated. (I have in fact privately questioned the moderators about how evangelicals are spoken of there at times). There are other blogs of course where liberals get unmoderated pay back!
            But as no one moderated your comment here, or would, I am not sure what point our making.

          • ‘By the way TA is not heavily moderated. (I have in fact privately questioned the moderators about how evangelicals are spoken of there at times)’

            Oh, that settles it then. Well, at least, for every card-carrying member of the ‘affirming’ camp.

            Christopher Shell and I would beg to differ.

            The point is that, when compared to TA’s ‘liberal’ moderators censoring conservative comments, we both enjoy here the relative liberty of robust exchanges on a blog which some might typify as conservative.

            It’s a welcome alternative to TA comment threads becoming echo chambers of liberal consensus.

          • Dear David R

            You have written a piece suggesting, but not directly stating, that it is only faithful Christians in spite of the many, many obvious examples that show the opposite.

            …and yet the real irony is that you have written this on the day that Jayne Ozanne, said that Franklin Graham and his hope festival will “provide a platform for espousing bigotry and hate in Christ’s name.” … and in the next sentence said “many of us are trying to build bridges of understanding between groups…”

            So perhaps you can explain to me how calling faithful Christians (including Franklin Graham) bigots and hatefilled people in Christ’s name ….equates with any sens of building bridges of understanding between groups – or are we excluding any group with whom we disagree and only including those with whom we agree.

          • Clive
            If you have actually read and support Franklin Graham’s, comments on Islam and homosexuality I confess I wouldn’t know where to begin to begin a discussion with you.

          • Sorry, I posted this reply in the wrong place!

            Dear Clive and others
            I have been watching this debate with interest. Of course I do not see this as a debate in which liberal revisionists are aggressively pushing a secular agenda. Like many revisionists I see it as a debate in which LGBTi people and ‘allies’ (for want of a better word) hold a different (but no less ‘orthodox’) reading of scripture and tradition. And a debate in which most LGBTi people are heartily sick of being debated about, and having their lives and identities pathologised. We do not need to consider whether ‘they’ are welcome in the church, because ‘they’ are already here (although some would exclude them from fellowship, simply for being).
            The debate is about on what terms are LGBTi people part of the kingdom, and even that is ‘othering’. Revisionists claim inclusion. That might be radical, but it is not aggressive. What seems to me to be aggressive is the passive aggression of GAFCON, many of whose members continue to flout Lambeth 1.10 and who constantly try to blackmail the CofE into acquiescing to their heteropatriarchal theology. LGBTi Christians and their allies threaten nothing, it is the extreme conservatives who threaten schism and withholding parish share until the CofE come into line with ‘their’ views. (And, I might add, by employing some very dodgy Eucharistic theology).
            I thought Jayne’s comment on Franklin Graham’s visit. was one with which most moderate and mainstream Christians would agree. Inviting a hate preacher to speak at a Christian conference is not a good look. Graham has repeatedly demonised Muslims and gay people; he has uncritically supported a US president who has married three times and has had several affairs, whilst criticising a black president who has been a model husband and father for 27 years. Graham has uncritically supported a President who puts children in cages and toddlers in court without legal representation. I don’t see much of Christ in that.

          • Penelope – sometimes you’re like a caricature of a liberal! A few responses to your points:

            1) Revisionist readings are not orthodox, nor ‘orthodox’ (why the scare quotes?). I think you need to accept the basic facts of the debate you’re engaging, namely that there is an orthodox view on sexuality and scriptural teaching on it. Argue for a revision of that view by all means, but it is unhelpful to argue that something is what it clearly is not (revisionist is orthodox, black is white) while at the same time casting doubt (through scare quotes) on whether the badge you’re claiming even exists.

            2) LGBT people surely ‘other’ themselves by identifying with these categories and basing rights claims on them. But that’s up to them. It is however not very helpful to try to make people feel guilty or ashamed about discussing crucial matters of theological anthropology such as the meaning of being male and female and the meaning of sexuality through emotive use of language. And the question of course is not whether they are welcome but whether patterns of life they choose to engage in are in line with the will of God.

            3) Conservatives don’t want the church to come into line with their views. They want the church not to depart from their views, which are the historic and orthodox views of all Christians everywhere.

            4) Obama also imprisoned illegal immigrant children – the initial picture used to shame Trump of caged children in fact came from the Obama era.

            But then you surely already know all of these things – you are intelligent and well-read. So why keep repeating such baseless and discredited claims?

            Which comments of Franklin Graham are you referring to? I’ve seen one or two that I wouldn’t endorse, and a number inelegantly put, but nothing to make me feel like he should be banned from the country, though perhaps there are some I’ve missed? I’m much more horrified by Peter Tatchell’s apologetics for sex with children and pushing for lowering the age of consent, but then he’s feted by the great and the good: ‘Several of my friends gay and straight, male and female had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.’ (1997, never apologised for) https://matthewhopkinsnews.com/?p=436.

          • David R

            If you think TA is not heavily moderated, try and find a comment by either me or David Shepherd that justified our being banned.

            Thanks

            Chris.

          • Penelope

            you write that the revisionist position on sexuality is, ‘but no less orthodox’. Surely you must mean ‘but no! Less orthodox’

            By definition, a 180 degree radical revision of the historic orthodox position on sexuality cannot be orthodox.

          • Simon
            which orthodoxy had you in mind:
            the 1500 years which privileged virginity and celibacy above marriage, to the extent that theologians who argued that the married state was equal to continence (not superior, but equal) were excommunicated?
            the 500 years of Reformed teaching (still not accepted in the universal church) that marriage is the supreme Christian calling and that celibacy is to be discouraged?
            (Prynne called religious sisters “lewd adulteresses”, “unnatural”, and “shameless”; because they lived unmarried “espoused to Christ” and “freed from all subjection to men, or to their husbands”. H/t Church Times).
            the orthodoxy that taught that women whether single or married were inferior to and subject to men?
            the orthodoxy which didn’t invent ‘sodomy’ until the 12th century? (sure same-sex sex was condemned in early mediaeval penitentiaries, but it was seen as a sin of concupiscence, most likely to be practiced by celibates and by ‘heterosexual’ men with high sex drives, not by a class of men who only had sex with other men. Bit like Paul in his letter to the Romans ‘their women’).
            the orthodoxy that for almost 2000 years regarded contraception as akin to murder? (artificial contraception is still not allowed throughout all denominations of the universal church).
            the orthodoxy which required a priest to marry a divorced person, or to find someone who would?
            So, Simon, which of these orthodoxies do you choose?

          • Will
            I am not quite sure what a caricature of a liberal is. Would it be something like the caricature of a conservative who might claim that the church has enjoyed 2000 years of unchanging ‘orthodox’ teaching on sexuality? (BTW those are inverted commas, not scare quotes. I choose to use them with slippery words, like orthodox, to suggest that they do not always represent unchanging verities.)
            As for ‘revisionist, well, as I have argued before, we are all ‘revisionists’; we all accept that the church’s interpretation of scripture has changed and will probably continue to do so. (Even literalist, creationists cherry pick.)
            LGBTi people do not ‘other’ themselves by claiming an identity, any more than BAME people ‘other’ themselves by being POC, or women ‘other’ themselves by being female. White, heteronormative patriarchy others them when it sees itself as the norm, from which anything else – be it, gay, female or black – is seen as aberrant. (Terribly ironic for a church which sacralises a variety of western Asian texts).
            For all of us the question is: are our patterns of life in line with the will of God? As for conservatives supporting the ‘orthodox’ teaching on sexuality, perhaps you would read my reply to Simon.

            Which leads me on to Trump and Franklin Graham. I have no doubt that Trump’s immediate predecessors made some very immoral judgments. I have no doubt that Peter Tatchell has, similarly, defended immoral beliefs and actions (and, although I find his defence of sex with children abhorrent, I find it no more abhorrent than separating parents and children, and putting them in detention, with little chance of reuniting them). The difference is one of degree. Tatchell, Obama, Bush and Clinton have redeeming features, despite their flaws. Trump, so far as I can gather, has none (although I am assured that he is loved by God, as we all are). Graham has defended every action of Trump’s since before he became president (New Atlantic 2015, which also includes details of Graham’s homophobia and Islamophobia, which he has continued since). He has rallied the white evangelical vote, without which Trump would not have been elected and which continues to support him despite allegations about his marital infidelities (a huge proportion of US evangelicals, when questioned about whether infidelity in the president mattered, said ‘no’; the proportion was not so huge for Obama). I don’t think I would call for a ban on Graham speaking in this country, although he is a hate preacher; I think, however, that support from the Diocese of Blackburn is unfortunate, to put it mildly (imagine if the leader of a Blackburn mosque were to invite an Islamic hate preacher to speak at Blackpool). If that makes me a caricature liberal, so be it.

          • Penelope

            Biblical orthodoxy. Which:
            – values both celibacy and marriage (though possibly prefers celibacy as ‘better’ – out of interest who was excommunicated for arguing they were equal?)
            – forbids same-sex sex in all contexts
            – regards men and women as created in the image of God
            – Gives no view on contraception
            – regards divorce in most circumstances as a wrong course of action

            Church teaching has changed in some respects over the course of 2000 years. Therefore there is no such thing as biblical orthodoxy and we can argue same-sex sex isn’t prohibited after all? Give me a break. That’s a poor argument if ever I saw one, and clearly undermines the authority of scripture, which you say you wish to sustain.

          • Penelope the only hate present here is yours towards Franklin Graham and American Trump supporters. I note you did not produce quotations from Mr Graham to support your allegations, despite outrageously comparing him to Islamic preachers of jihad, which we know actively enjoins terrorism, mass murder and atrocity. Your moral sense is off again in finding paedophilia no more abhorrent than the separate detention of children and parents in the US – a policy which need I remind you was introduced under Obama with safeguarding in view because of the problems of incarcerating children with adults in adult facilities. I say this not to defend it but to point up how flawed your moral judgement is in regarding this as the moral equivalent of buggering boys. It is beyond caricature.

            Trump, for his (many, especially personal) flaws is pro-life and pro-religious freedom and pro-secure borders, and right now that counts for a lot in the face of an at times fanatical and aggressive ‘progressive’ movement bent on undermining all that is sacred in Western culture.

          • Will
            Scripture doesn’t exist until it is read. The church’s reading has formed the church’s various hermeneutical lenses over the centuries, even on matters which don’t seem to be within the texts, but which we are required to make ethical decisions on, like contraception and PFS same-sex relationships (and IVF and nuclear weapons etc. etc.).
            There is orthodox belief. It is creedal, Some, but not all of it is ‘biblical’.

            Jovinian, excommunicated with 8 of his followers, scourged with a lead-tipped whip and exiled to the island of Boa.

            Graham: I cited a New Atlantic article; https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/interview-franklin-graham-homophobic_n_5035640?guccounter=1 another link; and another: https://www.ststephenblackpool.co.uk/single-post/2018/04/14/Standing-with-Blackpools-Methodists
            A man who demonises gays and Muslims is a hate preacher. We are simply used to orientalising our hate preachers.

            I acknowledged that Obama had flaws. Did he expect infants to represent themselves in court? I don’t know. If so, he was truly reprehensible.

            Trump is not ‘pro-life’, he is pro-birth for the sake of his evangelical constituency (mostly white birth though). If he was pro-life, he wouldn’t accept the support of the NRA, call members of the KKK very fine people, would support some form of socialised medicine (which meant that people could afford their insulin medication, and would support policies which result in black men’s lives being held so cheaply.

            Trump is pro right-wing, white, evangelical, Christian freedom of a particular type (the Franklin Graham type). He is not pro LGBTi Christian freedoms; he is not pro Muslim freedoms.

            He is pro border security when the immigrants are poor and POC. Clearly he needs to read the Hebrew Bible on the alien and the refugee. He is not pro virtual border security when he appears to be a Putin puppet.
            He is a narcissistic, abusive, aggressive man who appears to possess none of the Christian virtues.

          • Folks, so impressed here that you managed to keep all your replies on the same response nest!

            Penny, I think your comments are really helpful, in that you disabuse those of us who reach for the ‘orthodox’ label from believing that Christians have, in practice, always believed the same thing about sex. They clearly haven’t.

            However, as I think Will is hinting at, noting changing views and practices, either of individuals, or of sub-cultures, whilst challenging us with reality, doesn’t actually demonstrate changing teaching of the Church.

            The C of E’s current teaching, as embodied in the liturgy, is in substantial continuity with the BCP, and whatever individuals did or taught, that represents the ‘teaching’ of the Church. So we are immediately back to 1662, and probably 1552.

            Before the Reformation, continuity is a little problematic–hence the need for the Reformation! But there is a good argument to say that the Reformed view (which we find in the BCP) is a good articulation of the teaching of the NT, and that different church leaders have at different times been more or less faithful to this.

            incidentally, I would agree with you about Graham and Trump. And I think I would observe that those on this thread who engage with you are *not* entirely representative of the ‘orthodox’ position. I value their views greatly, but I suspect that I am less socially ‘conservative’ than they are, and that many others are too. Online discussion is always selective in choosing those who comment.

          • David R

            However much you disagree with Franklin Graham you cannot build bridges of understanding by calling anyone names using horrendous terminology like “hate filled in Christ’s name” and “bigotry”. You instead respond with much more grownup Christian criticism.

          • And chapter and verse, rather than sweeping generalisations based on what is the current right-on stance.

  12. I’ve just caught up with your helpful but depressing post Ian. It seems that the CofE is locked in a never-ending cycle of bad disagreement over these disputed matters, which somewhat mirrors the Conservative party’s constant war over the EU. However this train of thought did cheer me up a bit when I realised that no-one has yet tried to label possible CofE leavers as Sexiteers.

    Reply
  13. I visit my dad every 5 or 6 weeks. When I visit, I attend with him the CofE parish church in a smallish town.
    At the end of this article, you ask the question: “Do Church of England congregations understand their Bible and know how to read it well?”
    I am left wondering how folk who attend this particular parish church would learn how to read the Bible well and how would they learn to understand it. There is nothing in the normal week by week sequence of Parish Communion services with short waffle (sorry, sermon) that would achieve this.
    The learning and understanding I have gained has been mainly through organisations outside of a local church – Crusaders/Urban Saints, Scripture Union, a university CU, leading a church youth group, etc. – or my own reading.
    If you are critical of the level knowledge of the lay people within the CofE, then who is in a position to put this right?

    Reply
    • I agree with you–there has been a desperate loss of Bible reading practice in the C of E.

      Those of us who teach Bible have worked hard, but there are many other social and cultural issues at work here.

      My own tradition, the charismatic, bears some responsibility for this, in at times prioritising the value of ‘experience’.

      Reply
  14. Thanks for an honest appraisal, Ian, but how disturbing. It makes me think of that prediction in 2 Timothy 4:2 ‘having their own conscience seared with a hot iron’. I am particularly disturbed at the way Science is being abused by removing the principles of honesty and dispassionate analysis when forming conclusions. No wonder GAFCON are establishing themselves as a harbour for those troubled who can find shelter and encouragement. I thought the analysis of the Instruments of Communion by Dr Ed Loane encapsulated this present Anglican dilemma well:
    https://www.gafcon.org/news/a-turning-point-in-the-history-of-anglicanism

    Reply
  15. I’ve pondered whether to chip in here because it’s all déjà vu, totally predictable, and virtually pointless unless something fundamental changes.

    Because at the heart of the matter is one simple word: honesty. No church can expect to bear fruit and be blessed by God when its politics and its theological and disciplinary integrity are handled with the kind of scant regard to truthfulness of which we are all aware. And in such an atmosphere why should we expect the truths revealed by science to be handled any differently? Once you have accepted (admired even) the arts of manipulation, ambiguity, fence sitting, (‘good disagreement’), you become captivated by the state of mind which such things create; you become a prisoner of your own mendacity. In ‘fixing’ the situation you end up by ‘fixing’ your own brain – truth no longer rings true.

    This is a spiritual problem for it involves the Father of Lies. All the theology and all the science in the world will make no difference until that problem is faced and repented. We can spill as many words as we like, brilliant words even but, so long as things go on as they are, they won’t be heard because the ears that need to hear them are deafened by deceit. And, yes, that applies to all of us.

    Christianity really is about binary choices, opposite ways to go, belief or non belief, obedience or disobedience, truth or error. And that’s not a ‘conservative evangelical’ version of being a Pharisee; it’s the nature of how God is, revealed on every page of the Bible. Of course there’s mercy and forgiveness because we constantly fail and God is amazingly gracious; but unless we at least start out with the intention of being honest with ourselves and our Christian brothers and sisters, we really cannot expect anything good to come from what we do as individuals and as a church, least of all from any Episcopal Teaching Documents (or whatever name fits the latest spin).

    And now I must apologise to Peter Matacola who I see has said this much better in one single paragraph.

    Reply
  16. I think you are being rather harsh on Chris Cook.
    “Science shows us that homosexuality is not a medical disorder but a part of the natural diversity of God’s creation.” is a perfectly reasonable statement to make. Biological variation is a well established phenomenon in science. Take, for example, albinism. No one “chooses” to be an albino. It is not the result of disease or accident. It is not the obvious result of any environmental factors. It is just one aspect of what we call biological variation. Homosexuality fits into the same category.
    If Christians accept that God created, and continues to create, all living creatures, including man, how can we possibly say that homosexuality is “against God’s will”?

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting, Tim. I think you observation illustrates the numerous problems that Chris Cook’s statement leads to.

      First, you equate a congenital condition like albinism with the phenomenon of same-sex attraction. Scientific studies, including the one I link to above, as well as repeated twin studies, demonstrate fairly conclusively that early environmental (including pre-natal inter-utero) factors play a large part.

      Secondly, you equate congenital conditions like albinism with ones over which ‘people have no choice’ as if these two groups were coterminous. There are all sorts of developmental and environmental issues over which I don’t have choice–but it does not mean these are biological or congenital. I didn’t ‘choose’ to be born in a country that speaks English, for example. Most us of have no choice over key environmental factors that shape us.

      Thirdly, Cook goes on to talk about ‘natural diversity’ as if even all morally neutral ‘diversity’ was a good thing. See the comments by others above.

      Fourthly, he then uses the charged word ‘natural’ to collapse any difference between the way the world is, and the way that God intended it—and in doing so eliminates vast categories of Christian thinking about creation. Tsunamis are of course ‘natural’. Is that all there is to say about them?

      Finally, he then moves from calling something a ‘natural diversity’ to then answer the moral issue of whether same-sex sexual relationships can be described in the way the Church’s liturgy describes marriage, as a ‘holy estate, blessed by God, which all should honour.

      If Cook is not aware of these five moves, then he hasn’t done even the most basic thinking about the questions around science and sexuality. If he has, then his article is grossly dishonest.

      Which do you think it is?

      Reply
    • Take, for example, albinism. No one “chooses” to be an albino. It is not the result of disease or accident. It is not the obvious result of any environmental factors.

      Thing is — you can say the same about, say, cystic fibrosis. And yet presumably we agree that that is not part of God’s intended plan for anyone, but a result of living in a fallen world?

      So therefore the simple fact that something happens, does not mean that it is meant to happen, does it?

      Reply
      • So are you going to be the one to round up all those suffering with cystic fibrosis and tell them all, in no uncertain terms, that they are not part of God’s intended creation? …. that they will never get to heaven unless they “repent”? ……. That they are not suitable for leadership in the church? That they are simply “unacceptable”?
        These are the very ones Jesus made a point of going to.
        Perhaps God created all these folk (cystics and homosexuals) as a test to see whether the rest of us are willing to actually display the Christian characteristics we are supposed to. [I think you have just failed!]

        Reply
        • Tim, I am assuming that this is a parody of what you see the Church saying to gay people.

          But that has not been the teaching of the C of E for some time–and where it is taught, I would agree with you in refuting that teaching.

          But here’s the thing: there is no such thing as a ‘cystic fibrosis lifestyle’. And no-one is proposing that the Church should conduct ‘cystic fibrosis marriages’. That is why these two issues are quite separate–and why Chris Cook’s position expressed in this way is just absurd.

          Reply
          • I’m not convinced LGBTi people have a different ‘lifestyle’ – that’s just a notion imposed by those who are outside of that determination. Likewise, there is no such thing as ‘gay marriage’. There is marriage, which now legally includes gay and lesbian people. So I don’t think there is quite the separation you imply.

          • Actually they clearly do, at the very least in the sense of acting on feelings of same-sex attraction by engaging in same-sex sexual relationships. There are other reasonably well documented phenomena which set apart gay sub0-culture from mainstream culture—and it seems to me that the gay community are pretty happy about that.

          • The cystic fibrosis point was made for one reason and one reason only: to rebut the claim, implicitly made by Tim Nice, that any and all things which are unchosen, do not result from disease or accident, and are not caused by environmental factors, and which therefore are aspects of biological variation, must have been intended by God.

            It does that by showing that there is at least one thing which is an aspect of biological variation, but which was not intended by God. There are others, such as the man born blind.

            Therefore it is not enough to show that something is simply an aspect of biological variation, in order to prove that it is intended by God.

            The cystic fibrosis thing should not be extended beyond that simple refutation.

          • I hope the bulk of the Church of England has moved on from this narrow view but from discussions on other websites I am afraid there are still many who have not. Certainly many non-CofE churches still actively promote this view. They are, of course, free to believe what they want to believe, but what gets me hot under the collar is the fact that they denounce everyone else as “unbiblical” without any appreciation of the fact that the biblical text can be interpreted many different ways, and continue to call themselves “Christians” whilst completely ignoring the demands of Christ in favour of a regime of persecution under the misguided apprehension that they are somehow upholding “God’s will”. Jesus showed us what God’s will was – and it did not include persecution of homosexuals or other groups shunned by society as a whole.

          • Tim, I quite agree with you that it is not Christian to shun gay people, and I don’t think I have ever done so.

            But this isn’t a ‘narrow’ view; it is one which is carefully shaped by reading Scripture, and it is one shared by many, many Christians down the ages.

            I also agree that it is not ‘Christian’ to ignore the other demands of Christ, and again I would never condone that.

          • Tim, when you say that ‘the biblical text may be interpreted many different ways’ you are wrong on many counts.

            (1) The Bible is a library not a book. Ta Biblia is plural.

            (2) This is as sweeping a generalisation as one can get, and you know what they say about sweeping generalisations.

            (3) Are you saying that every part of every one of the 66 books is unclear? That really is quite a claim. Why would things not range on a curve from very unclear to very clear?

            (4) Are you saying that every time there is disagreement about a text that means we can never know, never even try to be sure, what it means? It is plain that
            (a) Some opinions are ideologies not evidence-based,
            (b) People could manufacture plurality of opinion out of nothing, to their own advantage,
            (c) Some are better placed to interpret a text than others. In fact, much better. This applies in all areas of study.

          • Ian,

            “Actually they clearly do, at the very least in the sense of acting on feelings of same-sex attraction by engaging in same-sex sexual relationships” – but it isn’t only people who identify as LBGTi who have same-sex sex…

            “There are other reasonably well documented phenomena which set apart gay sub0-culture from mainstream culture” – could I ask for examples, and what you see as the link here with gay Christians?

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Ian
            I don’t think having sex or being in a relationship is a ‘lifestyle’. Nor do any of the gay men and women I know inhabit a sub culture. They are as conventional and respectable as you and me.

          • A lifestyle is anything that leads to unique or notable statistical patterns, on average, within the group.

  17. Am I naive to quote Matthew 28:19-20 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”?

    The point at issue is what is the Church to teach? The governing answer must surely be, ‘everything our Lord has commanded us’. That makes Him the rule maker and us the ones to find out what he has commanded. Thence we must obey him. ‘If you love me you will
    keep my commandments.’ Though of course we will fall, his commandments must be our aspiration if we are to be sincere about belief.

    The sole question at stake would therefore seem to be, are we reading Christ’s commands correctly or not? An often forgotten part of the Great Commission.

    That’s what needs thrashing out at Synod. Not our own ideas but what Christ has commanded. What we shall need as our starting point is how to handle Scripture and that would seem to be evident in our cannons and 39 articles. So why can’t we get on with that? If am I hopelessly naive?

    Personally I can see no consistent hermeneutic in the revisionist approach to interpretation that holds water and it will surely be the consistentcy of interpretation which gives the assurance of authority?
    Karl

    Reply
    • Indeed Karl

      Was the church totally wrong on sexuality for 1950 years? Did the whole church, throughout the world, over 3000yrs of Judeo Christian scripture since Moses, grieve the Holy Spirit and misrepresent God and misunderstand his revelation on human sexuality?

      For this radical change on doctrine and practise being pressed on the Church must conclude thus

      Reply
      • Hi Simon and Karl,
        ‘Was the church totally wrong on sexuality for 1950 years?’
        Yes, the church got it wrong for 1950 years, but thankfully UK Parliament finally moved in the right direction in March 2014, when legislation to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales came into force, a law which was a matter of great rejoicing for many, and especially for good Christians, who want the church to follow this noble state/secular lead. It’s
        only bad Christians, such as myself and many others I know. who are spoil-sports, and who want church doctrine on marriage to remain intact.
        (And if sarcasm is a sin, then I am guilty of it here!)

        Reply
        • Well I think you will need to say more that ‘na-na-na-na-na’ if you want to claim that the Church got it wrong.

          And if what everyone calls a highly secularised and highly secularised society is giving the Church a ‘lead’, I think you are going to have to work very hard on developing your theology of sin, the fall, redemption and not least a Johannine theology of ‘the world’ which (according to Jesus in the gospel) ‘hates’ his followers.

          Reply
    • Dear Karl, Simon and Christine
      As I posted above:
      Simon
      which orthodoxy had you in mind:
      the 1500 years which privileged virginity and celibacy above marriage, to the extent that theologians who argued that the married state was equal to continence (not superior, but equal) were excommunicated?
      the 500 years of Reformed teaching (still not accepted in the universal church) that marriage is the supreme Christian calling and that celibacy is to be discouraged?
      (Prynne called religious sisters “lewd adulteresses”, “unnatural”, and “shameless”; because they lived unmarried “espoused to Christ” and “freed from all subjection to men, or to their husbands”. H/t Church Times).
      the orthodoxy that taught that women whether single or married were inferior to and subject to men?
      the orthodoxy which didn’t invent ‘sodomy’ until the 12th century? (sure same-sex sex was condemned in early mediaeval penitentiaries, but it was seen as a sin of concupiscence, most likely to be practiced by celibates and by ‘heterosexual’ men with high sex drives, not by a class of men who only had sex with other men. Bit like Paul in his letter to the Romans ‘their women’).
      the orthodoxy that for almost 2000 years regarded contraception as akin to murder? (artificial contraception is still not allowed throughout all denominations of the universal church).
      the orthodoxy which required a priest to marry a divorced person, or to find someone who would?
      So, Simon, which of these orthodoxies do you choose?

      Reply
      • Penelope,
        Q What happened to the Q? … (in your earlier comment above). Was it’s previous inclusion in the sexual/gender pantheon, questionable and querulous to LG and indeed is T not in bad odour with some feminists? Has its human recently constucted idol not been knocked off it’s pedestal? Butterfield no longer worships there, bows down.

        Reply
        • Indeed, Geoff, I usually write LGBTi+ to indicate other categories such as queer, non-binary, pansexual, asexual, allies etc.
          Of course, it could be argued that the LGB describe sexuality and the T and I sex and gender, so that they don’t belong in one grouping. But many feel that the umbrella is helpful for identities which have been marginalised by white hegemonic normativity.
          A few TERFs are vocally transphobic, but they do not represent the majority of cis men and women and lesbians who support their trans brothers and sisters.

          Reply
      • Penelope?

        As is often the case, others here like David S or Will or Christopher say so well what I would say that I dont bother wasting people’s space.

        But you ask a straight lot of questions – so here’s my answer: Biblical Orthodoxy

        Yes, you are undoubtedly right, there have been other robustly long held orthodoxies that have been challenged and changed in light of a revisiting of Scripture – and I’m a Protestant by conviction and believe the church must always be reforming herself because she can institutionalise error. Many of the errors you cite above that the church got into were because the whole counsel of Scripture was not central. Indeed, many of those errors could be shown from Scripture very easily to be wrong. and fortunately many have been exposed as such.

        However, when it comes to homosexual sex, has there ever been any Church Father or Reformer or theologian East or West throughout the 20 centuries of the church who has argued for a divine design and blessing on homosexual acts? No – it is a largely Western, novel, radical, late C20th minority view within the church who argue for it and it is an argument that does not naturally flow from clear Biblical teaching. Are there any texts that celebrate gay sex/union – is there 1? No! why does every text that speaks to homosexual sex do so negatively? Why is the celebrated always Biblical paradigm of sexual union always between man and woman?

        Yes, yes, the revisionists deconstruct the prohibitive texts and find meaning to support their views in others, that for the first time in millennia now say what no-one has ever seen them say before. But the Biblical case for divinely ordained and blessed homosexual relations remains to be made. There are some Compassionate Christians who seek to build a case – I genuinely believe they have the right motivations – but the wrong foundations and thus the wrong conclusions.

        The radical Liberal Episcopalian Church was honest and had self awareness about their newly created orthodoxy – and they recognised they were going beyond Scripture. Former presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold stated in interview Dec28th 1997 to Philadelphia Enquirer ‘Broadly speaking the Episcopal church is in conflict with Scripture. The only way to justify it is to say, well, Jesus talks about the Spirit guiding the Church and guiding believers and bringing to their awareness things they cannot deal with yet. So one would have to say that the mind of Christ operative in the church over time…has led the church to in effect contradict the words of the Gospel.’ And again on the change in doctrine and practise re- homosexuality: ‘We move to some new place that God has yet to reveal’ ….. what is that if it isnt a rejection of orthodoxy?

        Lt Johnson was honest and recognised a newly made orthodoxy – a new ethic without Biblical warrant: “I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality.’

        Luther famously said he must stand his ground and would not recant his views unless shown from the testimony of Scripture that he was wrong . Well, this issue is of no less importance as the one he faced, and the burden of proof in changing 3000+ years of Judeo/christian orthodox belief on sexuality is with the changers to show people like me from Scripture that we are wrong. So far I have not heard or read one compelling argument to turnover this long held view – and I readily admit much of me would like you to produce a compelling one. Some years ago someone very close to me told me he was leaving the Church and pursuing his homosexual desire. I encouraged him to stay and find a church where he could feel comfortable with his SSA – my intention was to hold him within the church family, under the preaching of God’s Word, and receiving grace at the communion altar. He said to me “I can read the Bible as well as you” – and he knew full well the lifestyle he desired would not cohere with Scripture. And he chose to leave the Church. I wish I could have said “just read the Bible differently” – but he knew it too well.

        Reply
        • Amen, Simon.
          Penelope: I mean the current orthodoxy – the sacrament whereby a man(groom) and and a woman (bride) make vows before God in the presence of a priest and a congregation, and the priest declares them man and wife.

          Reply
          • Christine
            That’s not current, nor historical. Marriage wasn’t a sacrament until the 12th century and, some would argue, hasn’t been one since the Reformation.
            Besides which the joining together of man and woman before priest and people doesn’t preclude the joining together of man and man, and woman and woman before priest and people.

          • Penelope : the marriage ceremony (Holy Matrimony) is one of the seven sacraments of the Anglican Church .
            …preclude….? That suggests a hypothesis. The current reality is that Holy Matrimony is between a man and a woman.

          • Christine
            When you speak of ‘current’ orthodoxy could be taken to imply that at other times, past or future, orthodoxy was or may be different. I don’t think you mean to suggest that orthodoxy can change? But some us here believe ‘orthodoxy’ can and should be broadened in what it is understood to include.

          • No Penelope,

            Your response that marriage is not historical and is equally not a sacrament is simply not true. I despair of your utterly selective and distorted reading of history. What then does any of the references in the Bible mean to the church being the bride of Christ if, in your strange opinion, there wasn’t marriage originally thereby rendering the word “bride” meaningless.

            Why did Jesus ever have to be asked about divorce if in your completely strange opinion marriage never existed.

            Why was Jesus even present at a WEDDING at Cana in Galilee if marriage didn’t exist?

            It is directly stated in the Book of Common prayer:
            Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee …..”

            “…in the sight of God…”
            “…betwixt Christ and his church…”

            Jesus even tells us what marriage is in Matthew 19 precisely so that the Pharisees could not “nit-pick” over details.

            I am completely amazed how you only accept any evidence that supports your views and noticeably disregard all other evidence that refutes your views. It is hardly thoughtful or intellectual is it?

            Marriage is a sacrament because it is based upon the words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ:
            In Matthew 19 verse 6 Jesus directly says “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

          • Hi David R., I used the phrase ‘current reality’ to bring the focus back to the marriage sacrament which revisionists currently want to change.

          • Clive
            Where did I say marriage isn’t historical?
            Where did I say marriage is not considered a sacrament in some churches?
            Where did I say marriage never existed?

            Marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the RC church (since, I think, 1215).
            Marriage is not, for many Anglicans, a sacrament. The Reformed church recognises only two Dominical sacraments.
            Nowhere did I say that marriage never existed. It existed long before the church. And was, for centuries BCE and CE, a civil ceremony.
            The first marriage in Church is recorded in the 9th century.

            Please, consider your position before accusing others of only accepting evidence that supports your view. And please read what commentators actually write.

          • Actually Christine, I don’t think revisionists want to change the idea of marriage as sacrament. Most want to embrace it.

          • Penelope,
            In your original post you said:
            “…..Marriage wasn’t a sacrament until the 12th century and, some would argue, hasn’t been one since the Reformation.”
            So you clearly say marriage wasn’t a sacrament in spite of the words. Please stop attempting to twist what you say.

          • Which should read:
            Penelope,
            In your original post you said:
            “…..Marriage wasn’t a sacrament until the 12th century and, some would argue, hasn’t been one since the Reformation.”
            So you clearly say marriage wasn’t a sacrament in spite of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please stop attempting to twist what you say.

          • (reposting): Penny, I think your comments are really helpful, in that you disabuse those of us who reach for the ‘orthodox’ label from believing that Christians have, in practice, always believed the same thing about sex. They clearly haven’t.

            However, as I think Will is hinting at, noting changing views and practices, either of individuals, or of sub-cultures, whilst challenging us with reality, doesn’t actually demonstrate changing teaching of the Church.

            The C of E’s current teaching, as embodied in the liturgy, is in substantial continuity with the BCP, and whatever individuals did or taught, that represents the ‘teaching’ of the Church. So we are immediately back to 1662, and probably 1552.

            Before the Reformation, continuity is a little problematic–hence the need for the Reformation! But there is a good argument to say that the Reformed view (which we find in the BCP) is a good articulation of the teaching of the NT, and that different church leaders have at different times been more or less faithful to this.

            And I would now add: I think David R is mistaken in following Penny in identifying ‘orthodoxy’ with ‘teaching of particular groups or individuals’. We need to be more discerning about what is going on at different times in history. In relation to SSM, ‘simon’ = Simon Ponsonby’s comments are apposite, and I see no answer here or anywhere else to his question from the revisionist side. Whatever else has been the practice in relation to marriage, the exclusion of SSM from this has been strikingly consistent and universal.

            But I agree with Penny and others: marriage is not a sacrament in the C of E and many other Reformed churches, for the good reason that is it a ‘creation ordinance.’

          • Hi Ian and Clive
            To be perfectly frank, I don’t know whether marriage is a sacrament or not. The Catholic part of would say it is, the biblical bit not (I.e. that there are only two dominical sacraments).
            Ian, I think I partly agree about post a Reformation teaching on marriage (except I think that there is unacknowledged change): but I don’t think a Reformation teaching is the last Word, since it obscures earlier traditions.

        • Dear Simon
          Sorry for the delay in replying. Firstly, I find the story of your gat friend tragic. Not only because he left the church, but that he didn’t or couldn’t find an inclusive congregation who would have embraced him and the path he had chosen.
          You may have seen that I question the idea of biblical orthodoxy. Certainly, the church has orthodox doctrines. Some are biblical – the resurrection for example – others, such as the Trinity are implicit in scripture.

          What does the counsel of scripture say about marriage. As I said above, were the church Fathers wrong to read it one way and Luther another? The privileging of celibacy we read in the Fathers is closer to the teaching of the NT than Luther’s privileging of the married state. Is celibacy a sign of the eschatological age, as Ronert Song and others would argue, or was it already present in Judaism, as John the Baptist and Jesus himself seem to suggest? How do we read this counsel of scripture?

          Likewise, the whole counsel of scripture supports and mandates slavery? What hermeneutics did the abolitionists use?

          Likewise, the whole counsel of scripture demands the the gentiles will repent and turn to Judaism in the end times. What hermeneutics did Peter and Paul employ?

          Likewise a few passages in scripture prohibit male same-sex (not homosexual) sex (not What hermeneutic might a revisionist reading employ?

          I mean gut add that revisionist readings, such as the ones you cited, which see scripture as condemning homosexual relationships, are, in my opinion, anachronistic.

          Reply
          • Penelope –

            The NT does not mandate slavery. It tells slave owners that their slaves are their brethren. It counsels slaves to obtain their freedom if possible. It enjoins a slave owner to welcome back a runaway as a free man. It lists slave trading as sinful.

            The OT is about a people whom God has freed from slavery, and essentially forbids Jews from enslaving one another.

            If scripture mandated slavery why would Christian countries have restricted and opposed it from time to time throughout the Christian era, and eventually abolished it under, in part, an evangelical impetus?

            Also, Christians accept the Jewish scriptures and follow the teachings of a Jewish prophet to worship the Jewish God – so it seems the gentiles have turned to Judaism in the end times, albeit one transformed by the Messiah.

            Your comparisons break down on any but a superficial level.

          • Will
            The NT supports the institution of slavery, a support that gave a mandate to the continuation of slave owning – often by churchmen, like the Bishop of Exeter- until the 19 th century. The very metaphor of slave of Christ shows how deeply embedded into the culture slavery was and how unproblematic for writers of the NT.
            Yes, gentiles have turned to God but as gentiles, not on the terms of the Jewish Scriptures. I don’t often agree with Tom Wright, but I think he is right on this.

  18. Was tempted to add that too!!
    Also, why would our Lord play cruel games with his children in not revealing truth to us until now?

    Reply
  19. But what if life and history is not for reducing to simple opposites – right or wrong?
    Are we really claiming here that everything was totally revealed and completely apparent from day one? Have we really had nothing to learn? Did Adam and Eve really need to learn nothing in the garden? And down through history has science, biology, theology etc really added nothing to our understanding of things – because nothing more was needed? And if everything was totally, clearly revealed in the beginning why were our ancestors so mistaken about so much – like biology or cosmology?
    So I find the question ‘have we got it totally wrong for the last 2000 years’ misleading and unproductive. This is a category error because there is no ‘it’! Life is not for separating into binary opposites. There are no cruel games going either.
    There are other ways of framing the questions we need.
    One would be to ask, ‘in what ways is our incomplete understanding being challenged to continue growing and developing?’

    Reply
    • But as Simon P points out above, the argument for SSM is not about ‘growing and developing’ but about overturning a strong consensus, with substantial theology reason behind it.

      Reply
      • Ian
        ‘Growing and developing’ is my preferred way of speaking of the process that you call ‘overturning’.

        Reply
        • ‘Growing and developing’ is my preferred way of speaking of the process that you call ‘overturning’.

          But those two things are not the same at all! Have you not read The Abolition of Man (should be required for anyone trying to understand the modern world):

          ‘There is a difference between a real moral advance and a mere innovation. From the Confucian “Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you” to the Christian “Do as you would be done by” is a real advance. The morality of Nietzsche is a mere innovation. The first is an advance because no one who did not admit the vaUdity of the old maxim could see reason for accepting the new one, and anyone who accepted the old would at once recognize the new as an extension of the same principle. If he rejected it, he would have to reject it as a superfluity, something that went too far, not as something simply heterogeneous from his own ideas of value. But the Nietzschean ethic can be accepted only if we are ready to scrap traditional morals as a mere error and then to put ourselves in a position where we can find no ground for any value judgements at all. It is the difference between a man who says to us: “You like your vegetables moderately fresh; why not grow your own and have them perfectly fresh?” and a man who says, “Throw away that loaf and try eating bricks and centipedes instead.'”‘

          Reply
  20. I can see your point David but I think that most if not all of the basis of interpreting Scripture rests on whether Christ and his Apostles brought in the completion of Israrl’s Suffering Servant task to be a light to the Gentiles or whether more truth vital to salvation is still being revealed today. I guess that’s why I would hold classic proof texts such as 2 Tim 3:16&17 as being really important to that we may know we can be “2 Timothy 3:17 “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” And John John 16:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” Spoken specifically to the Apostles that we might be sure their writings could lead us into conclusive truth.

    All that doesn’t mean there is no more discovery of personal relationship beltween beluever and Lord, just that the basis for that relationship has been revealed. Rather like the terms of a treaty between nations. Once the terms of relationship have been laid down clearly, the living relationship can then get underway. If we think we can tinker with the terms to suit ourselves and behave as we wish then then there is no true relationship. Hence the need for repentance now and again when we break terms, seek reconciliation according to terms and aspire once again to what was originally agreed.

    Old fashioned stuff I know but have we authority to change it?
    Karl

    Reply
  21. David – well, it does boil down to where the locus and focus of authority lies. Many years ago (at Trinity) I was taught the Liberal looks to Culture, the Evangelical to Scripture, the Catholic to Tradition. A bit simple, but a pretty accurate template to see how people think. I know you have written & I’ve read your considered papers on this issue, and I think you seek to argue from within Church tradition and from Evangelical Scripture – but I think that when we shift so radically our ethics on human sexuality and make them say the very opposite to what we once believed, it is Culture that has had the loudest say.

    I wonder, do you accept Article 6 of the 39 Articles and see Scripture as sufficient or do you think with time and distance we now know better about such things? David, are you not the slightest bit concerned that the Church’s shift in thinking on sexuality is still struggling for any clear endorsement or commendation in Scripture, and still must ignore or do violence to the weight of Biblical teaching on sexuality? And aren’t you the slightest bit worried that the theological shift you support is totally in line the shifts in late C20th Western Relativist post Christian culture? Could the whole church really have all been so wrong for so long and now we must be grateful for revelation coming not from Scripture but culture?

    Reply
    • Simon
      ‘it does boil down to where the locus and focus of authority lies’.
      Actually I think it boils down to what kind of authority we are talking about in the first place.

      Reply
    • Simon
      I owe you a response to the second half of your post to me.
      You ask “aren’t you the slightest bit worried that the theological shift you support is totally in line the shifts in late C20th Western Relativist post Christian culture.” It is an important question. Here’s a very brief response within the limits of the discussion thread.
      I do not assume, nor think particularly biblical to assume, that if the ‘world’ or a prevailing culture has accepted something as ‘right’ it must be ‘wrong’. It will need careful questioning and discerning of course. And important insights will likely be mixed up with confusion and nonsense or even worse. But this line of argument can come very close to being Manichean in its focus. Church = good. ‘World’ = evil. Some of my early evangelical formation fell into that trap and left me with a legacy of fear and an unhelpful and unhealthy suspicion of ‘the world’. (Please also note that there remains a deeply violent ambivalence towards homosexuality in our society. Beware of suggesting somehow society has completely shifted on this one).
      Nor do I assume that the Christian church on earth, by contrast, is always to be found embracing everything right, good and holy. That certainly was not the case in the NT churches. Nor in Civil Rights America or Apartheid South Africa. Nor was the Church of England in the front line supporting abolishing slavery, votes for women, contraception, the reform of marriage law away from presumptions of ‘male property ownership’, or the full equality of women alongside men in church and society.
      Isaiah pictures God ‘shaving with a hired razor’ (7.20) to teach his people. I am not an uncritical supporter of culture. But I also believe, from scripture, that God can and does challenge and speak to his people through the wider world to remind or awaken us to things we have been missing, ignored and resisted. When that is happening our job is to watch and listen – and to catch up and join in.

      Reply
      • Thank you David

        Well, I can agree with all the above in principle whilst disagreeing with your application of it in believing homosexuality is something in culture that God is awakening his people to, and we must ‘catch up and join in’. How would we discern if this is an issue God is acting/speaking to his christian people through a non christian culture? Well, if the culture are saying what scripture clearly says then the Church must ‘catch up and join in’ but if the culture contradict Scripture and advocate what scripture condemns, then we must prophetically challenge culture. The Canons of Culture are not a procrustean bed where scripture’s teaching is accepted or rejected. Rather, we the church prayerfully and humbly begin again at the beginning with the Bible. In uncertain and confusing days we ask “what is the Spirit saying to the Church’ and whatever it is wont be contradictory to what the Spirit has said in his inspired Word. For God doesn’t change. David, you have satisfied your conscience that culture’s embrace of homosexual sex can be divinely blessed (in covenantal union) and the church needs to catch up and join with culture. But I dont see that in the Bible.

        Reply
        • Simon
          I am grateful for some common ground and for your gracious engagement with me across real differences.
          Here is where I come from. From my Bible College days onwards I have been blessed with significant friends who happen to be gay. They have all lived long in secrecy, pain and isolation in their churches because of this. They are as Bible and Christ centred as I aspire to be – and to several I owe a huge debt for their love and support at critical times in my life and faith. I have watched them struggle with scripture, with how they have been treated by churches that too often simply cannot cope with their known presence (even when they are celibate), and how the church has traditionally understood the bible to teach on same-sex relationships. In the evangelical world I was formed in homosexuality was the embodiment of everything evil and godless – very especially and horribly so.
          I have said before that I do not find any of the (few) familiar texts to describe anything like contemporary Christ-centred, faithful same-sex loving partnerships that I meet in among my friends. So what to do? It seems there is a category of people the bible does not directly, textually address – but who have been negatively labelled by the use of texts that have too long been presumed to do exactly that. The damage has been immense as it always is when scripture is mis-interpreted/applied as I believe it have been here.
          So yes, the continuing challenge of the people I meet and share fellowship with has forced me to revisit scripture and how it is interpreted.

          Reply
          • David, thank you for this helpful summary of the situation, which I think most of us would recognise. But in a sense you pose as many questions as you are addressing (which I think you know).

            What is it that makes gay people uncomfortable in churches, and churches uncomfortable with gay people? There are many factors, but alongside your experience I also need to put the experience of a number of gay friends of mine who have found quite the opposite. I think almost everyone is agreed that the current binary debate in the church has actually made it harder–primarily because those who are campaigning say loud and clear ‘The only way to welcome gay people is to change the understanding of sexuality and marriage in the church’. It is notable that two recent books don’t simply ask for ‘gay marriage’; they demand a complete reconsideration of sex and sexuality.

            And this is in a context of a culture which is galloping in this direction, and antagonistic to Christian faith–and campaigners within the church appear happy to hitch their wagon to this anti-christian agenda.

            On scripture, yes, I quite accept that you don’t ‘recognise’ these relationships in the verses in scripture. But then again, I don’t ‘recognise’ myself in Romans 1. That’s because I tend to read it socially, rather than theologically. Given that I am the Gentile half of the ‘all’ of Rom 3.23, then I am surely, theologically, present in Romans 1.

            If we cannot see ourselves in these texts, then I think there is some serious problem with our looking.

          • Will
            ‘traditionally in discussions people state their beliefs’.
            Not always. It depends amongst other things on who you are discussing with and what about.
            ‘you are not being careful to distinguish your position from theirs’
            Who are ‘they’? And how do you know? On this largely conservative blogsite I have chosen not to answer a question and I have explained why. I was not addressing the world. Just a few folk like you who are in the room. You do not actually know what I say or how I respond in other contexts.

        • Hello folks,

          butting in if I may… David R and simon, thank you for modelling courteous and careful disagreement in these exchanges. The whole sexuality ‘debate’ cries out for engagement that’s eirenic but rigorous (I suggest), and you’re helping take steps that way.

          simon, unsurprisingly I disagree that it’s accurate to say that the debate is about taking culture to be a ‘procrustean bed’ into which biblical teaching must be contorted to fit. I do not think that many of those arguing for change are merely adopting a cultural norm, nor suggesting the church somehow needs to ‘catch up’ (I’ve named names before, but am thinking of Eugene Rogers, Sarah Coakley, Rowan Williams, Gareth Moore OP, James Alison…).

          Further up, you say, rightly enough, “Are there any texts that celebrate gay sex/union – is there 1? No!” – but then, taken by itself, I’m not sure why this is such a strong argument. There are no biblical texts that support the lending of money at interest or the possession, let alone use, of weapons of mass destruction…

          On Romans 1 I would be interested to hear both you and Ian’s responses to Mike Higton’s reading: http://mikehigton.org.uk/on-the-bodys-grace-11-reading-romans-1/

          Ian, linked to that, could I pick up on a thing or two in your comment?

          Which are the “two books” you mention – if not Vicky Beeching’s or Jayne Ozanne’s, whose do you mean?

          “and campaigners within the church appear happy to hitch their wagon to this anti-christian agenda”… which campaigners, and could you provide links? I think any such statement needs to show what makes it warranted. I struggle to avoid concluding that the polarisation of this ‘debate’ has had as one effect, that you don’t always summarise accurately the views of those you disagree with. (I’m not for a moment suggesting you’re alone in that – hence the ‘rigorous’ above).

          On recognition in the text of Romans 1: I am not disputing Romans 3:23, nor 1 John 1:8. But are you suggesting that the only same-sex relationships observable around us are those of a piece with malice, greed, depravity, slanderousness, arrogance (to pick up some of the words from Romans 1)? On what basis do you take Romans 1 to say all that there is to say about same-sex relationships (or am I summarising your view inaccurately)?

          in friendship, Blair

          Reply
          • Blair
            Welcome to this discussion and thank you for expressing so clearly i some of the responses I was wondering how to make – particularly to Ian.

          • Hi Blair
            ‘butting in if I may’ –
            by all means –
            ‘ The whole sexuality ‘debate’ cries out for engagement that’s eirenic but rigorous (I suggest), and you’re helping take steps that way.’
            I am not sure I am either but would like to be both

            simon, unsurprisingly I disagree that it’s accurate to say that the debate is about taking culture to be a ‘procrustean bed’ into which biblical teaching must be contorted to fit. I do not think that many of those arguing for change are merely adopting a cultural norm, nor suggesting the church somehow needs to ‘catch up’ (I’ve named names before, but am thinking of Eugene Rogers, Sarah Coakley, Rowan Williams, Gareth Moore OP, James Alison…).

            ‘Catch up and join in’ was David’s phrase – I was echoing it back to him and asking catch up and join in with what? David argued (I believe) that on this issue culture is where the voice of God is speaking and the church lags behind. That looks to me like saying the Church should get in step with culture – the problem as I see it is that culture is contrary to Scripture on this.

            ‘….Further up, you say, rightly enough, “Are there any texts that celebrate gay sex/union – is there 1? No!” – but then, taken by itself, I’m not sure why this is such a strong argument. There are no biblical texts that support the lending of money at interest or the possession, let alone use, of weapons of mass destruction…’

            Respectfully, I think its a clincher and your counter is a non sequiter. If God is for homosexual sex, we would expect some evidence of that in Scripture but all we have is prohibitionary texts.

          • Simon
            ‘all we have is prohibitionary texts’.
            You assume those texts describe contemporary committed same-sex relationships. I would suggest that to any impartial observer the connection this is not obvious at all.
            The issue with those ancient texts is:
            ‘What activity are they actually describing?’ (do we even know?)
            ‘Why did they believe it so important to prohibit that activity and call it abhorrent?’
            And
            ‘Does it automatically follow we should do the same?’ (other things there are also described as ‘abhorrent’ that we do not now forbid)
            ‘In what way do those texts relate to human relating today?’ Is ‘this’ really ‘that’?
            And if ‘this’ is not ‘that’ then how are we to read the scriptures for a way of loving and human covenanting that it does not apparently, directly address?

          • The issue with those ancient texts is

            I suppose I should apologise for butting in too…

            … but it seems to me that this issue often gets bogged down in ‘how do we interpret these verses’ when really, the debate needs to get back to first principles. After all, when Jesus was asked about divorce, he didn’t start by reviewing the various verses about divorce from the Old Testament, he went straight to ‘why does marriage exist?’

            So it seems to me both sides need to answer the question, what is sex for, theologically? Why did God create a universe which contains sex? Why are humans creatures who can have sex?

            It is logically possible, I hope we agree, than God could have created a universe in which humans reproduce by budding, with some kind of extra mutative mechanism to ensure sufficient genetic diversity and to operate evolution. And yet He didn’t. Why?

            And only once we’ve sorted out a scripturally based view of what sex is theologically (rather than simply biologically) for can we hope to answer the question of what kinds of sex God intends humans to practise and what kinds are outwith His design and intent.

          • David ‘You assume those texts describe contemporary committed same-sex relationships.’

            Yes, I do, and think it reasonable to do so. The terms employed and descriptions offered (to a technical fault) in Rom1 seems straightforward on the matter.

            I simply dont think that by adding noble words such as ‘love’ or ‘faithfulness’ or ‘monogamous’ makes a categorical shift to what is addressed by Paul.

            And, again, I ask, what texts can you cite that homosexual sexual activity in any context, is created and blessed by God?

          • David I have to say that I find your argument here somewhat disingenuous because, like many other proponents of same sex relationships in the church, including Jayne Ozanne and Vicky Beeching, you have been frank elsewhere that you do not wish to restrict the new permission on same sex sexual behaviour to SSM or equivalent. So even if you could establish that biblical prohibitions don’t apply to SSM-type relationships, that isn’t really what you or many current proponents of reform or revision are really asking for, or where this is really all taking us. So can’t we look at justifications for what is really being proposed, rather than the possibly softer case of SSM, which is not really all that is on the cards.

          • Will
            Greetings
            I have no idea what you mean here …
            ‘you have been frank elsewhere that you do not wish to restrict the new permission on same sex sexual behaviour to SSM or equivalent’.
            Can you please clarify what you think to be my position?
            Thanks

          • Hi David

            This is what you wrote during our previous discussion:
            ‘First, I don’t think I actually said I opposed ‘sex outside (reformed) marriage’. I am more likely to say it is none of my business.
            Secondly, I would say conservative Christian approaches to ethics ‘tend’ to be reactionary and reactive. But in practice they can and do embrace new perspectives over time, some of which require careful and unsettling revisiting and re-interpreting of traditional readings of scripture…

            I am heterosexual male, an evangelical, ordained in a church and formed in a tradition that I have slowly learned has too often taught sex badly and caused great hurt and isolation in its consequent judgments and boundary making. I repent of this.
            So I am reluctant to respond to the demand for negative public pronouncements of this kind. I find more to admire than despair of or criticise among those seeking to live and love with integrity in a very confused world. Where there is trust and respect we speak honestly and lovingly challenge each other on these and other issues of fight and life as I am sure you do.’

            This is a long way from a clear affirmation of sexual purity outside marriage, I’m sure you’ll agree. And you endorse the positions of those like JO and VB who are very clear where they stand.

            The truth is what revisionists and other reformists want is a whole new teaching on sexuality and its proper contexts, not just endorsement of SSM, and, albeit with guarded ambivalence, you are backing this and its proponents.

          • Will
            Thank you for clarifying.
            Firstly, if I do not choose to offer an opinion on an issue then it is a bit risky to assume what I actually think about it.
            Secondly, I feel there is an intrusiveness about conservative discussions and speculations about same-sex love and intimacy in a way that heterosexuals are never subjected to here. I do not find that acceptable.
            Thirdly, if you track down further on that exchange (that I cannot now find) you will find I made a clear statement about why I was reluctant to respond to these kinds of questions in this way. It should have been clear from that that I am very far from taking no position or simply endorsing other viewpoints.
            Fourthly, I am an ordained minister who takes the task of preaching, teaching and pastoral care very, very seriously. So do not assume I say nothing. Please rather assume that I believe there is a time and a place for Christian challenges to life and holiness and people in these situations are often vulnerable, wounded and need responding too with care.

            So my position here is that I do feel you have not read me carefully and are making further unwarranted assumptions about what I believe. Nothing new in that on these threads. I too have mis-read comments here at times. And if my words have misled or confused you as to what I believe and how I minister I apologise – but let it be a mutual reminder of how difficult we find it to talk about this stuff at all.

          • Evening all (…or hello, hello, hello as RuPaul might say 😉 )

            thank you for the responses, David R and simon. Ian, I still hope that you might respond too…

            simon, as i said above you seem to me one of those who’s doing a fine job at seeking to be both eirenic and rigorous. (In a similar vein I should probably have said earlier that another thing that I think’s of crucial importance is accurately summarising the views of those who disagree – David S, among others, is often very good at that).

            I am continuing to disagree with you about biblical texts. “If God is for homosexual sex, we would expect some evidence of that in Scripture but all we have is prohibitionary texts” – but the reason for my “counter” above was that the same could be said (for example) of the lending of money at interest, yet it has proved possible to read those texts differently without ignoring /dismissing them. Some of us would like to suggest that similar moves could be made on this topic… in full awareness (I hope) of the extent of others’ disagreement.

            You say to David R that you “don’t think that by adding noble words such as ‘love’ or ‘faithfulness’ or ‘monogamous’ [it] makes a categorical shift to what is addressed by Paul”. But I don’t think that the (well, one) argument is reducible to that. Drawing on Mike Higton’s reading (see http://mikehigton.org.uk/on-the-bodys-grace-11-reading-romans-1/): it only makes sense for Paul to use same-sex desire/sex as a quintessential example if same-sex desire / sex can *only* be rapacious, of a piece with a life of insolence, arrogance, God-hating, slander etc. But, as Rowan Williams asks: “Is it not a fair question to ask whether conscious rebellion and indiscriminate rapacity could be presented as a plausible account of the essence of ‘homosexual behaviour’, let alone homosexual desire as it may be observed around us now?”

            To pick up on a couple of other things…:
            S – out of interest have you read Rowan Williams’ ‘The Body’s Grace’? It seeks to answer the question you pose. I’m not sure if it’s still available online.

            Will – I too am curious to know what you think it is that “is really being proposed”. I have several times listed the names of several scholars advocating only committed same-sex unions; it would be welcome if at least some of their work was engaged with.

            in friendship, Blair

          • David – that is only reassuring insofar as you seem to be insinuating in a roundabout way that you do think that sex outside of marriage-like relationships constitutes sexual immorality – though traditionally in discussions people state their beliefs rather than insinuate them, aiding clarity and rigour.

            Either way, many proponents of SSM also have in their sights the broader restrictions on sexual expression, and you are not being careful to distinguish your position from theirs. Many people just want the church to endorse the world’s ethic of ‘consenting adults’ (or not even adults as the age of consent is 16).

          • Hi S (do you have a longer name you’re willing to go by by the way?)

            I agree that this discussion should operate not only on the level of scriptural interpretation but also rational moral reasoning, not least because scripture itself refers to God’s original design of human beings as male and female and to the idea of things being ‘contrary to nature’. So defending scripture requires defending the logic behind it.

            To my mind the central facts are:
            1) the basic anatomical purpose of the human reproductive system, of which half is in the male and half in the female, and the union of which in sexual intercourse produces human offspring (when functioning correctly);
            2) the optimal (and proper) conditions for raising human offspring, namely by their own mother and father (with allowances made for tragic circumstances);
            3) the social and psychological factors which serve to reinforce the optimal conditions for children being raised by their own mother and father, namely respecting the sanctity of the exclusive permanent sexual relationship between a man and a woman.

            Together these facts entail that sexual intercourse should, in accordance with its anatomical purpose (the sexual union of male and female with a view to human reproduction) and for the sake of human flourishing, be reserved for permanent exclusive relationships between men and women into which children (the natural fruit of sexual union) can be welcomed. Anything less than this standard can only be contemplated as a concession to human weakness, with the necessity of doing so weighed up against the consequential harms.

            Same-sex sexual relationships are then ruled out because: they do not respect the divine design of human anatomy and human beings as male and female; they undermine socially and psychologically the sanctity of the exclusive sexual relationship between men and women; they provide a sub-optimal context for the raising of children, namely lacking either a mother or a father and without at least one of their own natural parents.

            Sexual activity isn’t ruled out which respects and reinforces the sanctity of the exclusive permanent relationship between men and women e.g. married couples using contraception or foreplay.

            I appreciate this is a very mechanical and functional account, and of course the full meaning of human sexuality has many dimensions on many levels of human experience, psychology and culture. But I think it is important to boil it down to its fundamental logic so we can understand the rationality behind the principles and commandments.

          • Simon,
            Just one small point : in Romans, Paul refers to ‘their’ women. That might suggest that the men in question weren’t ‘homosexual’.

          • Penelope and Simon – excuse me chipping in here.
            Penelope , I take it that you are referring to Romans 1:26 theleiai auton (their females)? My understanding of this is that ‘their’ refers back to ‘ anthropon’ in v.18, and that anthropos is a generic term for mankind/people, with no regard to sex, as ‘Homo Sapiens’ and English ‘men’ are also used as generic terms meaning mankind/people. I note that in v. 27 ‘arsenes’ is used for males. So the females and males mentioned in vv.26,27 are the males and females of the people mentioned in v.18.

          • Simon,
            Just one small point : in Romans, Paul refers to ‘their’ women. That might suggest that the men in question weren’t ‘homosexual’.

            Just one small question: have you ever met heterosexual men who were ‘consumed with their desire’ for homosexual sex and had given up heterosexual sex for homosexual sex? Presumably if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck….

            Christine – you are right to connect ‘their women’ with the anthropon of 1:18 who are either the human race or more narrowly pagan Gentiles, given the flow of Paul’s argument in Ch’s 1 -3.

          • Simon
            We cannot be at all sure what Paul is actually referring to here or (even more importantly) where he has come across this behaviour – because he does not tell us.
            Isn’t it more likely that those he is referring to were consumed with desire for any and all kinds of sex – that would fit well with the immoral chaos of the whole culture he describes? Explicit judgment, for Paul, is pronounced upon those exchanging what he calls their ‘natural’ passions. Answers on a post card as to what this actually means!
            But for the record I have met heterosexual men who were in different ways horribly obsessed with sex and indulged it with any who would join them, in any way.

            And I too consider the references to ‘their women’ most naturally suggests that what is being described are heterosexual men and women indulging – in whatever context and with whatever purpose – in sexual activity with people of the same sex. Quite how this came to be read as a blanket denunciation of natural homosexual desire has long escaped me. Once again ‘this’ is not ‘that’.

          • David

            The men do not want sex with women but with men – they are consumed with homosexual desire and practising homosexual sex. That makes them homosexual not heterosexual.

            Funny that this novel revisionist reading of Rom1 has only become popular in the past 20 years amongst those who are convinced homosexual sex is not a sin.

          • Simon

            Have you ever met heterosexual men who were consumed with desire…?
            1) Not met, but yes, in prisons and the military and in public schools, or so I’m led to believe.
            2) 1st century Graeco-Roman society didn’t share our concepts of homo and heterosexuality (as orientations), so men having sex with men was usually seen as hypersexual and as shameful, both by nascent Christianity and by some philosophers.

          • Thanks Christine
            That’s an interesting reading. Looking at the passage again I don’t think I agree. In v.18 Paul certainly seems to be addressing the wickedness of ‘mankind’, but I think vv 26 and 27 are about specifics, the ‘their’ referring to the men of v. 27.
            Incidentally (well not really incidentally!), I would argue that v 26 does not refer to the lesbianism of their females, but to some sexual practice regarded as illicit or particularly filthy (like the woman being on top, prostitutes charged more for that).

          • Thank you for replying, Penelope. I have just re-read the Greek text, and I just do not see how you have reached your conclusions about this text.

          • Simon
            One thing this is not is ‘Funny’. The consequences of misapplying these texts are, and have long been very serious – as I would hope even a conservative interpreter here would acknowledge.
            When it comes to the word ‘novel’ I could point out how recent the word ‘homosexual’ is. The first English bible translation to use the word ‘homosexual’ to translate the Greek was the RSV in 1946.
            I would call that novel .
            Overall I think you are relying on a very literal reading of Paul here. That is problematic not least given how little we know of what he is actually talking about.
            A heterosexual behaving sexually in ways culturally/traditionally assumed to be how ‘homosexuals’ do sex – and enjoying it – is not necessarily a homosexual in the contemporary understanding of this word.

          • Yes, you are quite right about the use of ‘homosexual’ to be novel. That is why I rarely use the term, and never refer to ‘homosexuality’ in debate, not least because no-one can agree on what it means, and it is certainly not a good translation of Paul’s language. Interesting, queer biblical scholarship often argues of the use of the term ‘sodomite’ because it locates Paul’s thinking better in the biblical canon.

          • But I am not sure why you say ‘how little we know of what Paul is talking about’. The texts are disputed, but ISTM primarily because of the ideological appropriation of Boswell’s work, which at the time was roundly dismissed as unpersuasive.

          • Blair, on the ‘campaigners hitching’ question, you don’t have to spend long in the wider C of E , and on Synod, to see this happening all over the place. I don’t know if ‘Blair’ is your real name, so I don’t know whether you are involved in C of E structures or know the main movers, but presentations to professional psychiatrists denouncing evangelical organisations and arguing that their practices should be made illegal, working with Pride in different cities, working with Stonewall, and posting videos on Facebook (as Lichfield Diocese now is doing) demonstrating how exclusive and unwelcoming the Church is, are all part of the picture.

            I don’t think the Romans 1 ‘says all that there is to say’ about same sex relationships, but it is part of the basic framework of Paul’s (and the NT’s) framework for making sense of them.

            As you will see set out in any good commentary, Paul is not in Romans 1 associating same-sex relationships with the social phenomenon of pagan worship; he is asserting the idolatrous nature of same-sex sex because, like other Jews of his day, he sees it as the rejection of the revelation of God in the created form of human bodies, which is part of the wider manifestation of God’s glory in the created realm. Again, like other Jews, he sees this as the acme of human revolt again God–but not the only form of revolt, which is why he goes on to locate this within a wider critique of pagan society. (He then, in chapter 2, matches this Jewish critique of pagan culture with a biblical critique of Jewish life, making the two halves of the ‘all’ in Rom 3.23–all means not every individual so much as ‘both Jew and pagan’).

            In other words, SS relations are not merely a feature of social idolatry; they are in themselves an expression of idolatry. And I think this is evident in the phenomena of same-sex relations that we see today. First, once you make the move from the external, biological form of bodies to the interior sense of desire to determine what sexual practices are holy, then you cannot simply advocate for SS marriage, but you must recognise the possibility that *all* sexual interests are valid. That is why Will linked above to observations about being attracted sexually to children, and why gay campaigners have also in the past advocated consensual sexual relationships with children. It is why bestiality laws are being repealed around Europe (if ‘harm’ and ‘consensus’ are your measures, what objection can you have?). It is why male SS relationships are overwhelmingly promiscuous in comparison with OS relationships. And it is why Vicky Beeching quite clearly argues that sex should happen in all sorts of contexts, and not just in committed quasi-marriages. It is the argument for polyamorous relationship, and why One Body One Faith argues that *all* sexual interests are (in Chris Cook’s words) ‘part of the natural diversity of God’s world’. You might not agree with all of these positions, but they are clearly and strongly present, because once you have made the move from ‘form’ to ‘sexual interest’ it is difficult to ring-fence exclusive, two-person, committed relationships.

            I take David R’s observation very seriously, also echoed by Justin, that some gay relationships appear to manifest many virtues, and I have a number of gay friends who are partnered but whom I admire greatly. But that is no contradiction to Romans 1. I am included in the list of vices in Rom 1.29-32 *not* because I have looked at this list with glee, rejected all the good things in my upbringing, and decided to live as a person of great wickedness. I am included because, outside of Christ, sin has me captive, and ‘I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips’, that is, I live and move and have my being in an idolatrous culture. I am am, inevitably, shaped by that culture–which is why God gives me the gift of Scripture as part of the ‘renewing of my mind’ so that I will not be ‘conformed to this world’. For my virtuous gay friends, whatever else I might admire in them, I believe that they have not, in this area of their lives, allowed that transformation of understanding to happen.

            For Paul, it is the rejection of bodily form in favour of sexual intention which is itself and idolatrous move. It might not lead to other forms of obviously idolatrous behaviour that we can observe, but is itself a rejection of the creation, and to that extent a rejection of the creator. I also think that this manifests in other aspects of gay culture. From a psychological point of view, it is difficult to see that the contradiction between biological identity (in which the male body is designed to pair with a female and vice versa) and sexual identity (in which the male body is paired with another male) would not lead to elevated incidents of mental health issues. And it is well documented that gay culture is highly narcissistic; because of the dominance of media in our culture, it is also true that we live in a narcissistic culture–so it is no surprise that this very small group (perhaps 1.5% of the population) absolutely dominates the entertainment sector.

            So, in short, I think Romans 1, as traditionally interpreted, is part of a consistent pattern of biblical theology, and one which there is no doubt Jesus was part of–and it actually offers a profound diagnosis of the present issues in our culture.

          • Amen Ian. There are indeed some same-sex pairs who have loving and committed relationships, but I am not happy when this is seen as a good reason to put pressure on the church to make SSM part of church doctrine. This kind of thinking is what I have come to think of as a ‘bank-balance’ attitude to virtues, an attitude which suggests that if we have enough virtues/ ‘credits’ to keep our overall ‘bank balance’ in ‘credit’, we need not worry about a few ‘debits’. ‘Credits’ and ‘debits’ co-exist in all of us, as Paul described so painfully in Romans 7, and we are all in debt to Christ, who frees us from our debts if we truly repent. 1 John 1:8

          • Hi Christine

            Because I do not see how ‘their’ females can refer to humankind’s females, especially in a culture where females were seen as possessions
            But mu Koine is pretty basic. I may be wrong!.

          • David, you ask: ‘Explicit judgment, for Paul, is pronounced upon those exchanging what he calls their ‘natural’ passions. Answers on a post card as to what this actually means!’

            ‘Natural’ here I think aligns with Philo’s use, and fits perfectly naturally into the flow of Paul’s argument. God has manifested himself in the created world, which includes bodily dimorphism of male and female (from the creation narrative) and bodies are made ‘naturally’ for sexual union.

            So ‘natural’ is other-sex sex, and ‘unnatural’ is same-sex sex.

            What problems are there with that reading?

          • Ian’s long comment just above (26 July, 10.30) is a good summary which would repay reading slowly and interacting with. I say this partly because this debate is scandalously interminable (and I characterise it as time-wasting within the larger context) because people forget or ignore the good points that have already been made, the good analyses that have already been undertaken. I would go so far as to say that that tendency is the best way of identifying those who are keen to time-waste.

          • David R

            So now you’re policing my words???? Come off it. ‘Funny that’ has a whole semantic range and in context you know it meant ‘strange that’ – no-one is laughing here. Don’t try to take some higher moral ground by putting me down for my words.

            You criticise my use of the term ‘homosexual’ yet you describe yourself above as ‘heterosexual’ a term even more modern. Homosexual is perfectly adequate modern term to categorise male to male sex – the very thing clearly described in Rom1.

            You appear to lean to the same novel reading on Rom1- enthusiastically embraced by Liberal revisionists and wholesalely rejected by Biblical scholars – made by the historian, and friend of Foucault, John Boswell’s.

            I think Christopher below is right – so i’m gone

          • out of interest have you read Rowan Williams’ ‘The Body’s Grace’?

            I haven’t read it but I have now looked up some reviews. It seems like the thesis is that the theological purpose of sex is so that we can open ourselves up to others, experiencing intimate vulnerability — is that a fair summary? If not (I am working second-hand) please correct.

            If that is the case, perhaps you could explain where in scripture that idea comes form?

          • Hello again folks,

            Ian, thanks very much for your extended comment in response to me. This is an attempt at a reply…

            Briefly first: I’m curious as to who the queer scholars are who’ve advocated the use of ‘sodomite’; though perhaps disputing that would just open another can of worms. Also, you then said to David R “The texts are disputed, but ISTM primarily because of the ideological appropriation of Boswell’s work” – I’d like to challenge that and suggest that’s by no means the only reason. See e.g. Rowan Williams’ essay in ‘The way forward?’ (from which I quoted in my comment of 25/7, 7.14pm) and Gareth Moore OP’s work (‘A question of truth’ for example).

            Just to clarify: Blair is my real first name. I’m not involved in C of E structures. I’d gladly be more autobiographical if we were meeting in person.

            I am continuing to plead for you to name names and quote people, rather than reporting indirectly (picking up your response to the ‘campaigners hitching…’ point). It’s very clear to me from comments on here (e.g. yours and simon’s) how attacked & beleaguered conservatives feel on this topic, and obviously whatever I say won’t calm those fears, but I would plead also that you don’t give such fear too much houseroom. (Is it too naive to hope that conservatives’ feelings might lead to more empathy for how those of us who are gay have felt – and indeed vice versa? I do mean this both ways, and not mere lip-service, from either ‘side’…).

            On Romans 1: I accept that “Paul is not in Romans 1 associating same-sex relationships with the social phenomenon of pagan worship” but rather sees same-sex desire/sex as a fitting punishment for having exchanged the glory of God for idols (v. 23, 24). I largely agree when you then say Paul “sees this as the acme of human revolt again God–but not the only form of revolt, which is why he goes on to locate this within a wider critique of pagan society”. It seems to me that keeping this link is crucial, because Paul’s argument depends on it. Later in your comment you seem to me to break this link: you accept “that some gay relationships appear to manifest many virtues, and I have a number of gay friends who are partnered but whom I admire greatly. But that is no contradiction to Romans 1”. I don’t see how there is not at least some contradiction to Romans 1 in making that observation. Paul does not abstract same-sex desire / sex from a pattern of life; he says it is a prime motif of a pattern of life, whereas you suggest that it can be detached from such a pattern of life yet still be condemned as though it hadn’t been.

            Mike Higton puts it this way: “It *only* makes sense for Paul to put a description of homosexual desire in the centre of this passage if, for him, homosexual desire unlike heterosexual desire *automatically* means a form of sexual desire in which the individual’s gratification has become the central, the all-consuming element – if, for him, homosexual desire *automatically* means a form of sexual desire which by its very nature is incapable of the kind of loving mutuality that we have been discussing all along. If that is not what Paul is assuming, his argument makes no sense” (emphases in original; link given in a previous comment).

            You go on to say, “It [same-sex sex] might not lead to other forms of obviously idolatrous behaviour that we can observe, but is itself a rejection of the creation, and to that extent a rejection of the creator” – but again, Paul’s argument is that it is inevitably linked to other forms of idolatrous behaviour that are observable (v. 29ff).

            It seems to me that your reading also bypasses other problems with a conservative view, such as that the oft-mentioned distinction between ‘orientation’ and ‘practice’, or whatever words would be better, does not appear in the text. There is also the point that simon alluded to: “Just one small question: have you ever met heterosexual men who were ‘consumed with their desire’ for homosexual sex and had given up heterosexual sex for homosexual sex?” But what does the first part of v. 27 mean, if not that?

            A few further thoughts (not to mention medals for anybody still awake…):
            “First, once you make the move from the external, biological form of bodies to the interior sense of desire to determine what sexual practices are holy, then you cannot simply advocate for SS marriage, but you must recognise the possibility that *all* sexual interests are valid”. That simply does not follow and I suggest is arguing by false dichotomy: it is not the case that it’s either other-sex sex within marriage, or a complete free-for-all with no criteria / constraint whatever.

            “That is why Will linked above to observations about being attracted sexually to children, and why gay campaigners have also in the past advocated consensual sexual relationships with children”. That looks like a smear by association; I do not think you could quote any mainstream campaigner who *currently* advocates this. (As a slight aside here: please remember / be aware that the Sexual Offences Act 2003 actually raised the age of consent to 18 in some contexts – it’s easy to look up online if you want to check that. I am not aware of any campaign to overturn this, let alone lower the general age of consent).

            “It is why bestiality laws are being repealed around Europe” – here yet again is my plea for links and examples…

            “It is the argument for polyamorous relationship, and why One Body One Faith argues that *all* sexual interests are (in Chris Cook’s words) ‘part of the natural diversity of God’s world’” – I’m not at all sure it is the argument for polyamory, but far more importantly (that stuck record again) please give quotes / links for where 1B1F has argued that.

            “And it is well documented that gay culture is highly narcissistic” – I accept there’s truth in that – but then as you say yourself, wider culture has narcissistic elements too, so why should only ‘gay culture’ be singled out? More importantly, are you trying to suggest here that same-sex desire is inherently narcissistic? If so, that would be more problematic, I’d suggest…

            Doubtless I’ve gone on too long… thank you again for your fuller engagement Ian, and others.

            in friendship, Blair

          • On ‘sodomites’ I am reporting attending the Queer Bible seminars at the international SBL academic conference.

            On individuals who are campaigning, I am not going to name names here, but most of those on Synod are very well aware. The campaigns include recent books published.

            On Romans 1, several things. First, you comment: ‘It seems to me that keeping this link is crucial, because Paul’s argument depends on it. Later in your comment you seem to me to break this link: you accept “that some gay relationships appear to manifest many virtues, and I have a number of gay friends who are partnered but whom I admire greatly. But that is no contradiction to Romans 1”.’ But I am doing something different from Paul. I am commenting on individual biographies; Paul is clearly offering a theology of sinful humanity, not portraying individual biographies. (He does something similar in Romans 7).

            When Mike Higton comments: ‘“It *only* makes sense for Paul to put a description of homosexual desire in the centre of this passage if, for him, homosexual desire unlike heterosexual desire *automatically* means a form of sexual desire in which the individual’s gratification has become the central, the all-consuming element – if, for him, homosexual desire *automatically* means a form of sexual desire which by its very nature is incapable of the kind of loving mutuality that we have been discussing all along. If that is not what Paul is assuming, his argument makes no sense”’ I think he is making a logical error. For Paul, it is the departure from the natural form of the sexual body which makes same-sex sex idolatrous. Paul is saying that, when desire rather than form shapes our sexuality, things are bound to go awry. And that is, in fact, evidenced in the social-scientifically demonstrated differences between SS relations and male-female relationships–something the gay community often appear to be very clear about.

            ‘Paul’s argument is that it is inevitably linked to other forms of idolatrous behaviour that are observable’. Again, Paul is talking about pagan culture as a whole, and not about individual biographies. We see exactly the same theological anthropology of sin the in Psalms which he goes on to quote in chapter 3.

            I am not sure what you mean by the ‘problems with the distinction between orientation and practice’. That is simply a distinction between desire and action. Do you not think they can be distinguished?

            Peter Tatchell used to advocate child sex; he won’t do so now because he would be prosecuted.

            OBOF don’t appear to set any limits on their affirmation of sexuality: ‘It is the conviction of the members of OneBodyOneFaith that human sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity in all their richness are gifts of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured as a way of both expressing and growing in love’. When I looked some time ago on their FB pages, people were happy to post graphics supporting the whole diversity of secular ‘sexualities’.

            I am not singling out gay culture as narcissistic by denying other subcultures are too. But there needs to be some accounting for why media culture is so dominated by gay men and women, and I am offering that.

          • Blair, immaturity has a low boredom-threshold.

            Secondly, one central ‘point’ of sexual indulgence is that transgression itself provides the necessary zing (in an arena of diminishing returns).

            These two points can give a clue to why such people diversify in their sexual practice; others have used the term ‘hypersexuality’ and I would concur – nor is that a million miles from ‘pansexuality’.

            However, true though all that is, the main point is that Paul does not configure things in terms of homosexual/heterosexual. These 2 deceptively similar terms (that is exactly why ‘heterosexual’ was coined – to make them seem equal options, forgetting the obvious lesson taught by biology and childbirth) are only the way our culture configures things. Paul will have heard of more settled homosexual behaviour, yes, but will not have regarded it as natural. There is absolutely no way that good exegesis can begin from a 21st century standpoint!

            And, worse, the 21st century is itself inaccurate in configuring things in this way. Biology is innate, but how can desire be similarly innate in those who do not desire till age 7? From many angles, statistics indicate the priority of environment and circumstances here – as has very often been rehearsed (see What Are They Teaching The Children? ch.11). So – the terms ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘homosexual’, ‘orientation’ – these are themselves the problem. Whoever made them the unargued basis of the debate was crafty.

          • Christopher – I agree that this whole area is skewed by the language in which it is conducted. Terms like gay, lesbian, orientation, homosexual, transgender are all ambiguous and ill-defined, but serve the purpose of establishing in people’s minds and in law the idea of natural or ontological categories, objective types of people which need to be protected as such. It is from this unfortunate (and ideological) use of language that so much of the present difficulties flows. Sexual minorities is even worse – what boundaries could there possibly be to such a concept?

          • Simon
            I have no wish to fall out with you. I am sorry if my response to your opening sentence angered you. But I wonder if you can understand how it might have read to me in this context – ‘funny how’ as an opening response to the kind of comment you went on to make easily reads like ‘well how very convenient …’.
            You then return to a familiar generalised claims about liberal revisionists …
            I stand by all I have written there and elsewhere … and by my intention to listen to and respect views that I strongly disagree with.

          • David, I am curious that you haven’t responded to my substantial observations about Romans 1, in response to various of your comments. Has the discussion worn you out…?!

          • Hi Christopher and Will,

            just briefly: I’m not sure how some of your comment connects with what I was droning on about above, Christopher. I accept that Paul isn’t simply conceiving of things as hetero/homosexual, but Romans 1 does seem to make a fairly sharp divide between same-sex and other-sex sex/desire, so I’m not sure how far that takes us. (Out of interest have you a reference for your comment about the coining of heterosexual? I’d thought that the original use of the hetero/homo binary was to pathologise / medicalise the latter…. I confess that I don’t have a reference for that but will try and look later when I’ve more time).

            “Paul will have heard of more settled homosexual behaviour” – but how do we know? It seems to me both ‘sides’ can appeal to what Paul might / not have known to support their arguments – but how would we decide, beyond reasonable doubt, what exactly he’d have known?

            On your last paragraph: again I’m not sure this takes us anywhere much. If I were asked if I thought I was ‘born gay’, I would reply, no – because I don’t believe that anybody is born with a fully-fledged sexual orientation. Of course there has to be an environmental element to a person’s sexual attractions; but that doesn’t make them pathological. It simply isn’t the case that congenital = biological = innate =therefore ‘natural’/non-pathological, nor is it true that conditions that aren’t congenital or solely genetic are automatically pathologies. Apologies if i have misunderstood you here.

            Will – Stonewall does have a glossary giving clear definitions of such words… 🙂

            S – I don’t think that’s an accurate sketch of ‘The body’s grace’. I would urge you to read the text of it and also to look at Mike Higton’s series of readings of it (e.g. http://mikehigton.org.uk/on-the-bodys-grace-10-biblical-foundations/).

            in friendship, Blair

          • “Paul will have heard of more settled homosexual behaviour” – but how do we know?’ Well, a FB friend of mine, John Pike, who would like to see the Church affirm SSM, read 700 texts exploring the ancient world and sexuality, and he concluded just that. As a result, he believes that all the special pleading that ‘Paul didn’t know what we now know’ was just wishful thinking, and that the honest position is to say that the Bible is wrong.

            https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/were-loving-faithful-same-sex-relations-known-in-antiquity/

          • I don’t think that’s an accurate sketch of ‘The body’s grace’. I would urge you to read the text of it and also to look at Mike Higton’s series of readings of it (e.g. http://mikehigton.org.uk/on-the-bodys-grace-10-biblical-foundations/).

            So I read that link but again it seems to be all about finding Biblical justification for a particular sexual ethic; it doesn’t seem to address the point I was raising about what the theological purpose of sex is. What is sex for? Why did God create humans as beings which can have sex, when He didn’t have to? What is the point of sex?

            Obviously modern culture has a simple answer to that question: it’s for pleasure, and anything mutually consensual which gives rise to pleasurable sensations is good. But that can’t be the Christian view, can it? So what is the Christian view on the purpose of sex?

            (‘It’s for procreation’, again, is too simple an answer, because, as I wrote above, God could have made humans in such a way that they procreated without sex. He didn’t. So there must be a purpose for sex which is not just about procreation; it must be related to procreation, but it must go deeper than that.)

            Because it seems to me that you can’t even begin to try to work out which forms of sex are within Gods intent, and which are without, until and unless you know what that intent is.

            If I didn’t get the right understanding of Williams’s answer to that question from my second-hand sources, as is quite possible, indeed likely, could you summarise the answer to that question, please?

          • Dear David
            you didn’t anger me –
            but it is clear we have reached an impasse –
            we know where we both stand and we are very far apart-
            there is no need for us to rehearse our views and risk moving from disagreement to insult. What I believe to be morally sinful you believe can be virtuous and divinely blessed. That is an irreconcilable difference of conscience. But we both live by grace and meet at the level ground of the cross and now we know in part and one day we will know fully
            peace
            simon

          • Hi S

            You say:
            ‘It seems to me that you can’t even begin to try to work out which forms of sex are within God’s intent, and which are without, until and unless you know what that intent is.’

            This is right, but how do you propose we discover what that intent is? It can’t be anything mysterious, or which requires special revelation – it must be observable to human reason, since marriage is a creation ordinance and part of the natural moral law. That’s why it applies to everyone and not just to Christians, and why it is present throughout human cultures. You say it can’t just be about procreation, because God could have made us to reproduce asexually. But that doesn’t follow: even if God could have made us to reproduce asexually, the fact is that he has constituted human reproduction to occur sexually, and the purpose of sexual intercourse could just be to reproduce in the way God intended us to. And indeed, from an anatomical point of view that is precisely the purpose of the human sexual organs (consider how they’re called genitals because they generate new life). From a moral point of view we don’t need to know anything more about God to discern the moral law of sex and marriage, since it follows from the nature of sex and its natural form and consequences (see my argument above for this in more detail https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/the-church-of-england-teaching-document-on-sexuality/comment-page-1/#comment-353547). If this wasn’t the case then the pattern of marriage wouldn’t be knowable by natural reason and so wouldn’t have become embedded in cultures throughout history.

            It is I agree interesting to wonder why God gave human reproduction the form that he did. I suspect some of it will be that there are very few ways of ensuring a good mixing of genes over a large number of generations without generating too many errors (mutation is notoriously error prone). Plus of course the value for the nurture of human offspring to have a male and female parent to give special care with their special function and form. There is also the cosmic dimension of Christ’s relationship with the church being reflected in marriage, which is usually understood in terms of the church being a pure bride eagerly awaiting her groom (I don’t know if anyone has any deeper insights about this aspect?).

            Do you think there’s more to it than this? What do you think that is and how do we come to know about it?

          • Evening Ian,

            thank you for the link to the thread from last year.

            Could I emphasise that my argument is not ‘Paul didn’t know what we now know’; I was responding to Christopher’s point and you didn’t quote my next sentence, asking how we can know *beyond reasonable doubt* what Paul did/not know.

            John Pike’s article doesn’t, I suggest, take us beyond reasonable doubt: “However, others have disputed that Plato was aware of same-sex unions that were the equivalent of today’s same-gender, monogamous partnerships…”; “There is no record of same-gender female relationships in Rome”; “Scholarly opinions differ on these questions [whether ancient writers had any awareness of what we might label orientation]”; “Mark D. Smith, although of a conservative persuasion, urges caution in drawing too many conclusions from some of the material cited by Gagnon and others”; “Some of the manifestations of homoeroticism that Paul would probably have been familiar with, including paedophilia, pederasty and prostitution (especially with slaves), are very far removed from loving, committed, faithful gay relationships today”… and so on.

            There were some very cogent comments, notably from John Hooker and Richard. The former concluded, “The fact that both sides indeed ought to deal with … is that those are quite sound and correct who state that, for the ancients, the only laudable or normal same-sex relationships were exploitative and unequal ones, involving generally slaves, children, or prostitutes”. The latter concurred and said, “I came to similar conclusions when I read the primary sources”. John Pike himself responded to their comments in May this year, concluding, “I think there is a discussion to be had about the precise nature of these loving or consensual relationships, and I think they were probably very different from those today, but I’m sure that, in general terms, they existed”.

            In light of this I would suggest it’s not quite as you’ve summarised… although having cut and pasted all that, I still can’t help thinking that arguing *in whichever direction* on the basis of what Paul did or didn’t know won’t take us very far, and looks rather susceptible to bias and / or begging the question.

            in friendship, Blair

          • This is right, but how do you propose we discover what that intent is?

            Well the usual way to discover God’s intent is to read the Bible, which is why I am trying to find out (a) what Williams’s view actually is and (b) how reading the Bible leads to it.

            You say it can’t just be about procreation, because God could have made us to reproduce asexually. But that doesn’t follow: even if God could have made us to reproduce asexually, the fact is that he has constituted human reproduction to occur sexually, and the purpose of sexual intercourse could just be to reproduce in the way God intended us to

            But why did He choose that way for us to reproduce? Assuming God doesn’t toss coins just as much as He doesn’t play dice, and assuming that a way could have been figured out to have evolution and genetic diversity work sufficiently with asexual reproduction (something that is surely not beyond the wit of God) there must be a reason for the human race being sexually dimorphic.

            (I know what I think the reason is. But I don’t want to say until I’ve heard what the side who apparently holds Williams’s view thinks it is, and how they got there from scripture).

          • Hello again Ian,

            thank you for your response to (most of) my yard-long comment from earlier.

            i) I think there are many good reasons for avoiding the term ‘sodomite’ but thank you for noting the source.

            ii) I can understand why you might not want to name names, though that doesn’t help those of us who aren’t on synod… would you be willing to name the books you had in mind though?

            iii) “But I am doing something different from Paul. I am commenting on individual biographies; Paul is clearly offering a theology of sinful humanity, not portraying individual biographies”. But you’re applying your reading of Romans 1 to individual biographies, for one thing (“I believe that they [ie your partnered gay friends] have not, in this area of their lives, allowed that transformation of understanding to happen”); for another, there cannot be a complete disjunction between sinful humanity and individual biography. Indeed your previous post connected the two, in arguing that you yourself are impacted by living in an idolatrous culture.

            (Slight aside here: you’re commendably keen to recognise yourself in Romans 1, as you suggest we all should, as part of an argument building towards “all have sinned…”; we’re all equally under judgement. But I suggest that your reading of Romans 1 contradicts that in some degree – we’re all equally under judgement but those of us with same-sex desire / in same-sex relationships are more under judgement than others, as it were; as you said to David R, ” ‘natural’ is other-sex sex, and ‘unnatural’ is same-sex sex”.)

            iv) I’m not clear what you’re suggesting Mike Higton’s logical error consists in; it seems to me he is outlining the logic of Paul’s argument. “Paul is saying that, when desire rather than form shapes our sexuality, things are bound to go awry” – that is questionable, surely? Paul speaks of same-sex desire specifically, not desire in general, for one thing…

            v) “I am not sure what you mean by the ‘problems with the distinction between orientation and practice’. That is simply a distinction between desire and action. Do you not think they can be distinguished?”
            I do accept that desire and action can be distinguished – but you don’t quote accurately what I said, which was, “It seems to me that your reading also bypasses other problems with a conservative view, such as that the oft-mentioned distinction between ‘orientation’ and ‘practice’, or whatever words would be better, does not appear in the text”. My point was that Paul doesn’t distinguish in Romans 1 between desire and action on this topic, whereas a conservative view typically does.

            vi) “Peter Tatchell used to advocate child sex; he won’t do so now because he would be prosecuted”. I’m not sure that advocating child sex is a criminal offence, though if it isn’t perhaps it should be. But in any case, no campaigner within the church is advocating any such thing, and there isn’t any logical connection between campaigning for the church to recognise committed same-sex unions, and advocating child sex.

            vii) I’m still not sure what point you’re trying to make about narcissism; is it actually true that ‘media culture’ is dominated by gay people? If so, does it need accounting for? Would you accept a parallel argument that there are also disproportionately high numbers of gay people in the caring professions, and that this too needs accounting for?

            in friendship, Blair

          • The virtue of using the word ‘sodomite’ is a. that it focusses on a particular action, rather than a psychological construction of sexuality, which is surely closer to what the biblical texts do and b. that is locates the NT language in its canonical context. The word might sound derogatory, but that is a contemporary cultural overlay.

            To see the books concerned, just go back through recent posts on this blog.

            Yes, I move between a theology of humanity and individual biography, but why is that a problem? We all, as individuals, need to get to grips with Paul’s theological anthropology. I don’t argue that ‘those with same-sex desire are under judgement more than others’, and Paul doesn’t when read as a critique of culture. It would be hard to argue that Paul sees same-sex sex as more sinful and so warranting of judgement than ‘wickedness, evil, greed and depravity’ or being ‘full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice’ and so on. Paul doesn’t see sexual sin as worse–but in his culture (getting his Jewish readers to cheer him on) as the clearest evidence of sin in pagan culture. I think this is a similar dynamic to the way that same-sex sex is mention in the Sodom episode: it clearly demonstrated how depraved they were, as (in context) it was perceived as the acme of depravity. That doesn’t mean that *we* need to see it as the acme of depravity—but we need to be aware of the shape of the argument.

            The reason why I think Higton is wrong is that he misses Paul’s focus on wrong acts. I think Paul sees the problem of people giving themselves over to desire, expressed in action.

            Yes, I think the dominance of one small group so markedly in the media does need accounting for, because broadcast media are so influential in culture. I think presence in the caring professions also needs accounting for, and can be done so by understanding gay men as physically male, but socialised as female. I think this is also why gay men are iconic in our culture, as they represent the desired sense of male strength bound together with female sensitivity, so that gay men are men that women can feel safe around. This in turn expresses our culture’s desire for the perfect *individual* (who combines the virtues of the male and the female in one person) rather than finding humanity perfected in a partnership, union or community.

          • Hi S

            It’ll be interesting you see what response you get and what your view is.

            However your claim that we discover God’s intent for sex from scripture isn’t right if by that you mean we cannot discover it from rational engagement with nature. Marriage, like the moral law more generally, is a creation ordinance knowable by human reason under the general revelation to reason. That’s why the Bible says the law is written on the hearts of humankind and why all are judged for failing to keep it.

            I don’t share your confidence in the possibilities for asexual reproduction. Nature displays all kinds of ways of reproducing, but very few are asexual, for reasons that are well-established eg ensuring genetic variety without loss of genetic stability. There is a lizard that has developed the ability to reproduce asexually, but they are all clones.

            But in any case, even if we can ask why God has made us to reproduce sexually, it is still the case that God has made us sexual in order to reproduce sexually, and so his intent for human sexuality is, in a very basic level, reproduction. Sexuality isn’t only about reproduction of course but it is about reproduction, and irreducibly so – the reason we know that males are supposed to be attracted to and have union with females, that that is the intention of nature despite what some individuals may feel, is because of what happens when they do. God’s design of the distinctive form and powers of male and female only makes sense in the context of reproduction. And humanity didn’t need to wait for the Bible to discover this or the morality of sex and marriage. Indeed – the Bible itself says as much.

            We don’t want to get into a position where we can only defend marriage by quoting scriptural texts.

          • It’ll be interesting you see what response you get and what your view is.

            Well, I’ve now got the Williams text so I suppose I have no excuse not to read it.

            However your claim that we discover God’s intent for sex from scripture isn’t right if by that you mean we cannot discover it from rational engagement with nature

            Hm. I disagree. My general view is that though general revelation, meaning rational engagement with nature (including our consciences) we can work out the general shape of how God meant the world to be (so, for example, that murder is wrong) but that to get to the reasons why and to understand the full intent of God, we need special revelation; and that it’s only by so properly understanding God’s intent, that we can (a) deal correctly with difficult, edge cases (like is assisted suicide murder?) and (b) properly resist the arguments of those who would try to twist observations of nature to reach wrong conclusions (like when Nietzsche argued that in nature the species evolves when the weaker members are killed by the stronger, therefore it is right among humans for the strong to murder the weak).

            For there are clearly things that happen in nature, that are not God’s intent, due to this being a fallen, corrupted world. So we simply cannot just reason from ‘what happens in nature’ to ‘what ought to be’ without being able to distinguish between ‘what happens in nature, and is the way things ought to be and would be even if the Fall had never happened, and therefore can be used as evidence for determining the moral law’ and ‘what happens in nature but only because of the Fall, and therefore should be ignored for the purposes of determining the moral law’.

            And seeing as the world is totally corrupt (with the proper meaning, of course, that every part is touched by corruption, not that any part is entirely corrupt, with no trace of the original left; evil has no originality, all evil is corrupted good and retains some trace of the good, which is what makes it attractive) we can never be sure form mere observation of nature, which bits of nature it is we ought to be observing and which we ought to be ignoring. to make that determination requires something from outside of nature; ie, the special revelation of scripture.

            Which is why I want to know from each side how their reading of scripture led to their theory of the intent behind sex.

          • Hi S

            Your assertion that scripture is required to know the moral law because nature is ambiguous is wrong and contrary to the teaching of scripture itself.

            All arguments I’ve seen against assisted dying are rational moral arguments. Which scriptures are you thinking of which state God’s will on this clearly?

            Scripture itself teaches that same sex sexual behaviour is ‘contrary to nature’ and that marriage is ‘from the beginning’.

            You argued that we can’t ‘even begin to try to work out which forms of sex are within Gods intent, and which are without, until and unless you know what that intent is.’ Which contradicts your claim now that through reason ‘we can work out the general shape of how God meant the world to be (so, for example, that murder is wrong)’.

            The experience of humankind shows that the morality of marriage is knowable by reason, since all cultures have marriage.

            Scripture can add to our understanding of marriage eg the image of Christ’s relationship to the church. And it can confirm the observations of reason and help us avoid error. But we are not dependent on scripture to know the moral law or the creation ordinance of marriage, and scripture itself tells us so.

            Incidentally Nietzsche was wrong because we know that the rational nature of humankind bears the image of God (shares in the rational order of the universe and the divine mind behind it) and so is sacred and to be respected and protected. Rational nature, note, not just an individual being rational, before anyone claims this authorises the mistreatment of the mentally impaired.

          • All arguments I’ve seen against assisted dying are rational moral arguments. Which scriptures are you thinking of which state God’s will on this clearly?

            The ones that point out that human life belongs to God, not to us, and that this is why we are not to end a life prematurely unless operating under some legitimate authority from God.

            How could you deduce that from nature?

            You argued that we can’t ‘even begin to try to work out which forms of sex are within Gods intent, and which are without, until and unless you know what that intent is.’ Which contradicts your claim now that through reason ‘we can work out the general shape of how God meant the world to be (so, for example, that murder is wrong)’.

            Okay, I may have exaggerated a little. We can begin to do so. But we cannot put it on a firm logical foundation (as opposed to just being observations and deductions about the contingent world) without understanding God’s intent, and for that we need special revelation.

            Incidentally Nietzsche was wrong because we know that the rational nature of humankind bears the image of God (shares in the rational order of the universe and the divine mind behind it) and so is sacred and to be respected and protected.

            But the only reason we know that is because of special revelation. There is absolutely no way to prove simply from observation of nature that the rational nature of humankind bears the image of God.

            (Heck, there’s no way to prove even the existence of God from simple observation of nature, any more than Hamlet could by observation of Elsinore prove the existence of Shakespeare).

            Rational nature, note, not just an individual being rational, before anyone claims this authorises the mistreatment of the mentally impaired.

          • Hi S

            Scripture says that ‘what the law requires is written on their hearts’ (Romans 2:15) and that God can be known through ‘the things he has made’ (Romans 1:19-21). So your assertions to the contrary – that God’s existence or the moral law cannot be known without scripture or special revelation – is contrary to the teaching of scripture itself.

            The principle that humanity bears the image of the divine is found in Plato and Cicero and throughout Stoic philosophy. It is evident because the human mind is uniquely suited to comprehending the rational designs of the Creator.

            All of creation belongs to God but that doesn’t by itself tell us what we may or may not do with any given part of it.

          • Scripture says that ‘what the law requires is written on their hearts’ (Romans 2:15) and that God can be known through ‘the things he has made’ (Romans 1:19-21). So your assertions to the contrary – that God’s existence or the moral law cannot be known without scripture or special revelation – is contrary to the teaching of scripture itself.

            No, it isn’t.

            Firstly, what the law requires is written on their hearts: but why the law requires it, is not. Our consciences tell us when we are about to do something wrong, or make us feel guilty when we have done something wrong; but that is a sensation that is a guide to the moral law, it doesn’t tell us intellectually why we should or should not be doing something.

            Imagine someone trying to learn to drive without being told about the rule of the road, right of way, what signals mean, etc; just plonked in a way with a buzzer which will unfailingly go off whenever they are about to do something contrary to the rules. That’s the situation we are in with our consciences, and general revelation: the law is written on our hearts just as the rules of driving are encoded in the buzzer, but to work out the reasoning behind it, and to extrapolate to circumstances we have not yet come across and guess what the buzzer would do, we must try to work back form the buzzer to the rules.

            But to make matters worse, because we live in a fallen world, the buzzer isn’t even reliable: sometimes it goes off for no reason, sometimes it fails to warn us when it should. And different people’s buzzers are faulty in different ways, so while in some ways comparing notes helps, in others it will just leave us more confused.

            Now, we can get pretty close to having a good idea of what we’re supposed to be doing, just by working out when the buzzer goes off and when it doesn’t. But to know for sure, and to understand intellectually what exactly it is we’re meant to be doing and why, we need a copy of the Highway Code.

            The principle that humanity bears the image of the divine is found in Plato and Cicero and throughout Stoic philosophy. It is evident because the human mind is uniquely suited to comprehending the rational designs of the Creator.

            But the principle that humans are merely a clever species animal, of no particular special value, is also found throughout history. And without special revelation there is no way to prove which of these views is true.

          • Hi S

            Discerning the moral law is not a matter of working backwards from instinctive emotional reactions. It is about surmising the form and order of creation and its relationship to the divine.

            It’s not a matter of being a clever animal but bearing the divine image and therefore sharing in the status and dignity of the divine.

            I note you didn’t respond to my point about Romans 1:19-21 and scripture teaching that we can know God from general revelation.

            Your ideas denying this are relatively recent and contrary to eg the Church Fathers, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin and the Westminster Confession, among many other standard sources from before the 20th century.

            It’s really important that Christians don’t become fideistic and retreat from what we, in line with scripture, have always maintained is common to us as God’s rational creatures.

          • Discerning the moral law is not a matter of working backwards from instinctive emotional reactions. It is about surmising the form and order of creation and its relationship to the divine.

            Which would be fine if we could actually see the form and order of creation and its relationship to the divine. But we can’t; all we can see is the cracked mirror of a broken, fallen world.

            I note you didn’t respond to my point about Romans 1:19-21 and scripture teaching that we can know God from general revelation.

            There’s a difference between knowing God and understanding God.

            But, if you really think that God can be fully known without requiring special revelation, then:

            (a) why did God give us special revelation at all? If the nature of God is fully and obviously evident in the world, why did He have to spend centuries hammering into one people what his nature is? Surely that should have been unnecessary if what you’re saying is true?

            (b) how come intelligent people can disagree in good faith about the nature of God as revealed in creation? How is it possible to make good-faith mistakes about the nature of God and the universe? Surely you’re not one of those who thinks that all atheists secretly know there really is a God, but pretend otherwise out of sheer badness?

            It’s really important that Christians don’t become fideistic and retreat from what we, in line with scripture, have always maintained is common to us as God’s rational creatures.

            I hope I have made clear that I would totally reject fideism!

          • ”’Their’ women” is a shorthand in the same way that the whole passage is a bit of a ‘They’re all at it’. It is a conventional generalisation.

          • Hi S

            Romans 1:21 says they ‘knew God’. But I agree that this can’t be in the sense that regenerate believers know God. But it does mean they can know he exists, which you denied.

            Yes I do think that atheism is a sub-rational belief as it fails to account for the observed phenomena of nature. See my piece here https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/did-stephen-hawking-prove-that-god-does-not-exist/

            People can disagree about this, but only because atheists (and Nietzschians and Humeans and Epicureans) persist in demonstrable error. This is in line with Romans 1:20 which says they are without excuse.

            People disagree because human reason is wounded so that some people fail to see what can be rigorously demonstrated to be true. This in line with the teaching of scripture and the teaching of theologians on natural theology throughout Christian history up to the 20th century.

            It is why marriage is a creation ordinance and is present in all human cultures and does not depend on accepting Christian scripture to know what it is. It is a rational recognition of the order inherent in creation and its implications for human conduct.

          • Hi Ian
            Much fhough I admire and like John Pike, I think he is wrong on this, and prefer Helen King’s approach,

          • Hi Blair

            Thanks for your thoughtful comments. In order:

            (1) ‘Homosexual’ predates ‘heterosexual’ as a term; the first category is far far rarer proportionally than the latter. Taking these 2 things together, it is inescapable that what people now call heterosexual has far more widely – and with impeccable reason(!) – been seen as merely the default. Which is why it was not named. We don’t talk of food-eating humans for the same reason. So the binary does not exist to pathologise the homosexual; it may well have been pathologised, but that was long before the binary existed. The binary was not originally as cynically employed as it is today (capitalising on the similarity between the 2 terms to say how could one discriminate against either). It was first employed on the basis that wherever there is homo- anything there must logically also be hetero- that thing.

            (2) Whether Paul had or had not heard of consistent exclusive same-sex-behaviour people is immaterial, since it is not we were centrally talking about, and anyway the naturalness/unnaturalness point remains identical either way. The fact that people consistently exclusively do something quite obviously does not make that thing either good, natural, or both.

            (3) The environmental is not precisely the same as the pathological – correct. But anything that classifies as environmental is caused by the environment and not by that person’s essence or identity. When we speak of equality, we are generally speaking of equality between different types of essence (gender, race etc.), otherwise the whole thing gets impossibly complicated and open to abuse.

          • Romans 1:21 says they ‘knew God’. But I agree that this can’t be in the sense that regenerate believers know God. But it does mean they can know he exists, which you denied.

            I did not deny that they can know God exists; I just think that they might not know and this not knowing would be an innocent mistake of fact, rather than a culpable deliberate act of wilful ignorance.

            People can disagree about this, but only because atheists (and Nietzschians and Humeans and Epicureans) persist in demonstrable error.

            I don’t think that it is possible to demonstrate irrefutably that the non-existence of God is an error. do you? If so can you do so?

            People disagree because human reason is wounded so that some people fail to see what can be rigorously demonstrated to be true.

            But the existence of God cannot be rigorously demonstrated to be true, any more than the reverse can be rigorously demonstrated to be true. If it could then none of my intelligent, honest atheist friends would be atheists.

            It is why marriage is a creation ordinance and is present in all human cultures and does not depend on accepting Christian scripture to know what it is. It is a rational recognition of the order inherent in creation and its implications for human conduct.

            That may be true, but it is beside the point. It is possible to perceive that marriage is a creation ordinance, inherent in creation, without any special revelation — we can agree on that. But it takes Scripture to understand why God made creation in such a way that marriage was an inherent part of it, doesn’t it?

            After all, God could have made a world which didn’t have marriage, or sex, in it, right? But He did not. Why?

            (And that question definitely requires special revelation to answer, because you can’t possibly answer the question of why the world is as it is from within the world itself. It would be like a character in a book trying to work out what the themes of the book are and why the author wrote it they way they did. We quite simply lack the necessary perspective to answer such a question — unless we are provided with information from outside the world, ie, the words of Scripture, which come from outside the world.)

  22. Christine
    I have to disagree over our government gettingnit right in 2014 on the basis of:

    In Genesis 1&2 we see what beautiful and glorious potential our world was made with – indeed we see the same thing restored in the apocalyptic images of Revelstion 21. But our church seems to be forgetting that we live in between those chapters. In a broken world of ‘now but not yet’.

    Following the fall, the language of Genesis 3 shows us what our sinful rebellion has done to the world. Relationship with the created order of nature is out of kilter, as is our relationship with each other and with our God.

    The world we know today is one which gives echo and reminder of our Lord’s goodness and perfection but which is sadly tarnished, broken, disfunctonal and painful. Each of us as human beings, made in the image of God, bears and manifests that brokeness and pain of the fall in different ways. All of us have burdens to carry as broken people, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel through the work of our Saviour ‘who will restore all things’. Revelation 21:5 ‘He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” ‘
    Until that time, our Lord’s expectation of us is that we aspire to his commandments worked out in his Word, revealed to us through the Scriptures.

    Where our desire falls outside God’s will it will hurt us to be corrected and our sinfulness will simply assure us that we are right and that God or his church must simply be spoilsports, wanting to retain the upper hand. Genesis 3:5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Just as young children often see parental discipline.

    The practice of homosexuality is one thing in a myriad of others where our Lord has laid down markers for behaviour – for our own good. The preaching of those boundaries was never intended to mark a person out to be despised or rejected by the church but to be the corrective voice of a loving Father who doesn’t want to lose his children by letting them stray into rebellion.

    Yes, there is pain in forgoing our natural desires (not just with regard to homosexuality either). Some of them will be good desires. To be loved and to love, etc. But some will be sinful and in our brokeness we need to be told which is which for we cannot rightly handle ‘the knowledge of Good and evil’ for ourselves. For those things we think
    Are impossibly hard to bare, our Lord has given us his grace, his showy Spirit, his loving church, and asked us to wait “just a little longer” Rev 6:10&11 until all is restore and there will be no more struggle with sin.

    I think we forget our predicament here on earth far too easily. We’re in a life threatening situation in the middle of a battlefield for our very souls. We have a Saviour who had no need to offer his life but did so anyway. A saviour is one who saves someone from an otherwise irredeemable situation. It’s not up for us to dictate terms but to accept his. Fortunately they’re terms of love and forgiveness in the light of repentance.
    Karl

    Apologies for odd posting times, I’m currently in a seven hour variant time zone!!!

    Reply
  23. It won’t be a popular comment, but in my view the problem – the contention that active homosexuality is not counter-scriptural – has its roots in the Church’s loss of confidence in the revelation of God as the one who created the world, i.e. he brought all matter into existence (it did not bring itself into existence), he imposed order on it (since atoms do not have the ability to organise themselves into ever higher states of order) and, when creating animals, breathed into them the breath of life (they became ‘living souls’, unions of matter and spirit). By the word of his power he did what nature itself could not do.

    The reason why the Church’s capitulation to an atheistic account of Earth history is at the root of the problem is this. Everyone else could see that Genesis 1 was wrong if the geologists were right; only Bible-believing Christians couldn’t. They could not bear the thought and invented various ways of re-interpreting the text. Ultimately, if you can persuade yourself that ‘And there was nightfall and there was dawn, the first day’ can mean any period you like, the door is open to interpret other uncomfortable/unacceptable passages out of their obvious meaning.

    Once creation is understood as synonymous with evolution, God becomes redundant – only Christians think that the Big Bang is consistent with Creation. Further, God is no longer known through the Son; he is the Son, who himself, therefore, has no Father. The world is no longer created by the Father through the Son, but by the Son. Hence modern Christianity as expressed in evangelical churches often seems little more than a Jesus cult. Nonetheless, Revelation says, “Fear God, because the hour of his judgement has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth”. Ultimately, ‘When all things are subjected to the Son, the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him.’

    The Evangelical Alliance has always regarded belief in God as maker of heaven and earth as non-essential. Paul, by contrast, saw it as fundamental, asserting that God’s identity as Creator was deniable only by virtue of human sin/folly, and had been evident ever since the Creation – there were human beings from the beginning. In the same place, he points out that the ultimate consequence of such denial is ‘men committing shameless acts with men’ and all manner of righteousness. The nexus I began with. In some measure, evangelicals are implicated in what is going on now.

    So when Chris Cook writes, ‘The texts that are explicit concerning same-sex relationships, however, were written in a pre-scientific culture. They are amenable to very different interpretations now, just as are the Genesis creation narratives.’ – he is following the same spiritual logic. He has persuaded himself that the wisdom of man is not folly with God, rather vice versa, and that being so, Lev 18 (presumably not just v. 22), I Cor 6:9 and even Rom 1:27 itself can be disregarded.

    Another example is Roy Clements’ article ‘Why I am still an evangelical Christian.’ To boil down the argument, ‘Thinking evangelicals have never yielded to the blinkered dogma which insists the world must have been made in seven days because Genesis says so. … In a not dissimilar way, we also now understand the phenomenon of homosexuality much better than we used to. … This new psychological knowledge about homosexuality must inform our interpretation and application of the biblical text.’

    Anyone interested in understanding how Genesis 1 can be reconciled with what we know from science should go to http://www.earthhistory.org.uk/before-the-cataclysm/days-of-creation. In a nutshell, trying to reconcile the sequence of events in Creation with the sequence of events in Earth history is misconceived. The earth was destroyed after its Creation (Gen 9:11), consequently the history that geologists investigate (the oldest rocks attesting a planet entirely covered by water) relates to the recovery of fauna, flora and environments thereafter. But one needs to read the piece in full.

    But it is not only the ‘dogs’ who are barred from the tree of life but also the heterosexually immoral and ‘everyone who loves and practises falsehood’ (Rev 22:15). Militant homosexuality may be concerning, but the bigger and more important concern is that, as temples of the Holy Spirit, we all honour him with sexually pure, holy lives.

    Reply
    • Dear Steven

      The Bible is NOT science but theology so when you wrote:
      “… Everyone else could see that Genesis 1 was wrong if the geologists were right; only Bible-believing Christians couldn’t….” you are vainly trying to equate theology with science. The idea that sometime around 3000BC or earlier when Genesis was written that they were excellent scientists is nonesense. HOWEVER, when Genesis was written there have always been TWO creation stories not ONE and so the Bible allows us to explore the theology not the science.

      A simple summary is:
      Genesis 1 – If you want to know who God is then look around you – He crated all this.
      Genesis 2 – The nature of God revealed as someone who cares about us and we choose to disobey. Even when God had to throw them out of the Garden have you ever noticed he gives them a coat? This is God who cares about us even when we disobey.

      So let us not muddle up science with theology when they are not the same.

      Reply
    • One answer Roy Clements or anyone else could give to ‘Why [am I] still an evangelical Christian?’ is to point out the incoherence of the word ‘still’. The word ‘still’ assumes that a person’s proclivities have the power to change the nature of the universe and accordingly our worldview. But obviously they don’t.

      Reply
    • Hello Steven,

      to my surprise I find myself agreeing with Clive here and, at least as surprising, wanting also to defend the Evangelical Alliance. You write that “The Evangelical Alliance has always regarded belief in God as maker of heaven and earth as non-essential” – but you offer no support for this, and the EA’s basis of faith would seem to disprove it (see http://www.eauk.org/connect/about-us/basis-of-faith.cfm esp. point 2).

      “Once creation is understood as synonymous with evolution, God becomes redundant – only Christians think that the Big Bang is consistent with Creation. Further, God is no longer known through the Son; he is the Son, who himself, therefore, has no Father. The world is no longer created by the Father through the Son, but by the Son” – this sounds bizarre to me, not to say possibly a non sequitur, and again you offer no support for or witnesses to it.

      “The earth was destroyed after its Creation” – but despite Gen 9:11, surely even a fairly ‘literalist’ reading of the story as a whole suggests the earth wasn’t totally destroyed in the flood (e.g. surely the point of the ark was partly to preserve a remnant of humans and animals to rebuild the populations when the waters receded..?; the text says the mountains are covered over by the waters, but not moved or destroyed; & where did the olive branch of Genesis 8:11 come from?).

      I won’t start on the “dogs” reference….. 😉

      in friendship, Blair

      Reply
      • Hello Blair

        You say I offered no support for some of the things I wrote. But it was already a long comment – I offered support for the things that seemed to me least obvious.

        When Joel Edwards was secretary, I discussed EA’s position with him in person, so I have it from the horse’s mouth. EA’s basis of faith does indeed refer to God ‘creating’ the world, even to man being made in God’s image. But as I said in my original comment, the word is not understood in the biblical sense (see my first para). Few Christians expressly deny that God created the world. That is why they will do anything to persuade themselves that Gen 1 does not contradict what they believe from other authorities to be the truth. They mean by ‘created’ something different – not something that happened ‘in the beginning’ and did not end until the creation of man (Gen 2:2-3). To affirm that man is made in the image of God has become routine, without any intention of affirming that ‘he who created them made them male and female from the beginning’. (Note, the NT does not say that Adam’s descendants are made in the image of God – I Cor 15:48-49, Col 1:15). Roy Clements, who identifies as an evangelical, I have already quoted. John Stott, another evangelical, also believed that the world came into being over billions of years. Although the EA claims to believe in ‘the divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God fully trustworthy for faith’, it does so only by being persuaded that ‘6 days’ can mean any period you like, and if the Sun came into existence (condensing naturally from a cloud of gas) aeons after plants, the perceived problem is then solved. This is all Alice-in-Wonderland to me. Why can’t evangelicals have the honesty to say that the Bible is not trustworthy? Instead they allow themselves to ‘re-interpret’ its words, i.e. change their meaning. Moses, David, Paul, Peter, Jesus … their words are trustworthy, but only after they have gone through the mill of re-interpretation in conformity with the wisdom/philosophy of this age.

        In his book The Strange Death of Europe (p 209f), Douglas Murray, a non-believer, asks why Europe since the 19th century has lost confidence in its Christian heritage. He argues that belief in the God revealed in the Bible received two seismic blows: one was an attack on the Bible itself (by higher criticism), the other was an attack on the traditional understanding of God himself, via the ‘discovery’ that, given sufficient time, natural processes of evolution will of themselves generate complexity, diversity, beauty and an illusion of design. Atheists can see this, Christians can’t.

        Regarding your second point, you don’t say why it seems bizarre, so I leave it at that.

        ‘Earth’ in Gen 9:11 means the dry land (Gen 1:10). See also II Pet 3:6. Any fuller answer would stray too far from the original point, that ever since Darwin we have become adept at re-interpreting Scripture. If you really are interested, the website I referred to provides answers in detail.

        Reply
  24. Simon Butler’s ViaMedia piece is worth a read in this context. https://viamedia.news July 24th.
    ‘the great gift of revisionist histories is that they reveal that the world of the past was far more complex than we would care to believe.’ Very true.
    ‘When we assess the value of the teaching of the Church as a guide to making ethical decisions, we need to set it in a particular context of its emergence within a particular culture, development into doctrine (including the suppression of alternative perspectives and all that implies for the treatment of human beings), and the way in which that teaching has affected the conduct of those who have followed it.’

    Reply
    • David, yes, and I would agree with much of what Simon says here. I do find it odd when evangelicals lapse into a quasi-Catholicism, which they often do against me for believing in the possibility of women’s ordination.

      That is why, although Church teaching can point helpfully to consensus about the meaning of texts, in the end what matters for me is the teaching of Jesus and Paul in the NT. In a Reformed church (like the C of E) that needs to be the ultimate touchstone.

      Reply
    • I also read Simon Butler’s piece. He wrote: ‘It is an unusual development in the current Church that Evangelicals are using the more Catholic approach of arguing against the goodness of same sex relationships by appealing to ‘the teaching of the Church.’ If they are to do that, then it is important that they accept the negative side of that appeal, the dark side of the development of particular doctrinal and ethical positions.’

      Of course, since revisionists are arguing for same-sex relationships to be received as a legitimate development of the ‘teaching of the Church’, then they it is equally important that they accept the negative side of that appeal.

      For instance, there was a particularly dark side to the bishops at the Savoy Conference of 1661 being emboldened enough by their post-Restoration support in Parliament to brush aside every concern raised by Puritans and Presbyterians and impose the Prayer Book unamended on all clergy through the Act of Uniformity.

      That change to the ‘Teaching of the Church’ resulted in the Great Ejection of over 2000 clergy who refused to submit to episcopal ordination and take the legally prescribed oath of canonical obedience.

      The Clarendon Code was also particularly intolerant in its penalties for refusing to conform to the new orthodoxy.

      So, Simon should also be reminding the ‘affirming’ camp of an equally dark side to their revisionist position being received as part of the ‘Teaching of the Church’.

      Should they succeed, they will impose a similarly Great Ejection of conservative clergy from all possibility of preferment.

      As the adage goes: ‘What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.‘

      Reply
  25. Penelope – you don’t ‘struggle’ to say – of all the commentators on this blog with whom I find myself disagreeing, I am grateful for your perspicuity and clarity.

    Reply
  26. Very few adults find themselves without sexual desires, though these grow less strong with age. In our sex-obsessed culture many think that the expression of these desires is integral to ‘identity’ and a human right. ‘Sexual orientation is a core component of a person’s identity which requires fulfilment with others of the same orientation,’ as the Supreme Court puts it ([2013] UKSC 73). This is so very far from what the New Testament teaches about holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Some see this, others don’t. For some it’s bad news that ‘in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage’ – meaning, of course, there’ll be no sexual relations, not that (as it almost is today) marriage will be abolished.

    In all this discussion within the Church – both here and elsewhere – I don’t see any thought given to single persons; but there are many more single than homosexual people. Some are single following divorce, others have never been married. Those who exercise a pastoral calling will know that most single people struggle with their sexual desires. They don’t feel called to singleness, they don’t receive Matt 19:12 as referring to themselves, and especially in their younger years they long to find a marriage partner, not primarily to satisfy their sexual desires (though that’s part of it) but to take away their sense of loneliness. “It is not good that the man should be alone.” As they get older, finding a marriage partner becomes more and more difficult, long before their desires become weaker. In churches that loneliness is often exacerbated rather than ameliorated.

    Like Jesus himself, Paul was a single person and wrote quite a lot about sexual desire. Might not the ‘thorn’ in his flesh (II Cor 12:7) have been SSA? The vagueness of the allusion enables us to apply his situation to our own, to substitute whatever weakness we struggle with that seems to come as a harassment from Satan. Paul asked to be delivered from it, but he wasn’t. So he accepted his weakness as from God, not Satan; as a result, he found that the power he had in Christ was greater rather than less. Paul models the right response.

    In the context of the normalisation of homosexual practice and the growing belief that if you have a sexual desire you should satisfy it, as a matter of right, or even identity, what should the Church be counselling the single person to do? Pay for it? Have sex with oneself (forbidden in I Thes 4:4, correctly translated)? In the same place, Paul says that the way to please God is to abstain from sexual immorality of all kinds (porneia). ‘Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.’ Is there one rule for single people, another for homosexuals? Some of you may not be aware how insensitive this whole discussion in the Church seems to those who would have liked to marry but, for whatever reason, didn’t, but had to struggle with the necessity of living a life of sexual purity – the Holy Spirit being both the cause of the struggle and, every time we call on him, our deliverer. We were washed, we were sanctified. We have no rights. He is our master (I Cor 6:19-20). Spiritually, he is our husband (II Cor 11:2).

    Since entering the kingdom involves washing, ‘Better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back … and return to wallowing in the mire’ (II Pet 2:22).

    Reply
    • Very well said Steven. The self absorption of some Christians who believe themselves (or their friends) to be homosexual in orientation is hardly attractive when you consider the far greater number of people who suffer loneliness or lack of inclusion for all sorts of different reasons.

      But we have to be aware that much of what propels the sexuality issue (along with feminism) is really Cultural Marxism, an atheist ideology which sees traditional family life as standing in the way of its belief that human beings are individual units which are there to serve the greater good of the state. It’s disastrous that this ideology has now taken hold in the Christian churches. The relationships between men and women and the families they produce are embedded in God’s creative design. For Christians to reinterpret and modify that on account of today’s cultural trends is indeed dreadfully dangerous.

      Reply
      • Thank you, Don. I go along with identifying Cultural Marxism as the enemy up to a point, but as the root ideology Darwinism trumps Marxism: that is, Marxism (focusing on man) would have nothing to stand on if Darwinism were not considered true, whereas Darwinism (an account of all ‘life’, man included, with ‘life’ in inverted commas but it acknowledges no soul or spirit) would remain strong if Marxism were not considered true. See my first comment above – though I acknowledge you also allude to God’s creative design.

        In that comment I said that one consequence of the capitulation to Darwinism was a failure to respect Scripture when it plainly stands against the philosophical wisdom of this age. Scripture, as you say youself, gets ‘re-interpreted’ or toned down. Indeed, such is the desire to please the world with a gospel of ‘love’, evangelicals are uncomfortable even when Paul and Jesus speak harshly (which is quite often). John 3:16 is mistranslated, John 3:36 omitted. Pronouncements like Gal 1:9 and Rev 22:15 are embarrassing, even offensive.

        Those who focus only on Paul’s explicit references to homosexuality are missing the point that all forms of sexual immorality are wrong, and when he lists the works of the flesh, with ‘porneia’ at the top of the list, he does not mean the reader to suppose that the omission of sodomy is an indication that that is an act of love (within the ambit of Gal 5:22-23, which evangelicals are fond of quoting) and therefore acceptable; sodomy is included in ‘porneia’.

        Because churches in their teaching and worship don’t go beyond baby talk (cf. TJ’s comment above), there is no understanding any more that ‘the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit against the flesh;’ that ‘those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires’. This too is harsh language, as are Matt 5:13 and Rev 3:16.

        Reply
        • Steven, you seem to be pitting science against the Bible. But I’m sure that cannot be so because it would amount to setting God’s design against his own word – clearly something no Christian would do. To rejoice and wonder at what science reveals about the nature and power of God has always been a special bonus for God’s people. Of course there’s honest objective science and then there’s science distorted by human frailty (as Ian alludes to in his piece here). And then there’s humility: if ever mankind thinks he knows it all or understands it all, he’s simply revealing his own foolishness.

          I would accept that it’s not always easy to understand why everything is as it is. What, for instance should one make of remote species that live far under the ocean, under immense pressure and in total darkness and with no seeming purpose? How much there is yet to understand of God and the world he created – the writers of Job and the Psalms realised that. But to see scientific discoveries as a threat to faith or a contaminated soil in which evil ideas grow is both sad and possibly an attempt to restrict God to our own limited understanding. Could it not even be seen as rejecting something which God saw as ‘very good’? How would he feel about that? But I would accept that anything, however good (including science), can be distorted and used for evil ends by people who hate the truth.

          But this is all quite some tangent from the subject in hand, and on that we think on pretty similar lines.

          Reply
          • Not at all, though I don’t understand what you mean by ‘setting God’s design against his own word’. It is science itself in its ideological character that pits itself against the Bible. To believe that science is ideologically neutral is, I fear, a manifestation of the same naivety that we see in the desire of many Christians to ‘affirm’ homosexuality and to find common ground with Islam. The Church is being attacked on all sides, from without and from within, and she does not even recognise there is a war, let alone have the strength to stand and withstand.

            In its ideology science says: there was no Creation, there is no spirit, man descends from the apes all the way back to bacteria. In so doing it trespasses on the territory of religion, because the Word of God has spoken authoritatively on these things. Ideological science attacks Christianity at its root. Consequently it should be no surprise that in its interpretations of the facts bearing on these issues it is wrong and thereby deceives the world. It’s more than just science ‘distorted by human frailty’ (cf. Ian’s comments re the Johannine theology of the world, re the anti-Christian agenda which campaigners in the church appear happy to hitch their wagon to, re professional psychiatrists denouncing evangelical organisations – and your own reference to people who hate the truth, apparently exempting scientists themselves). Regardless of Scripture, merely as a human being you are equipped to see that the world was created (even a propagandist such as Brian Cox feels the wonder, even Richard Dawkins sees the design); to see that you are in fact not a biological robot without a spirit, let alone the Holy Spirit; and that your body and mind are vastly different from a chimpanzee’s – and therefore that those who promote another way of seeing the world are deceivers.

            If, despite these natural perceptions, you think the Bible is factually wrong, admit it! Admit that it’s wrong in stating that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, that consciousness is a quality of the spirit that God breathes into every animal (Gen 2:7, 6:17, Num 16:22, Job 27:3, 32:8, 34:14), that genealogically human beings are offspring of God (Luke 3:38, Acts 17:29) and admit that Jesus himself was wrong to believe so (Matt 19:4, 24:21, 26:41, Mk 2:27, Jn 8:44, Rev 10:6). If, on the other hand, you are interested in understanding in just what way the facts have been misinterpreted, go to the website I mentioned. Don’t assume that Cox and Dawkins are right when they say the Bible is wrong.

            History begins with man making light of the Word of God. In its statement of faith, the Evangelical Alliance affirms ‘the divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God fully trustworthy for faith’. The Jews had a similar faith, but Jesus said this about them: ‘This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine what men command.’ He taught us to desire that we might not be led into temptation but be delivered from the evil one (not merely ‘evil’). When he was led into temptation (put to the test), he quenched the flaming darts of this being by referring to Scripture, every time. Man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God – we are not to listen to the beguiling words of the serpent. Believers must not put the Lord their God to the test – thinking they will surely not die. Man must worship the Lord God and no other – otherwise we will end up in thrall to the god of this world and be trampled under people’s feet.

          • Unless you’re a believer in sinless perfection, everything we receive about God from the Bible and through the words of other Christians is mediated through sinners, none of whom one can assume to be ‘ideologically neutral’. Yet we learn of God and hear his word from those sources; and his Holy Spirit, helping us in that process, sifts out the truth from the error, we know not how but we believe that he does. We should of course always test what we are told for ourselves, not least by seeing how it measures up to the whole teaching of the Bible. Of course in the case of the Bible evangelicals believe that the sifting process happened as the words were set down – liberals don’t agree(!)

            To say that ‘science is not ideologically neutral’ is plain wrong. If it is not neutral it is not pure science (science is pure knowledge, or truth, of that which is in the physical world). Of course even pure untainted science may well be applied in an ideologically driven way, so you are right to warn that we can never assume the work of scientists to be ideologically neutral. However, it does not follow that the published work of scientists is all tainted, all untrue, or all driven by atheism. Just as we have to apply intelligence and discernment to what other Christians teach us (we have to beware heresy, idiocy, intent to mislead, faithlessness, secular cultural influence, incoherence, hidden agendas, inexperience, hubris – you name it), much the same applies to what scientists come up with.

            Having said that, I will draw a line under this conversation for myself (others might want to have a go) not because it’s unimportant but because of time restraint and its tangential nature from the subject of Ian’s post. I would however observe that your particular position (which is worth debate in the right arena) could become such a major distraction (to you and to others) that the time and intellectual capital you invest in it might be more gainfully spent for God on other matters which would yield more fruit for him. The ultimate truth of God and how his creative process worked, and continues to work, could easily absorb your whole life yet not yield any more certainty because it belongs to God who chose not to let it be understood from what is written in the Bible.

      • Don
        Your idolisation of family seems rather at odds with the Jesus of the gospels who relativised family ties and created new kinship groups, based not on blood.
        Do we know that Jesus and Paul were always single?

        Reply
        • Hi Penelope

          Well I’ve just been playing the organ at a wedding this afternoon, so it’s an appropriate comment!

          I think what you call my ‘idolisation’ of family I would call ‘acceptance’ that it’s a creational reality (and therefore of God, as his intended pattern) and that it patently works, psychologically as well as biologically. I hardly need to add that we fallen human beings do manage to make a pig’s ear of it quite often, but that doesn’t negate the principle. It offers incomparable benefits.

          Wouldn’t you agree that the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry were necessarily focussed on bringing the eternal offering of sonship to a world trapped within earthbound mortality (John 1:11-13)? So this was his mission and he did indeed present it as so important that it superseded everything that was time limited within human mortal existence. But there are hints in that same gospel that Jesus did value human family (John ch 2) and, not least, his own family (John 19:26-27). I think it’s fair to say that God can and does see things and work on multiple levels at once (a feminine trait, Penelope!)

          I’m not sure what your query regarding the single status of Jesus and Paul has to do with the issue of families as a principle for human flourishing – almost sounds like a trick question! Wives aren’t mentioned are they, so the assumption is that neither was married. This was one of Ian Paul’s subjects a couple of years ago, so here’s the link (I know it’s a cop out, but there you go):

          https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/was-jesus-married/

          I wonder if you’re thinking that I fail to address the issue of single people (for whatever reason of singleness), not least in Christian churches. I did actually make a comment on this on the recent Vicky Beeching review on this site; here’s what I said:

          ‘I do agree that some churches can be lonely places for single people for all sorts of reasons, and the ‘happily married couple’ expectation is certainly one of them (I’ve experienced that for myself when single). I’m a natural loner, and I find the unimaginative, sheepish and oafish way otherwise reasonable people often behave when in crowds is pretty disappointing (and perplexing). Christians in their churches can and should to better – they regularly don’t.’

          Reply
          • Hi Don
            Yes, idolisation of family was a bit unfair, though it’s something the church tends to do. I think that was the interesting part of Ed Shaw’s book and that churches are often inhospitable to the single, the widowed and the divorced. But I don’t believe that, for LGBTi people, the choice must be continent singleness or heterosexual marriage. Not everyone gets the chance to have a compatible and loving life partner, but I think gay people shouldn’t be denied that chance because of (what I believe is) a misreading of scripture.

            I do think much of the NT is hostile to marriage and family, but whether that’s due to a new eschatological reality I’m not sure. Some scholars, such as Robert Song argue that celibacy is a gift of the new covenant. I’m not so sure; celibacy certainly existed within Judaism, as witnessed by John the Baptist, and probably by Jesus himself.

            I think it unlikely that Jesus had been married, though Paul may have been. But I’m always rather surprised that some people believe he couldn’t have been.

      • Interesting, Don. Most of the married gay people I know are much closer to their families than I am to mine.

        Reply
        • Hi Penelope

          Sorry to be a bit late with replying; and I’m not quite sure what I must have said to prompt your comment. However…

          Your observation about how close the married gay people you know are to their families may be true and it’s certainly not a bad thing. But there are countless examples where something good in its own right is not an argument in favour of the circumstances in which it happens. Criminal gangs may have a high level of mutual loyalty, adulterers may enjoy mind-blowing sex, computer hackers may be exercising amazing ingenuity. In each of those cases the positive aspect doesn’t justify the circumstance. But please be sure, I’m not equating same sex couples with criminals or adulterers!

          My problem with a lot of the points made about positive aspects to same sex relationships (not all of which I would deny) is that approaching the issue that way avoids addressing the fundamental principles which lie at the heart of the matter. By that I mean that such questions as the definition and nature of marriage (what elements must apply before you can call a relationship a ‘marriage’), the nature and possible causes of homosexual attraction, the role that marriage has in sustaining a stable society, and (for Christians) what the whole of Biblical teaching tells us about God’s intended purpose and boundaries of marriage. The last one obviously is a no-brainer for Christians but I’m confident that a truly objective atheist’s consideration of the first questions would lead to much the same conclusions (which is logical if the world is created by God, whether or not people accept that proposition).

          The thing is, there’s God, our human reality, and desire; it’s convenient for Christians when all three are in sync but we all know there are plenty of times when they aren’t. The whole point of being a Christian is that God has to win every time; the trouble is that although we know this and we know it’s for our benefit, we nevertheless act as if we’ve forgotten it – well I do anyway. God is merciful and gracious and forgives, but what we can never do is expect him to bless our wrong intentions for future behaviour. And we can’t tell other people that he will bless their wrong intentions either, even if we mean it for the kindest of reasons – I respect the fact that this can often be the case. And I think it’s at that point that we often start looking for reasons to convince ourselves that we’ve discovered a new understanding and it’s all OK and that God’s really quite happy about it after all.

          So I don’t think it’s fundamentally an issue about sex and sexuality at all. That’s merely the presenting symptom of the struggle we all face to live as God intends. It’s massive right now because we live in the real world where it’s currently a massive issue; but if it were not sexuality it would simply be something else – and it would be musical chairs regarding where we all sat on that issue! But the principle of being sure of what God wants will always stand unchallenged for Christians.

          Huge apologies for banging on a bit when you’ve probably forgotten your original comment!

          Reply
  27. I go away for a little over a week and come back to a marathon thread. 😉 Some thoughts, although I doubt I’m adding anything new:

    It seems to me that the Shared Conversations process has served only to prove that the gulf between the different positions on issues of human sexuality is not only greater than many anticipated, it is perhaps even insurmountable. That’s not something I like to acknowledge, but commentary is increasingly becoming defeatist, and there are precious few comments here that suggest a resolution that can satisfy everyone, if that was ever truly in sight at all?

    This is not to say that there were not benefits of the process, and I think of the great insight afforded by the commentary and contribution on here, and in other contexts, of people like David R and Andrew G, and of reading various published material, but are these really worth the cost? The intent of SC was to ensure we all understood each other, and it seems we do, but this understanding has clearly (at least to me) reinforced the divisions rather than diminished them. I certainly understand, say, Penelope’s position more, and respect her more, than I did 3 years ago, but I agree with her far less! 😉 Most of the time disagreement is amicable, but the process has certainly tried everyone’s patience…

    This is why it was particularly frustrating that Synod did not take note of the report on the process in 2017, and why Welbys’ comment about this ‘next step’ and the renamed teaching document being a ‘mapping exercise’ does nothing to help. We can map out the divisions precisely and in as detailed a manner as he likes, but it is only going to draw the trenches ever deeper, and ensure the battle is ever more bitter as it goes on an on…. The optimist in me agrees with James Byron (far above) when he says ‘calm down, this is a win because nothing has changed’, as the status quo is still looking secure for the immediate future, but the CofE cannot thrive while it remains under siege, as it clearly is…..and while I continue to torture this metaphor. Haha.

    So it is with little surprise that I don’t hold any hope for the LLF non-document document actually resolving any of the tension here. Even if the document affirms, upholds and teaches the traditional/current position of the church, I guarantee you there’ll be a lot of unwarranted triumphalism from the traditionalists, a lot of angry gnashing of teeth from the revisionists, about absolutely no change! I think Ian’s comments in review of general synod aptly demonstrate this.

    Schism it is then.
    Mat

    Reply
    • Hi Mat

      Welcome back! I say, that’s a glum comment.

      It is a royal mess because of Justin’s apparent determination that sexuality is to be adiaphora, not a communion-breaking issue. But that is not how many see it, and that is not what the Anglican Communion resolved in 1998. He seems to think he can just keep on putting off the moment of crisis till it blows over, since just ignoring it and letting everyone believe what they want on sexuality seems to be not just his means but his endpoint too. At some point there may need to be a revision of teaching and liturgy to permit SSM, but no rush, eh.

      If there is to be a schism I don’t think it’ll be anything sudden and dramatic, at least not on Welby’s watch. Just lots of little acts of defiance in protest against the disregard of biblical orthodoxy.

      Reply
      • Well, I’m increasingly trying to be a realist.

        Do you not feel similar Will? Do you see a resolution to this process that doesn’t involve a sizable, possibly integral, portion of the church setting themselves apart and defining themselves over/against the other? It’s starting already….

        I agree that it wont be sudden and dramatic but it will be significant and likely irreparable when it does happen. I also think it will be soon, within 10 years, for what that’s worth…

        Reply
        • why can’t they ‘afford’ to? Most middle of the road and liberal churches pay the common fund. But it’s not about money, it’s about faithfulness, unlike, say, gafcon.

          Reply
          • Hi Penelope

            Surely it’s the rebellious provinces and the ABC and ACC who have been faithless – the former going their own way in the face of scripture and Anglican orthodoxy and Lambeth 1.1 despite repeated warnings not to, the latter not taking appropriately robust action in response and then systematically downplaying the seriousness of the situation and overriding the attempts of the wider communion to take appropriate action. In the circumstances – a constitutional crisis if ever I saw one – the actions of Gafcon appear extraordinarily restrained and respectful, I would say. What are people supposed to do in the face of such appalling bad faith?

          • Will

            You might think that.
            I might think that the rebellious provinces were the ones who rent the veil and refused to share communion at Dromantine, because of Frank Griswold. Or the ones who Have consistently flouted Lambeth 1.10 (c), Kenya, for example. Or the ones who support schism, such as Gafcon and AMiE. Or the churches which do not realise that the Anglican Communion is a communion, and that TEC and SEC are autonomous provinces.
            The ones who threaten to walk away, or not to come to Lambeth 2020, or withhold funds are never the ‘liberal’ churches.

          • I think your question about Lambeth I.10 (c) is fair and important. But the rest of it isn’t. I think the records shows that TEC has repeated flouted agreements, and that statements of concern haven’t been followed through consistently, which is what makes others in the Communion both frustrated and cross with Justin.

            Autonomy in the Communion has always been a qualified thing. If it is not qualified, then what does ‘Communion’ mean? These things have been explored at length in the past.

          • Primates’ statement from 2003, including Rowan Williams (emphasis added):
            ‘If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognised by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).’

            https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/oct/17/gayrights.religion

            So who’s responsible for impaired communion again?

          • Will
            Indeed and Williams tried to foist the Anglican Covenant which was, thankfully, resisted. But it was still the conservative provinces who rent the fabric by waking away from communion with Griswold, thus proving themselves to be Donatists as well.

          • Hi Ian

            Williams may not be an arch conservative, but he certainly didn’t help to prevent schism.
            The instruments of communion (as I understand it) are the ABC, the conference and the ACC. TEC were barred (I think) from the ACC (the consequences) and some provinces say that they wont attend Lambeth 2020. If some provinces aren’t in communion (literally), then yes, it is hardly an Anglican Communion. If some institutions, like ACNA, have walked away, are they ‘in communion’? I would have thought not. And where are the ‘consequences’ for provinces who flagrantly flout Lambeth 1.10 (c)?

      • It is sad, and I hope I was clear that I didn’t want to apportion blame to a particular side.

        I don’t think it will come to one group walking away ‘en masse’, or as Will says, be a single dramatic event. I suspect that people will leave gradually, and from both sides, in a such a way that it will only be apparent in hindisght, but glaringly clear nonetheless…

        Reply
  28. Ian P,
    Thank you for your inervention, in the comments, to Blair and David R and others following (26/07 above) The are appreciated and necessary.
    As an aside, but not really, I asked Mike Ovey after a lecture, whether he agreed that what is described in Romans 1 and “giving over” is part of God’s present judgement on this present age. He said it was, but it was rarely acknowledged. Is that correct? Fur might fly.

    Reply
    • Yes, I think I would agree–but this is the way judgement works in all sorts of areas of life. If, for example, I don’t look after my body, and my health fails, then this too is part of ‘judgement’.

      Reply
      • I’m obviously not a theologian, but is it not the case that ‘the wages of sin’, ‘judgement’ and what today we might call ‘consequences’ amount to the same thing in this context? And we need to realise that (quite opposite to situation ethics) God’s judgement has been unaltered since the dawn of human time. Which is why the notion that our 21st century ethics can appeal to a ‘new understanding’ is so dangerous – there really is no leeway if we get it wrong, so it’s just not worth the risk of going down that path. I’ve been worried that some of the comments above do go in that direction.

        Reply
  29. Hi Ian and all
    ‘Has the discussion worn you out?!’ Thanks for asking. Well it is as demanding and draining as it has to be. But work is full on and I also move house in a few weeks time. So if I struggle to keep up here I am not trying to duck or avoid being responsible for my own opinions. Thanks for understanding – and for hosting this.

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      I know that juggling work commitments with moving house can be an experience fraught with uncertainty, so I hope it all goes smoothly.

      Reply
  30. A year ago, John Pike posted on this site a related piece entitled ‘Were loving, faithful, same-sex relations known in antiquity?’ John described himself as ‘a GP who affirms loving, faithful same-gender relationships’. Other affirming colleagues had said that the ancients did not know about loving gay relationships. He wanted to believe that, but on researching the evidence, found – so he argued – that the opposite was the case. A few disputed the research.

    Commenting sympathetically, a certain Justin said, ‘Paul spends a lot of time introducing legalists to the notion of intentionality [the spirit, distinct from the letter], introducing dogmatists to spiritual authority, and introducing traditionalists to liberty.’

    Today, in his statement regarding the Peter Ball affair, the Prince of Wales recalls that in the 1980s and 1990s there was ‘a presumption that people such as Bishops could be taken at their word and, as a result of the high office they held, were worthy of trust and confidence’. George Carey has said much the same. In a way this immensely sad reflection gets to the heart of the matter. We wish to think good of others. Peter Ball’s friends could not believe what was being alleged. In their shoes I might have felt the same. There are numerous instances where prominent figures have been falsely accused.

    Peter Ball denied the accusations. In other instances, the individual has admitted the behaviour but denied that it is wrong. Roy Clements (an outstanding evangelical pastor and apologist) and Vicky Beeching (on whom the Archbishop of Canterbury bestowed the Cranmer Award for contributions to contemporary worship music) are just two examples. They say that they believe in Christ and his work on the cross but see no conflict between this and a homosexual relationship with another. In response to such frankness, many wish to affirm rather than condemn. On both sides, does not love conquer all theology? How can someone who writes ‘O precious sight my Saviour stands dying for me with outstretched hands, O precious sight I love to gaze remembering salvation’s day’ (doggerel in my judgement, but countless worshippers are happy to sing the words) not be trusted?

    Nurtured on spiritual pap and conditioned by a world that is itself puerile, Christians have very little understanding of the human heart. Our disposition is to be charitable, not to judge others, even, and on good authority, to esteem them more highly than ourselves. But while we look on the outside and do our best to look on the inside, only God really sees. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick: who can understand it? I, your God, search the mind and test the heart.’ We know this in theory but not in reality, though we might if we reflected on the duplicity of our own hearts. Even in church. When we sing choruses such as ‘The Wonder of the Cross’, is there not a temptation to think that this is what evangelical spirituality is all about?

    Paul warns, ‘Let no one deceive you with empty words,’ then, in the same breath, ‘Be sure of this: no one who is sexually immoral or impure… has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God’ (Eph 5:5-6). It’s that serious. ‘Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience’ (Eph 5:5-6, Rev 19:2). As it did on the Canaanites (Lev 18:25). It’s why Paul repeats the warning again and again (Rom 16:18, I Cor 3:18, 6:9, II Cor 11:3, 11:13, II Tim 3:13). In the last days deception is foreseen to reach its climax (Rev 13:14, 18:23, 19:20, 20:3).

    How is it that, in the face of so many real-life examples – Peter Ball, Todd Bentley, Mark Stibbe among others – we still cannot discern good from evil? That we still are prone to accept the appearance for the real thing? That in our naivety we still entertain the possibility that Scripture might not have quite got it right when exhorting us to chastity – even though Scripture itself warns us not to be deceived? Lord, take away the shame of our nakedness; give us salve to anoint our eyes, that we may see!

    PS. A lot of the philosophical back-and-forth on this page seems to treat the topic as occasion for a trial of strength. Is this fitting?

    Reply
    • Sexual abuse is evil. Period. Sexual intimacy between two consenting adults may be wrong or innocuous, depending on the context. Conflating the two is dangerous nonseyand a grave insult to both Beeching and Stibbe.

      Reply
      • So do you think the hellish consequences for the minor have to be necessarily greater or lesser than the hellish consequences for the injured party (not that it does the perpetrators anything but harm either)?

        Conflating means practically identifying. The idea is to associate the 2 not conflate them.

        Reply
      • Further, supposing a friend of yours were married and her husband betrayed her, what on earth relevance or merit would his (chilling – and unsurprising!!) ”consent” have?

        Of course he consents to sex.

        I don’t follow your argument.

        Reply
        • Christopher
          Homosexual sex is not immoral (in PSF r’ships)
          Adultery is always immoral (but usually consensual, and adult)
          Sexual abuse of minors is always immoral and much more evil than adultery because it is never consensual and will always corrupt and harm the young.
          Implying that Stibbe and Beeching are as culpable as Ball is just meretricious.

          Reply
          • Please can you address the question I asked: what does ‘consensual’ mean and how can it not be a misnomer and a cruel word when the so-called consensual activity is a living death for the betrayed partner? My question relating to a hypothetical situation with your friend was not addressed.

          • Christopher
            Consensual means consenting. Adultery is usually consensual. It is no doubt hurtful to the spouse(s) (though whether it is a ‘living death’ I wouldn’t presume to say). The relevance of my hypothetical friend’s husband is that is offence is consensual; if he was abusing young boys, it wouldn’t be. And I hope she would be more offended by the latter than by the former.
            Sexual abuse of minors can never involve consent. It is a much graver moral offence (sin) than adultery which is why I was questioning the commentator’s conflation of the acts of Peter Ball and Mark Stibbe.

          • I know consensual means consenting, but one of the main people involved is so far from not being consenting that your reply is chillingly cruel and unfeeling. Please say you don’t mean it. It could be cited as the reductio ad absurdum of the secularist position.

          • Christopher

            I am sorry. If you think that my reply is chillingly cruel and unfeeling then I might suggest that you can’t see a moral difference between adultery and paedophilia. I do see a moral difference. My view des not in any way excuse adultery. I do, however, believe that sexual abuse of minors is far graver and the attempt to conflate the two (and, indeed, include same-sex relationships or affirmation of them) demonstrates perhaps why abuse has been facilitated when faithful LGBTi Christians have been rejected and excluded.

          • My main question was how you judged adultery morally (absolutely, not relative to any other practice). With particular reference to the wronged and betrayed partner who has feelings, and whose entire life will be radically altered for the worse.

            Secondly, where is the merit or valour in somebody nobly ‘consenting’ to being offered sex on a plate?

            Thirdly, you seem to be more worked up about the consent principle than you are about the betrayal principle.

            Fourthly, I so wish you would answer such important questions in a more direct manner.

        • Penelope,
          “Consensual”, at what stage or age are you drawing the line, where consent is not and can not be consent. Is it culturally subjective?
          I can recall in one Crown Court case where the judge accepted that a retired man had been led on by 12/13year old girls into illegal sexual activity with them, and that they were already previously sexually active. The offences weren’t denied
          Notwithstanding acceptance of all that all of that the judge emphasised in sentencing that the girls needed “protection from themselves.”
          And I’ve read that some homosexual men have said that when they were 12/13 year old males have enjoyed sexual activity from the attentions of much older men.
          Do your views on moral equivalence or difference excuse any or all of this. Where do you draw the moral line, particularly in the embrace of Queer theory.
          Do you think that in the examples I’ve mentioned the experience of the children will have been formative in their sexual development and relationships and prefernce and choices?
          And yet, at what age is it being suggested that children now know their own mind to be able to not only consent, but choose or change their gender and sexual preferences?

          Reply
          • Geoff

            Men cannot be ‘led on’ by 12 year old girls, nor by 12 year old boys. Children cannot consent to sexual activity. Even if they have been sexually active formerly, it is all too likely that this sexual activity was coercive. Men who abuse 12 year olds are paedophiles.

            Queer theory is not synonymous with paedophilia, so I have no idea why you suggest an equivalence.

            Knowing your own gender or sexual orientation at a young age does not presuppose acting upon those identities until the age of consent.

            I have no doubt that sexual abuse affects people’s psychological well being. I am not qualified to judge whether it affects their sexual preferences. I believe there is research which argues that in a small number of cases, it does have an effect.

          • Penelope,
            Of course there is a legally set age for consent, under which a child can not legally consent. In that respect the age of consent is cultutrally determined. It is not an absolute, nor is it a child bearing or fathering age.
            You do not know the facts of the case, the facts accepted by the Court, and set out in the pre-sentence report. You are wrong in stating that it was likely that activity was coercive, it wasn’t and the girls did consent in fact, weren’t forced or tricked or offered inducements or groomed.
            Nor was the man in a position of trust, such as a teacher, or clergy.
            You did not address the point, the public policy adopted by the Court, that chidren need to be protected from themselves. That is a far cry from encouraging gender choice or feelings of children, who in the febrile, sexually awash society, and sexualisation of children, are highly impressionable and suggestible, who do not know their own minds the source of their dysphoria, and may change as they mature.
            There is a gay activist who has stated they enjoyed, when they were 12/13, the sexual attentions of older men.

          • Geoff

            ‘Nor was the man in a position of trust’.
            So a casual passerby, say, because they are not a vicar or a teacher, for example, is not responsible for their own choices or behaviour towards underage children.
            This is a quite extraordinary statement.

          • David,
            The Courts in sentencing recognise the fiduciary relationship of teachers and clergy with children in their charge. Breach or abuse of that position of trust, is an aggravating factor in sentencing.

          • Geoff
            I must admit I am rather shocked by your response. Yes, the age of consent has varies, but it has generally become higher in the West, as the length of childhood has increased. I think most people would regard that as a good thing.
            I have no knowledge of the ‘facts of the case’.i am extremely surprised that a court would judge that underage children could consent to sexual activity. Surely, since underage sexual activity is illegal, this must be against the law. It is very convenient for the perpetrators (as we saw in the Rotherham case) to argue that the children consented and that they were already experienced.
            Children do not need protecting from themselves. They need protection from abusers and education about sex and gender helps inform children about the dangers inherent in ignorance. Desistance rates among transgender children have been greatly exaggerated. Gender nonconforming children do often revert to their birth gender. Trans kids do not.
            I am sure some gay and straight people have enjoyed the sexual attention of their elders. That does not make it right.

          • Penelope,
            The offences were admitted.
            Clearly, the principle that children need to be protected from themselves, as a general principle, outwith sexual offences, is not one to which you subscribe.
            And Yes, children do need to be protected from paedophiles.
            This particular case bore no relation at all to the Rotherham Cases, many years before Rotherham. Rotherham is not a lens through which to look at all individual cases.
            “I am sure some gay and straight people have enjoyed the sexual attention of their elders. That does not make it right.” I certainly agree it does not make it right, but those I have in mind have used it to argue for the lowering of the legal age for consent.
            And in the context of the thread on “consensual” sexual activity eg adultery, and levels or degrees of immorality, (which stimulated my comments) implicit in their enjoyment is recognition of their own consent to sexual acts, even at a young age, which I agree with you, “are not right”. In those circumstances, the child needs to be protected from themselves, from their own de facto consent to their own enjoyment, as well as from the perpetrator.
            Otherwise, you have made some bold claims, and sweeping statements, without providing any evidence relating to gender disphoria and change and the social engineering outworking of queer theory.
            You seem to want it both ways: 1 protect children from any underage sex activity yet , 2 support children in their choice of gender even though to indulge in their own child to child sexual enjoyment is not right and illegal. Children need to be protected from rampant sexualisation and imposed queer theory in all its guises.
            If you truly want to be shocked you should spend some time around the Criminal Justice and Court systems, and no it’s not really a recommendation.

          • Geoff
            All adults – in whatever social or professional contexts – are responsible for their behaviour in the presence of underage children – regardless of how the children are behaving.
            I would be very concerned if we were not agreed on this.

          • David R,
            Where on earth did this come from. You said this:”So a casual passerby, say, because they are not a vicar or a teacher, for example, is not responsible for their own choices or behaviour towards underage children.
            This is a quite extraordinary statement.”
            It is indeed quite extraordinary as I never made nor implied such a “statement”. It is extreme erroneous eisegesis. Are you overwrought from your move?
            And again, I didn’t say or imply this from you, that I should think or imply otherwise.

            “All adults – in whatever social or professional contexts – are responsible for their behaviour in the presence of underage children – regardless of how the children are behaving.
            I would be very concerned if we were not agreed on this. ”
            Again extreme erroneous eisegesis. Not only that but vesting me with views I not only don’t hold but find offensive.
            Why wouldn’t I agree with it, not only that, but practice it? My wife and I, though no longer do so, were accepted through rigorous Council training (including safeguarding) for short term care for children with disabilities. So any concern you think you may have is entirely unfounded and verging on offensive.
            And you clearly know very little about criminal law. Perhaps you’d take offence with judges who have stated that children can need protection from themselves. Boundary setting anyone? Ultimately it is the lack of boundary setting by adults that affects behaviour of children towards themselves, other children and adults and adults towards children. Nature and nurture.

          • Geoff
            It was you that wrote: ‘Nor was the man in a position of trust, such as a teacher, or clergy.’
            My response was to insist he was in a position of trust – simply because he was an adult in the presence of underage children. Full stop. Can you not see how ambiguous your statement was even if you did not intend it to be?
            So I asked you to confirm that was your view. Thank you for doing so. My knowledge of criminal law or supposed lack of it is not relevant.
            Nor was I doing eisegesis. I was playing back to you how it read to me and asking you to clarify what you meant. I was not the only one to profess to being shocked by what you seemed to be saying.
            Oh – and the move is going fine thanks.

          • Geoff

            Without knowing anything about the case you cite I cannot explore further the comparisons with Rotherham. I am still somewhat shocked and surprised that a court should produce a ruling which is against the law, that is, that children under the age of consent cannot consent to sexual activity even when they have been previously sexually active (often through coercive control).
            My bold claims are that although sexuality and gender identity are not related, children are often aware of their sexual orientation or their gender identity from a very young age. I thought I made it clear that: “Knowing your own gender or sexual orientation at a young age does not presuppose acting upon those identities until the age of consent.” Gay children are not allowed (legally) to engage in sexual activity until the age of consent. Trans children are not allowed to transition until the age of 17 or 18.
            Queer theory has no interest in social engineering; that is rather its point.

          • Penelope,
            I am writing this without any longer having any law textbooks nor access any reliable law library.

            I hope this helps, without being patronising.

            1 A crime has to be proved on evidence, (with various rules of admissibility of evidence designed to seek to ensure the reliability of it)
            2 Crimes are defined, usually by statute, but sometimes, over the years by Common Law, Cort Judgments, forming precedents
            3 There are two parts to a crime, both of which are necessary to prove. a) the criminal act/behaviour-actus reus as defined and b) the criminal intent -mens rea. Sometimes there are offences of Strict Liability, for which intent is not necessary. Road Traffic Offences are examples.
            4 Offences can be denied or admitted.
            5 The Criminal law is that under the age of 16 years a person can not consent to sexual activity. This, as you will be aware, can result to persons under 16 voluntarily, engaging in sexual activity thereby committing a crime. An example might be friends having intercourse resulting in underage pregnancy. A decision will be made whether to prosecute.
            6 Another example, may be that a girl is one day away from her 16th birthday when she voluntarily engages with a 16 year old.
            7 Yet another, is when a girl lies about her age and genuinely looks to be over 16. I know of one case where a barrister, on a point of law declined to accept the testimony of a girl that she was 16, as bearing inadmissible hearsay, as indeed it was as she couldn’t bear witness about the day she was born. But it was a little more than a student like stunt, requiring a short adjournment for the production of an original birth certificate, after which there was a guilty plea. Yes, I know, the prosecution should have ensured it was exhibited in evidence.
            8 On conviction, whether after a contested trial or admitted, the Court has to determine sentence. There are sentencing guidelines and the Court has available a pre-sentence/probation report. That sets out both sides, but particularly the defendant’s position (as the prosecution puts forward the victim’s statement of events). Sometimes. very rarely, will there be a serious dispute over what actually happened, upon which the court may hear evidence.There will be some factors that mitigate and some factors, such as a fiduciary relationship, that will aggravate.
            9 The legal age of consent can be described as a “legal fiction” of drawing a line. Another example of a “legal fiction”, but in a different category, is a Limited Company, which is, at law, a separate legal person.
            10 There are other set legal ages, such as the age of criminal responsibility and in the law of contract the age at which a person can enter into legally binding and enforceable con
            11 I don’t know if you’ve come across children whose lives have been exposed to and have grown up with, from a very early age, blatant pornography, virtually and in reality, adults carrying out sexual activities in their presence, in their home lives with multiplicity of partners and numerous “uncles and “aunts” and dads, and brothers that comprise their open families and friends and so that they know no other, through a normalisation process and therefore need to be “protected from themselves”, even though ultimately what they are, who they are, in their sexual precociousness has been determined by adult abuse, perhaps unrelated to the specific circumstance of an offence such as the one I opened up this thread with.

            y
            9 The legal age for

          • Dear Geoff
            Not patronising.
            I do know that in cases where the children are just under 16 or in consensual sexual relationships with peers, the police and the CPS are less likely to prosecute. I thought the cases of which we spoke (beginning with the Peter Ball case cited above) were cases of non-consensual sexual activity in which children were groomed and abused by predatory adults. I also know that in some cases these have involved children who have already been coerced into premature and inappropriate sexual activity (which is why I cited Rotherham) and that, rather appallingly, that sexual ‘experience’ has sometimes been regarded as mitigating the seriousness of the offence.

            Children who have engaged in sexual activity (like the 6 year old refugees described even by The Guardian as ‘selling’ sex) do not need protecting from themselves; they need protecting from predators.

            You said above, in a previous comment that ‘the offence had been admitted’. I presume you mean the offence against the child , not the offence of the child.

          • Penelope,
            What was described was a man charged with sexual offences against a minors (plural). They were not charged with offences, against the man or themselves.

            When setting the old legal consent, indeed in any crime (what is thenature and purpose of a crime purpose ?) : it is not only an act against an individual, but is first and formost an act against the Crown – the state- society as a whole- and although I do not know for certain_ many factors of public policy will have come into play, such as under the age of 16, children need to be protected, from themselves, which to the modern liberal mind may be seen as offensive. As you will know there have been various attempts and arguments used to seek to lower the age of consent, some down to the age of 13 years.
            It is highly improbable that the judge would have been voicing his own views.
            A two-year custodial sentence was imposed.

          • Geoff
            So would I be correct in assuming that the predator was found guilty of abuse against minors? The minors were not found guilty of anything?
            If children are abused by predators, why do they need protection against themselves? Surely they need protection against abusers?
            I don’t think many now argue for the lowering of the age of consent in the UK. I know some US evangelicals do, and in some states minors can and do marry.

          • Penelope,
            You need to read and re-read everything I’ve said about this. I’m not adding anything further, even if you are not able to comprehend.

      • Christopher
        Firstly, I said adultery is always immoral.
        Secondly, I didn’t claim that there was merit in consenting to adultery. I said that because adultery is a consensual relationship between two adults, it is not as grave a moral offence as the sexual abuse of minors. I was questioning a commentator who appeared to be giving the two moral equivalence.
        Thirdly, yes I am ‘more worked up about’ consent than about betrayal. I thought that I had made that clear. And why.
        Fourthly, I have answered all your questions directly. You asked me what I meant by consensual. I answered ‘consent’. You reply you know that consensual means consent. Why ask then?

        For the sake of clarity:
        Adultery is a sin which results in a betrayed innocent partner
        Sexual abuse of minors is a graver sin with a correspondingly greater degree of betrayal for the innocent party.

        Reply
        • I meant that ‘consensual’ is a modern cliche that trips off the tongue when there are 5-6 internal illogicalities with it (which I listed in print) which people sometimes ignore.

          Since what you/we say is true, it follows that ever to speak of adultery in a context which calls it *less* than anything when its effects are pretty total and infinite, especially to call it a less important thing than a shibboleth cliche like ‘consent’, is wrong. We all know that lack of consent is a perfectly dreadful thing; consent itself is neutral (not good) – its goodness or otherwise derives entirely from the goodness or otherwise of the act being consented to.

          Reply
          • Christopher

            Consensual is not a modern cliché, though perhaps we are becoming more aware of its importance in sexual relationships, such as the introduction of a law to prohibit marital rape.

            My original point was addressed to the conflation of adultery (a particular person was named) with sexual abuse of minors (Peter Ball). And, indeed, to include what the commentator saw as the ‘sins’ of Vicky Beeching.
            It is my view that there is no moral equivalence between adultery and paedophilia and to attempt to elide that moral difference is, at best, disingenuous. This is partly owing to the absence of consent, but also to the corruption of minors and the harmful effect this often has on the psyche.

          • Marital rape certainly sounds exceptionally awful, likewise (to a lesser extent) refusal of one’s partner, which is no more and no less unconsenting than the other. (Food for thought for those who claim inaccurately that they value consent per se. Tini Owens’s husband is also extremely unconsenting to her divisive and adversarial demands, but then he doesn’t belong to the right-on crew, so this fact is not mentioned.) This fact is probably the reason why a secular age configures its view of such a perfectly awful practice differently from a Christian age. If there is one (3part) thing that strikes one about secularism, it is:

            (1) its ability to bring the conversation round to negative perspectives within a nanosecond (Christians would simply not have such things on their radar, which is so much better. Seeing horrible things like abortion and divorce as things that are talked about at all, are part of our universe, is the main factor behind their incidence, closely followed by copying family and peer-group.)

            (2) Its adoration for anything involving death and killing, especially of the innocent – topics they constantly come back to.

            (3) Its tendency to fast-forward to a worst-case narrative and blank out any other.

            All pure negativity. Ugh!

            Minors – I find it astonishing that people think there is a massive difference between 16, 17 and 18 years. Only the dishonest line up behind the media’s use of ‘paedophile’ (which could easily bring to mind something like 8-12 years) in such a context. Whether 16,17,18 or any age we are talking something perfectly frightful; but then it will be, because frightfulness is bound to be aligned sooner or later with anything outside marriage. Consent will not lessen that – consent does not lessen the fact that something is outside of a holy or committed context, and those chickens will come home to roost at some point.

          • Christopher
            Refusal of one’s partner is perfectly licit and reasonable. To ignore that refusal would be rape.
            I don’t know who Tini Owens is and cannot understand your points 1, 2 and 3.
            Except that if it is secularism’s gift, we ought to be extremely grateful that we are now more aware of abuse and paedophilia.
            I didn’t claim that there was a ‘massive’ difference between the ages of 16, 17 and 18. (Underage, consensual sex between peers is rarely prosecuted.) Sexual abuse of any one at any age is wicked. It is especially wicked when it involves minors who cannot consent to any sexual activity. There are many between the ages of 12 and 16 who have been deeply scarred by such abuse. Some have committed suicide.

          • When things are not seen in terms of the clear dividing line of married / not married, there will always be controversy either over the rights and wrongs of an issue or over its details. That suits certain large sectors very nicely:

            (1) The lawyers

            (2) The gossips – which is many of us

            (3) Those with a death wish.

          • Chris
            I was speaking to a retired bishop yesterday – one who was deeply pastoral and who had been much loved. He said one of the greatest reliefs in retirement was not to start the day with a feeling of dread in his stomach at the sheer quality of negative/complaining emails he would always for him on his computer. So no – your No 1 is not an exclusive a feature of secularism and it is simply not true ‘Christians would simply not have such things on their radar’. Even these discussion threads are evidence of that tendency at times.

          • David R, that does not surprise me – it is exactly as I would have expected; but it is not what I meant. What I meant was that Christians are less likely than secularists to bring up the topic of divorce within a nanosecond of mentioning marriage, to bring up abortion or euthanasia within a nanosecond of mentioning rights etc etc..

  31. Steven
    I agree with much of what you say here and why, but I think it wrong to lump Peter Ball, Todd Bentley and Mark Stibbe in the same category – Ball’s criminal abuse cannot be equated with the other two’s adultery.

    Reply
    • Adultery was criminal, for quite some time in UK law unless I’m mistaken, and while it is increasingly less common on a world scale (was south Korea the most recent country to decriminalise?), it is still illegal in many nations today.

      Anyway, I’m not sure Steven is saying that the crimes of Ball are equal to Stibbe and Bentley, rather that their transgressions all fall into the same category of judgement for Paul: that of Sexual impurity.

      I think that connection is right.

      Reply
      • Adultery was decriminalised in England in 1857, when marriage law was taken over by the state (from the church) and divorce also legalised (or rather made much more accessible – before that every divorce had to be approved by the House of Lords).

        I think the association between child abusers and adulterers is probably unhelpful in most contexts even if the wrongdoing has something in common ie sex.

        Reply
        • “I think the association between child abusers and adulterers is probably unhelpful in most contexts even if the wrongdoing has something in common ie sex.”

          Yes of course, I take your point and wouldn’t want to make arbitrary connections, but if we are talking about the moral law and Christian discernment surely there is some degree of equivalence between the two, even if it is clearly equivalence of type, not equivalence of degree?

          Reply
    • Of course, it is also the case that the (criminal) law is a poor guide to which things are actually good or bad, beneficial or harmful. The more so in a secular society and/or wherever law need not be rooted in reality. The example here: The law sees stealing a car as much more serious than stealing a husband; the reality is not merely different from that…
      …it is the exact reverse.

      Other examples:

      -Anything at all can be voted into law. As confirmed to me by the DPP, red can be voted green.

      -A lot of people seem to be kidding themselves that (for example) human biology itself changed when abortion was voted legal. Biology is as it is; law may either be accurate to biology or inaccurate to biology, but either way the passing of a law does not reconfigure ‘scientific’ reality in the slightest – that is obvious.

      -The passing of a law is something that is not even a notable feat – walking a few steps into a lobby. A child could do that – even though a child would be too sensible to vote for some of the things voted for by their seniors.

      -UK law says a child does not need a father – again, the precise reverse of reality: often a dad is exactly what they *most* need.

      One could go on (What Are They Teaching The Children? 275-6).

      Reply
  32. There is a simple distinction between Civil Law and Crininal Law (England and Wales). The debate between law and morals was epitomised in the classic Hart v Devlin debate.
    Christopher, you’d need to define “stealing”. It is defined in criminal law, theft and it doesn’t include humans as being property (at least when I last looked).
    Bigamy is a crime, adultery, isn’t, being part of Civil Law, Family Law including marriage and divorce.
    “Natural Law” is a recognised category in jurisprudence (and theology is it not?)
    As far as criminal law is concerned, there is a presumption of INNOCENCE, whether a Bishop or pauper or a previously convicted paedophile (unless the Court accepts earlier method of crimes as “similar fact evidence”) and this presumption must be rebutted by evidence from the Crown (State), (the , evidential burden of proof is on those making a claim – summons/indictment that a crime has taken place) and the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
    The Law of God is an altogether different character, dependent on the the entirely Holy person, (character) of the Holy Trinity.

    Reply
  33. Dear Ian
    Firstly – thank you for a very helpful, but also disturbing post. It sounds, on a larger scale, a bit like a process we went through in Scotland in the noughties which produced a “Study Guide on Sexuality”. This had some articles by orthodox, others by progressives and it was sent round for each parish to engage with. I do not think ours was unusual in not really wanting to talk about or spend time on it – which rather echoes your comment about engagement.
    Secondly – re the statement by Dr Hamley that the Bible does not say much about “identity”. Well maybe it does not use that word, but surely identity is all about who we are, where we come from, who we are related to, our relationships with family, tribe and our relationship with God. If that is even slightly true, then the Bible has a great deal to say about identity – such as Jn 1:12 … to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. It is just that ‘identity’ is yet another word that has recently been warped towards other meaning.

    Reply
  34. I was very frustrated at the recent General Synod by the talk on identity. The whole basis for the talk was that and equivalent word for identity couldn’t be found in the Bible. There therefore seemed to be a legitimacy to piece together pretty much what ‘the god of this age’ offers us.

    I wish I had been able to share Galatians 2:20 At the time!
    “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
    Our identity is now found in our relationship with Christ our Lord and Saviour. Provided he remains so of course!

    Reply
    • Your response presupposes that gay Christians who live out their calling as gay Christians, whether abstinent or partnered, cannot have been crucified with Christ and cannot live by faith. They have. They do.

      Reply
      • I don’t understand your logic Penelope. I think your assumption about my thinking is incorrect.

        Everyone, to become a Christian, must ‘take up their cross’ and follow Christ. To take up one’s cross is to put to death (repent) of any aspect of our life which is contrary to ‘what Christ commands us’ and aspire to follow more faithfully in the future.

        My comment didn’t relate to any particular sin. Just the general concept of repentance in general.

        Reply
        • Indeed, and I hope that all Christians, gay and straight, single or partnered, abstinent or sexually active, repent of what is contrary ‘to what Christ commands us’, continually and faithfully.

          Reply
          • How is it that you reproduce precisely the popular terminology of the particular age you happen to inhabit. Does that mean that whichever other age you had inhabited you would be reproducing their popular terminology and presuppositions?

            Secondly, gay is not an essence (that is equivalent to sleight of hand, though equally ‘parroting’ the culture), it is just how some people are *now*. But then, being a smoker or a devotee of garage music is also how some people are *now*.

          • How is it that every ‘document’, every text, every utterance reproduces the popular terminology of the particular age? Because it can do no other? The NT wouldn’t have been understood if it wasn’t written in popular terminology.
            I didn’t expect to find you quoting David Halperin, but how else can we worship God but in the now? We certainly can’t worship Him in the past, nor in the future.

          • No – because we are aware of other options unless we know nothing but our present age and location (which is true of very few of us). Other possible options may not have been instantiated yet. Discerning and critical thinkers select their preferences from the options in their purview. Sometimes by coincidence this will coincide with their present culture, and sometimes it will not. Where it always does, we can safely say that the person has too little information, is too little of a critical thinker, or else is too conformist.

            Speaking in the language of our age is not at all the same thing as parroting the popular media-spread orthodoxies of our age.

          • As mentioned, what people call being gay is not an essence.

            I really rated Halperin’s book on chariot mysticism. The psychological part of the conclusion was a bit left-field of course. It was put on the questionable list by (I think?) New Testament Abstracts (??).

      • Penelope – what exactly do you mean by claiming there is such a thing as folk “living out their calling as Gay Christians”? what on earth is that and how on earth do you come up with such a phrase? It is certainly not in Scripture not tradition?

        seriously – i have no idea what you mean – are you suggesting God calls and gifts some to be gay christians?

        Reply
        • Simon
          Simply that many gay Christians live out their calling, single or married or in a covenant partnership, lay and ordained, serving the church faithfully as priests, churchwardens, members of Synods etc. Some, sadly are still closeted, but we hope for a time when they won’t feel the need to hide from bigotry. We are all in the imago dei, and yes He calls and gifts us all.

          Reply
          • Hi Will

            I didn’t say sexual orientation is a calling. I said that gay Christians should live out their calling as gay Christians, whether that is partnered or celibate.
            If I tried to live out my calling as a gay or bi Christian, that would be blasphemy, because it is not as God created me.

          • But this language of ‘calling’ comes from the very document that rejects the idea of ‘gay Christians’. Cherry picking.

          • Christopher

            Which document is that? I use calling all the time in my work as a synonym for vocation.

          • The KJV New Testament general idea of the calling of God is deep rooted in our language – 1 Cor 1.26, 7.20, Eph 1.18, 4.4, 2 Tim. 1.9, Heb 3.1; as to special aptitudes and abilities (including celibacy: 7.7), 1 Cor again.

          • Romans 11.29 the gracious gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Put that alongside Romans 1. Same author, same letter.

          • Christopher

            You said ‘a document’. Several letters of the NT (which, incidentally don’t mention hay Christians) are not ‘a document’.

          • That is relatively hair-splitting – what about the main point that Romans 11.29 is written by the same author as Romans 1?

            Of course the authors did not have exactly the same terminology or taxonomy as us, but how does that stop them overlapping in the realities of which they speak? Whichever area of life one mentions, they will have had a somewhat different take on it. Neither theirs nor ours is intrinsically infallible – that comes down to the evidence. How else could things be?

          • I’ve already addressed that point, but without comeback. Our concepts are not going to be the same as the ancients’ – that is a given. However, they will overlap with them, because the realities they dealt with overlapped.

            This applies in all areas of life, not just the present one. Just because they configured shopping differently from how we do, does that mean we cannot speak or judge about their shopping habits and beliefs?

            So long as we find blanket, strong opposition to anything in the category same-gender quasi-sexual activity (which we do), then what is the issue?

          • The answer is we can’t know exactly what the texts are proscribing, but it was a) only male acts and b) certainly not PSF gay relationships.
            If men have intercourse with menstruating women they are breaking a code whose terms we do know. Do we excommunicate them? Ban them from communion? Assume they aren’t saved?

          • Not only male acts – see Romans 1.

            When you say we cannot know exactly what the texts are proscribing, that is a careful choice of words. How is that relevant when

            (1) We know pretty much what they were proscribing.

            (2) Cultural differences are agreed to be a given in every area of life. Why then don’t we question so minutely everything the Bible dictates? Do we do so only on the occasions where it is unwelcome to our own particular culture?

            (3) Most importantly: What they were proscribing was a large and general category of behaviour which covers all the subcategories.

            (4) Your preferred subcategory is very distant indeed from anything that would have been deemed acceptable in the Jewish culture.

            (1)-(4) would need addressing one by one.

            Menstruation – not in NT?

          • Christopher
            We have an idea of what arsenokoites meant, from the LXX, but not how Paul was using it since it is a hapax legomonen.
            If it does mean what the LXX suggests, it describes only one sexual activity which both straight and male gay couples engage in. There is no reason to suppose other behaviours from the text. (Your ‘sub categories’.)
            Romans 1.26, which we have discussed before, most probably does not refer to lesbianism.
            The Jerusalem Agreement, which echoes the Noahide Covenant, proscribes blood. That includes menstrual blood.
            So, when it suits our purposes, we are quite happy to ignore what scripture proscribes.

          • Penny, thanks for your stamina in continuing the discussion this long! But I think you are quite mistaken on both counts, and don’t really understand your logic in making these claims.

            In Lev 18.22, the phrase ‘to lie with a man as you lie with a woman’ does not appear to proscribe a particular act (anal intercourse) in itself; the issue appears rather straightforwardly to be a rejected of (penetrative) sexual relations between two men, after the fashion of (penetrative) sex between a man and a woman. The history of interpretation confirms that the issue here is same-sex rather than other-sex sexual relationships.

            I am unclear why this being hapax leaves us with any uncertainty. Paul is effectively saying in his list, ‘those persist in doing what Lev 18.22 prohibits’ will not enter the kingdom. This is of a piece with his agreement in Romans 1 with traditional Jewish rejection of gentile acceptance (in places) of same-sex sexual relationships.

            I do find it odd when critics divide what Paul says in different places from each other and from other texts, take them one by one, and decide that it is all unclear—when the texts read together make perfect sense. God make humanity male and female; sexual relations between the two have a unitive function (amongst other things); our sexual relationships should match this theological intention in creation; therefore same-sex sex cannot be part of the redeemed life.

            What in the texts contradicts this reading?

  35. ‘… what is that to you? You follow me!’ These words in the passage John 21:20-23 come to mind increasingly when I pray about the conversations about same-sex marriage. As a lay person, although I am deeply concerned about these conversations, I am very much aware that have no influence on any decisions that may be made by the CofE about possible changes in church doctrine on marriage, and having followed the conversations prayerfully for several years, I am now weary of it – very weary. I pray for wisdom and discernment for all who are in a position to make decisions about whether or not to make changes, and I pray for wisdom and discernment for myself as I follow Jesus.

    Reply
    • Hi Christine

      Don’t forget this is a war of attrition. Part of the liberal/revisionist strategy is to wear down the opposition to change by unceasing pressure so that eventually enough just give up the fight. Each of us by ourselves has little influence but together we can form a mighty resistance to error and attempts to lead the church down wayward and futile paths. So don’t give up!

      If this new teaching document mapping exercise does lead to yet more pastoral accommodation of sinful behaviour, as some suggest, then it will be important for orthodox believers to stand up and say enough is enough. At they very least we will want to know that we did all we could to prevent the church from departing from scripture.

      Reply
      • Hi Will
        Please don’t caricature those who disagree with you. Many of the liberal/revisionist position (especially those who are LGBTI) long for the day when justice rolls down like the waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

        Reply
        • Hi Penelope – well their theology, hermeneutics, biology and anthropology haven’t got any better or more persuasive! But they seem to think if they keep on repeating their ideas and putting them into motions and books and policies and practice then eventually they will eventually be established by default. Why win an argument when you can apply pressure to expand ‘pastoral accommodation’ indefinitely and wait till the only thing left to change are the rules, which will merely then be ‘reflecting reality’? I don’t think this is caricature at all.

          Reply
          • Hi Will
            Interesting that you see this in terms of winning the argument. I think we are engaged in a process of deep and prayerful reflection on scripture, tradition, reason and experience. I don’t think ‘their’ theology or hermeneutics are unpersuasive, nor that ‘they’ are wrong to write books and propose motions. That is how change happens. As Luther found.

          • Penelope, how can you not see that for everything in life there is an argument to be won or lost? Otherwise why have any debates or universities at all?

            I actually listed in my book a series of meetings I had attended where it was explicitly said that the meeting was not about winning and losing an argument. Very convenient, because then the organisers’ perspective could then establish itself unchallenged in a totalitarian manner.

            This ‘no right and wrong answers’ idea is especially convenient for those who know they are going to lose the argument. But why do they imagine the rest of us will be taken in by this trick?

            It never matters which individual wins the argument. It matters that truth is arrived at, or edged towards.

            We do find a lot of instances of people seeming to think that the more times they repeat something the truer it is. No it doesn’t work like that, and they know it – so it is additionally established that they are dishonest. How would that process work anyway?

            Other people are saying ‘See how long we have waited – it is a scandal.’ Well, if your cause is to any degree incoherent, or omits mentioning counter-arguments or inconvenient evidence, that is probably the reason for the interminable delay. If people think that they must get their way in the end, that is immature. Do they also have the right to override evidence? Children think that – but who else?

          • Christopher
            I did not say that there were no right and wrong answers. I wrote that this was not about winning arguments. This is not a sixth-form debating society; we are dealing with people’s lives – whatever ‘side’ they are on.
            What if your ‘side’ gets its way in the end. Is that immature.
            What if Gagnon repeats his sub-platonic, sub-Christian reading of Genesis. It’s poor theology. But is it dishonest because he keeps repeating it?

          • Penelope, that is nonsense. We all know these things:

            (1) Winning and losing arguments is not everything.

            (2) It is not something one can simply leave out of the picture!

            (3) How do we estimate its importance? It is something very important, since otherwise how can we get any closer to the truth?

            (4) As soon as we say it is not important, people can come along with their inaccurate ideas (which suit their preferences) and claim legitimacy for them.

            (5) The point that it does not matter *who* wins an argument has already been made. But you spoke as though it had not.

            Immaturity lies in seeking a convenient scenario where wishful-thinking ideologies are seen as equivalent to research conclusions (!) , in order to get one’s way. It is clear to all that the 2 are poles apart.

            It is easy to find which people are honest. It is those who do not know in advance what ‘conclusion’ they are going to come to.

        • Christopher
          You can’t have it both ways. Either there is for everything an argument to be won or lost or it isn’t everything. Nor does winning arguments necessarily get us any nearer to the truth.
          I hope no scholar has wishful thinking ideologies, not even Robert Gagnon.

          Reply
          • Penelope, read what you wrote. You wrote that it’s a case of ”either” A ”or” B, yet both A and B are clearly true, so it is a both/and.

            A ”Either there is for everything an argument to be won or lost”

            – which there undoubtedly is: every assertion is either true or false and needs backing up with evidence and argument in cases where the assertion is not obviously true

            ”or it isn’t everything”

            – in the sense that there are other things in the world. That is also undeniably true.

            So you can see that the two ‘everything’s were unconnected to each other. The 2 assertions of mine which happened both to include the word ‘everything’ (and had nothing else in common) were talking about 2 unconnected things.

      • Hi Will,
        Thank you for your encouragement not to give up!
        ‘A battle of attrition’- yes, I do think that many revisionists are embattled (though the words of some revisionists come over more as a plea than a battle-cry).
        The twitter hashtag #lovewins suggests a battle in which lack of love ‘loses’ – Christians who believe that male-female marriage is uniquely ordained by God are accused overtly and/or by insinuation of being ‘unloving’ when they resist the call to accept same-sex marriage as also being ordained by God. I think that this accusation is unjust, but then, as Christians, we can expect to suffer for doing and saying what we believe is good.
        But we are all fallible, and we make mistakes, and revisionists are quick to correct our mistakes (and our perceived mistakes), or to cast doubt on the exact meaning of a word we have used ( such as ‘consensual’, ‘love’) and embark on a lengthy debate about that. We will never be perfect, and we will never we above criticism, and this is why it seems to me that we cannot ‘win’ this battle on their terms.
        I think this is spiritual warfare, and I often use Ephesians 6 as a focus for prayer. So I am not giving up. 🙂 Also on a personal note, I have two medical conditions which leave me with chronic fatigue, so I am a bit ‘hors de combat’ for this reason.
        I appreciate the strength of your convictions.

        Reply
      • Sorry Will, you wrote ‘war of attrition’, and I misquoted you as writing ‘battle of attrition’. I can’t imagine why I did that, because I think ‘war’ is a more fitting word for what is happening!

        Reply
  36. Quote: “…and the third, an eccentric consideration of an academic thesis that the relationship between Jesus and the ‘beloved disciple’ were in a pederastic homoerotic relationship, where Jesus was the erastes and the disciple was the eramenos. ”

    If I had been within earshot of anyone proclaiming such vile lies about my Lord and Master, Jesus, I would have concluded that a considerable amount of righteous anger was called for, and I would have protested with such volume, vociferousness, and persistence, that the speaker would have been unable to speak, and I would have continued until he stood down, or the time ran out for the talk, or I was removed from the room by overwhelming force.

    I am disappointed (but, alas, not surprised) that no-one present was sufficiently loyal to Jesus as to do the same. I would not like to have to stand before Him on the Day of Judgment and give an account of why I remained silent in such circumstances. So perhaps an act of repentance and confession by those who were present is called for, along the lines of : “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done…”

    Reply
    • Then I hope you never have to attend a university seminar or an academic conference where such discussions would be quite commonplace.

      Reply
      • Not in New Testament studies such discussions are not commonplace or mainstream or particularly taken seriously. Nor anywhere else, since New Testament studies is where they would need to belong (in order for the requisite linguistic and cultural underpinning to be understood) if anywhere.

        The Gospel of John is very rarely considered historically reliable by liberals. (Unless when it suits them?) There is plenty of 3fold structuring in this gospel involving God, Jesus and disciples/model-disciple. One such structuring is Jesus being in the Father’s stethos, the Beloved Disciple being in Jesus’s kolpos, and the disciples being in the Father’s cheir. A great deal of John’s content is there for internal reasons.

        Reply
        • Pretty commonplace in NT departments. Whether John is ‘historically reliable’ is, fo such a thesis, wholly irrelevant.

          Reply
          • But I have been in NT studies for 25 years. How have I missed it? Which is your area of speciality?

          • Christopher

            I can’t believe that you have been in NT studies for 25 years and never heard or read papers by queer biblical scholars and theologians (or feminist, post-colonial, black etc. scholars). There was a conference on the bible and rape culture in Sheffield recently. Unfortunately I missed it because I was on holiday.

            My NT area is Paul. Not much queer stuff there, but lots of feminist and post-colonial studies. Currently I’m working on the Pilling Report.

          • When did I say I had not come across such things? I just said that they were deservedly fringe and doubtless ideological, creating the 1st century Jewish culture in our own image. Being true to the culture is a touchstone of what counts as good scholarship in this or any similar field.

          • Christopher

            You said that you had been in NT studies for 25 years and asked how you had missed it.
            Being true to the text’s origins is very important but is not the only hermeneutic.
            ‘Mainstream’ readings, because they are informed by other contexts and cultures, often miss this.
            ‘Marginal’ readings seek to recover the voices of those elided by the heteropatriarchal norms imposed upon our reading of scripture by a heteropatriarchal culture.

          • Heteropatriarchal? Anyone got a cave we can hide in before it is too late?I’m being pursued by microagressions. Help!

    • One thing is sure, Angus, you would have been removed, not that you would in any way have deserved that. My 2016 Synod ‘getting removed’ experience was at the bidding of a complainant who:

      1. could not point out a single error in my handout

      2. was unaware whether I had cited one paper or several

      3. was incapable of naming even one of the papers I had referred to

      4. could therefore give no detail about any of their contents

      5. nevertheless rejected wholesale the claim of each and every one of them to be properly scientific!!

      6. and stood by their incisive assessment that it was all ‘tosh’.

      That is, in my experience, par for the course. Aristocracies and establishments (think they) can get away with anything.

      Reply
    • Hi Angus.
      ‘If I had been within earshot of anyone proclaiming such vile lies about my Lord and Master, Jesus…’ – when I read this, your love for the Lord and your anger reminded me a bit of Peter in John 18:10,11 , though of course you expressed a wish to ‘chew off’ the speaker’s ear, rather than to cut it off!
      The peace of the Lord be with you.

      Reply
      • Christine,
        Thank you for your consideration. When Peter did as he did, he didn’t have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide him. Nowadays, disciples of Jesus do, and I trust that the only sword that I would use would be the sword of the Spirit.

        Reply
        • I’ve just thought of an addition to my comment above. I guess that the example in the back of my mind had been the ejection of the moneychangers from the Temple courtyard by Jesus. (I dare say that had David Runcorn been there at the time, he would have been protesting the ‘freedom of trade’ of the moneychangers.) But if the desecration of the Temple courtyard provoked such righteous anger from Jesus, how much more righteous anger should be provoked by lies which desecrate God Himself?

          Reply
          • Righteous anger – yes. One other thing I thought of about is this in your original comment is : ‘… or I was removed from the room by overwhelming force’ – you were willing to face the consequences of speaking out (and speaking ‘out of turn’!), and you were not expecting anyone to change the rules of social engagement just for you.

  37. It’s called ‘freedom of speech’ Angus. Even stupid people are allowed it. Your proposed refusal to allowance to shout it down in public debate is more offensive and counter-productive than the views you are objecting to. You would certainly change no one’s opinion. So what is the point (this side of heaven)?

    Reply
    • At law there have long been restictions on “freedom of speech”and is less and free in the acedemy where even well argued and reasoned positions would be marked down as not complying with the zeitgeist of the times or the institution and in illiberal, unequal “equality” and “no platforming” and in the dominant subjectivity of “hate” speech, where mere disagreement is classed as hate, hateful , and where certain views are given a “free pass” without any countenance or opportunity to counter, (such as the quoted “acedemic thesis” that Ian refers to as quoted by Angus above),;where thesis assumes the position the place of fact; where liberal theology and scriptural reading dominate and have done so for many a year like seeping sepis, or ever increasing doses of warfarin to a malfunctioning heart.
      Scripture, down the years, has been studied by atheist in the acedemy, who would deny anything of Triune God and the supernaturality, who have great and dominant power, position and influence and control.
      And lastly, not all speech, opinion carries the same weight. And it is well known that an “argument” can be won, carried, but not the day .
      Chose your teachers and academy wisely.
      Gospel proclamation does not always change opinion but can harden already hardened hearts and minds that are in impassive, academic, detached, in opposition yet set in a moving quagmire of liberallity,

      Reply
      • Geoff
        You seem to be arguing that the academy is the enemy of the gospel. If you pit the two against each other academic enquiry will not flourish and the Church and tradition will be impoverished. This thread could not exist without the academic rigour which has opened the worlds of the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible, historically, culturally, exegetically, linguistically. If you think that the Jesus and the beloved disciple ‘thesis’ would not have been challenged, you haven’t been to any university seminars recently.
        If you want a closed hermeneutic, you can choose certain colleges, who will impose a dominant reading.
        Your comment about atheists is interesting. Are you claiming that the bible belongs to Christians, that atheists shouldn’t study it and that they have no place in the academy?

        Reply
        • ‘If you want a closed hermeneutic, you can choose certain colleges, who will impose a dominant reading’ – yes.

          What has that to do with the idea that certain theories are fringe because of (a) the lack of evidence for them, (b) the fact that they rather suspiciously seem to match up with certain groups’ dominant ideologies?

          Imagine the following dialogue:
          ‘Jesus was a pink rights campaigner.’
          ‘What textual data backs that up?’
          ‘Fundamentalist! Bible basher! Bigot! Always favouring your own ‘wing’.’

          Reply
          • Christopher
            Certain ideas are considered ‘fringe’ because we have developed a heteropatriarchal hermeneutic which often reads western Asian texts as if they were written by 19thC liberal Protestants.
            Some scholars want to resist the texts, such as those which normalise rape or tell slaves to obey their masters. How do we deal with these texts today? Not all marginal readings are convincing, nor are all mainstream readings.
            Your example is simply risible.

          • You might also want to consywhy some dominant readings were conveniently in line with cultural norms.

          • Anyway, are you saying that ancient western Asia was not hetero- and not patriarchal?

            Why would a distant culture 2000 years ago happen to conform to the preferences of an equally distant one 2000 years later? (Not that it does.)

        • Yes. On Thinking Anglicans 10 years ago, I was trying to explain the difference between Taliban cells and house-church cell-groups, but they would have none of it.

          Reply
          • Yes, Christopher. There is deep irony there, with liberal and atheist cells planted in the Church. And for the avoidance of doubt, before the usual suspects take apoleptic umbrage, there is no direct or indirect moral equivalence or comparison here with liberals and/or atheist and the taliban.
            Really, Christian house – church, cell groups = the Taliban??? So what does that make full grown Christian denominations?
            The Gospel is, of itself , dangerous to…..culture, secular atheists, other religions, poltical and state systems and more besides.

        • This irony has left me with an uncontrollable, fixed, supercilious, superior, self-satisfied smirk, blinding me to my own obtuse cynicism with such sparkling wit and amazing repartee. Oh yes, it has, Oh yes, it does. Yippee.

          Reply
          • Penelope,
            Just a little responsive irony to accompany David R’s . Yippee! Aren’t I brilliant?
            Such is the delicious delight of irony that it can be indulged alone when no one has your own taste buds.
            Glad it amused you and brought out concern, compassion. Ta.
            Geoff

    • David, I was interested to read your determined advocacy of freedom of speech. Does that also apply to Christians who wish to declare that God does not approve of same-sex intimacy – indeed that engaging in it leads to eternal separation from God? In view of your having been a signatory to the Open letter to Archbishops – Jan 2016 which called for: “Repentance for accepting and promoting discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, and for the pain and rejection that this has caused.” I rather doubt it. So I am faced with the conclusion that in your eyes, hate speech against Jesus is much to be affirmed and supported, (and protestations against such hate speech repressed and invalidated) while hate speech against LGBT people is much to be repressed and invalidated (and protestations against such hate speech much to be affirmed and supported). I really would have to regard anyone who thought like that to be (um, how can I put this politely…) rather inconsistent.

      Anyway, the apostle Paul didn’t support freedom of speech within the church when he wrote (Titus 1:10-11): “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. (11) They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families…” (ESV, bold added). If people should be silenced in those times because they taught falsely that circumcision was required of Christians, how much more should people be silenced nowadays because they teach falsely that Jesus (you know, God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, who was holy in everything) engaged in an activity that His Heavenly Father (you know, God the Father, the First Person of the Trinity) had declared through the Prophet Moses to be sin – in the strongest possible terms? (And whatever we might think of the applicability of certain passages in Leviticus today, they definitely applied to Jesus living under the Mosaic Covenant and its associated Law.) And shouldn’t deceivers who teach that good is evil and evil good, thereby misleading others to their eternal death, also be silenced – or to use modern terminology – ‘no-platformed’? And do you really think that my desire to silence a deceiver in obedience to the teaching of the apostle Paul is more offensive than the assertion that Jesus engaged in same-sex intimacy? I don’t think I’ll trust you for moral or spiritual guidance any time soon, and I really feel for those who do.

      Reply
      • Angus

        I agree with your convictions and passions for Christ and your protestations against depictions of Jesus as pederastic or actively homoerotic. As you rightly say, Jesus lived a perfect life under the Law, and were he to have engaged in such behaviour, he would have violated God’s law and be a sinner. So this is not some academic muse, it is a test of Christology and of orthodoxy.

        My question is where and how we protest? I personally do not believe that in a secular context such as a university we have any right to ‘no platform’ speakers, but rather students and academics use every appropriate means to challenge and expose the ideological underpinnings of such views and their baseless Scriptural and theological foundations.

        I do, however, think that in a church context we must robustly challenge such. And I wonder if some of the contributors here who seem to draw no distinction between what may be permissible and passible as scholarship in the academy and what is unholy and obscene in a church context have confused and conflated the two spheres. We must expect Christ to be sullied in the world, and should not be surprised if he is in the academy, but we must not ignore and leave unchallenged such in the church.

        Reply
        • Simon,
          Excellent comment. I had been thinking particularly of the church environment, but perhaps the distinction between church and academia had been partially formed, but not entirely worked out, in my own mind. Thank you for expressing it so clearly.

          Reply
      • Angus
        Greetings. Actually Simon’s response to you is exactly my position too. Nothing more, nothing less. Including, in the right time, place and way, to protest. I’m as passionate as you are about Christ and scriptural truth.
        But we clearly disagree strongly – and that is what discussion threads like these are for. Why not join in? Instead, in the middle of this long, often painful and very thoughtful discussion thread you have suddenly banged open the door, overturned all our discussion tables and shouted your personal views across our conversations in the strongest terms. I am not sure what you are hoping to achieve.

        Reply
  38. Geoff
    Like Penelope I have been a bit concerned for you …. but then I have not the faintest clue what you are so excited about. (I picture you dancing wildly round your sitting room ?). But I would never resent another’s moment of private joy.

    Reply
    • Such ironic feigned ignorance, David. And irony is your specialist subject, is it not. Maybe it is a double or triple bluff that hides true or blinded comprehension.
      The comment was in reply to the ironyof this twitter level, commentof yours:
      “I’ve heard a rumour that Ian Paul is thinking of hiring security guards for his next Festival of Theology.”
      Simon P in a post comment fairly recently said that you had at long last made your position explicit . While you responded to the effect that you had long done so from my time visiting this site it was not until that stage was reached that drew Simon P’s comment was it also clear to me, though conclusions could be drawn from your comments, which would have been correct, about where you really stood in the sexuality “debate”.
      Indeed your nature is revealed more and more in the contempt you show with your ironic eisegesis and reductio ad absurdum. While I continue to maintaing that the “interpretation” of Peter’s dream to include, in effect, anything you’d want it to, is scriptually preposerous, and some may claim extreme erroneous eisegesis, masquerading a smart academe. Some may conclude it is little more than the “emperor’s new suit of clothes” and verges on scriptual illiteracy. But some may see more of wolves in in sheeps clothing: false shepherds, false teaching, a difference ans distinction between, wheat and tares, sheep and goats. But then you don’t believe in God’s Holiness (questions you’ve avoided) His Holy-Love, His Holy judgement, nor the warnings for false teaching.
      Yes, then, it would follow that there would be free pass for atheist hermeneutics and bible study (see Penelope above) that has equal merit and disproportionate effect. Don Cupit anyone?
      On another blog a retired medical Consultant,with expert and practical knowledge of physiology, from England while seeking to trace his ancestry in Scotland came across a tract from Bishop Richard Holloway. This is what the Consultant wrote:
      “In the lounge of the small hotel where we stayed I picked up a “tract” – a small booklet published by The Saltire Society of Scotland which, including other things, aims to be “a champion of free speech on the issues that matter to the cultural life of every Scot”. Its title was, “A plea for a Secular Scotland” and the author was none other than the past Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway.

      I thought the content was confused rubbish, but at its heart was that, despite being “a champion of free speech”, in the name of tolerance the “intolerance” of the church should be suppressed, and indeed removed from public life.

      A ex-bishop! With friends like that, who needs enemies.”

      The view of an ordinary, highly qualified, intelligent Christian, not fooled

      Things have moved on: the methodolgy is for the church to inbibe culture, to be like it, worship the “spirit of the age”.

      Perhaps, David R , you’d like to ridicule the Consultant with your patronising irony.

      Reply
      • David R,
        By the way “Yippee! “was ironic.
        My original comment on irony was to you but didn’t appear in the right order. The comment really was on the use of irony in general and was, as you’ve displayed if you didn’t see it, self fulfilling, applying to me as well as you. How tragic, I was left to taste the delights of my own irony alone, if you as you didn’t “get it.”
        But ta for the ironic faux concern.
        The pairing of Proverbs 26: 4-5 applies, does it not,? No irony intended
        Fellow sinner,
        Geoff

        Reply
  39. This is as good a place as any to say I am frustrated to be unable to attend the next Festival of Theology. Big diary clash. But if Ian was ever short of a topic another year I would love the opportunity to test further how we read and interpret scripture in our present context.

    Reply
  40. David R and Penelope here is an excellent podcast, from Christian scholar I respect with a hermeneutic I’d subscribe to:
    Here is a Today’s question: “What implications does the promise of new creation have for Christian ethics? Specifically does new creation undermine natural law ethics since we are now to orientate our lives, not towards what is revealed in nature, but towards the new creation established by God in Christ. What implications does this have for issues in which Christians often appeal to natural law arguments – marriage, sexuality, gender issues etc…?”
    https://soundcloud.com/alastairadversaria/does-new-creation-undermine-natural-law
    More grist to the mill, and well worth 22 mins of time. It can be dowloaded and listened to on the move.
    In your open minded hermeneutic you should enjoy it, without ironic derision. It wouldn’t be surprising, however, if you’d rule it out from the outset, and not liten from your “dominant reading.”
    It encompasses a Christian scholar’s hermeneutic I’d joyfullly subscribe to, with a non ironic Yippee!
    As I said, choose your academy and teachers wisely.
    In that wisdom, I’d seek to disseminated this widely in the CoE in the context of the Church of England teaching document on sexuality. That, however, is not within my gift.

    Reply
    • Geoff

      I have just listened to it. Mostly I agree with him. Why did you think I wouldn’t? I’m not generally convinced by natural law ethics and I’m unconvinced on whether the charism of celibacy is a sign of the new age, cf. Robert Song and Halvor Moxnes. I find Moxnes more convincing than Song.

      Paul argues (in this passage) that porneia is uniting one’s body with a ‘harlot’. None of my gay friends are uniting their bodies with harlots.

      I have chosen my academies and teachers very wisely. King’s London where I encountered the great Profs Douglas Campbell and Eddie Adams, and Exeter where I had the honour of being taught by Profs David Horrell and Louise Lawrence, Dr Susannah Cornwall, and, of course, Prof Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who is, as I’m sure you know, an atheist. I am not sure why you think that atheists cannot study and teach on the bible. Surely scripture isn’t ‘owned’ by Christians.

      I don’t know whether David mentioned Richard Holloway. I don’t think I did. He’s a morally courageous and honest agnostic. I hope I end up siting next to him in Heaven, rather then Franklin Graham!

      Lastly, I’m rather shocked by your attack on David which impugns his scholarship, his theology and his wisdom. By all means disagree with him robustly (and me) but calling a reading of Acts 10 and 15 eisegeis and scripturally illiterate is simply offensive. As is your inference that where he stands in the sexuality debate is somehow ‘sub-Christian’. As is your observation (rather naïve, I think) that atheist scholars and historians have nothing to offer. If you cannot see that the narrative of scripture sometimes goes against the grain of particular and specific texts then I am very much afraid that you would have remained on the side of the slave owners.

      Reply
      • Penelope,
        I don’t know David R, but I am more than aware of your and his irony.
        All I’ve had to go on is what I’ve gleaned from his comments on this site, the words used.
        Are you really saying that the church should be led and influenced by agnostics and atheists?
        If you are reducing Alastair Roberts podcast to little more than the use of the word harlot, rather than the whole biblical sweep(biblical theology) of it, you are merely peddling you own dominant reading and seriously undermining your own credibility as a biblical scholar’s critique. It is doing the podcast and Roberts a great disservice and is a misrepresentation of the whole. It doesn’t set out the points made nor seek to debate the points in a scholarly way.
        At least anyone who desires can listen to the podcast and make up their own minds.
        And again linking me with Franklin Graham (I actually don’t know what he believes) and slave owners is scholastic rubbish. It is desperately, intellectually feeble, in my view and scripturally indefensible. It is, like the reading of Peter’s dream preposterous. It certainly doesn’t come from any prophetic word of knowledge about me. Too me, it is a negation and dereliction of all your learning and in my view, with roots in a cause rather than scripture.
        David R didn’t mention Richard Holloway, I did, bringing in a comment from a fellow, ordinary believer with his comment about a prominent leader in the Anglican Church and the harm that can be caused. Neither did he mention Don Cupit, I did, to make the same point.
        Would any other cause or religion have unbelieving leaders and teachers? Islam anyone?
        At the least ordinary Christians would seek to be led by ordinary (creedal believing) Christians, or trust that they were being so led.
        The Way is narrow. The gate is narrow.
        Goodbye Penelope.

        Reply
        • Geoff

          I don’t know whether the Goodbye is a preemptive: don’t reply to this. But I will.
          I thought David’s quip about the security guards was funny and to the point in answer to Angus’ ridiculous assertion (supported by Simon) that he would ‘no platform’ a scholar giving a queer reading of a text. Universities are secular institutions and students whether Islamic, Christian or Jewish will encounter scholars – sometimes atheists and agnostics – who do not share their controlling narrative. They will learn that scriptures do not belong to any particular faith and that secularists have as much right to study them as religious groups. They will encounter Christian scholars whose beliefs and theology differs very much from their own, most of whom can say the Creed without crossing their fingers. That is rather the point of universities.

          Neither Holloway nor Cupitt is an ‘Anglican leader’. Are you suggesting their books should be suppressed?

          I think you rather missed my point about slave owning. Admission of the gentiles into the church (without requiring them to obey the Law) has about as much scriptural support as the abolition of slavery. That is, none, or very little. That is why David and I use Act s(15 as well as 10) and Galatians as an analogue for the debate on SSM – an appeal to the meta narrative of scripture rather than to ‘proof’ texts.

          As to the podcast. I said I agreed with much of it – apart from a little agnosticism about the innovative nature of the charism of celibacy. I don’t see how or why it contradicts anything I have argued. That was my point about not uniting your body with a harlot – none of my gay friends do that. They live honourable and faithfully with their partners/spouses.

          And now I’ll take my desperately intellectually feeble and scripturally indefensible ideas to somewhere where they might do some good

          Reply
          • NO Penelope that is not true – I distinctly said I do not agree in no platforming – I believe in protest against blasphemy pretending as scholarship but through the appropriate means, primarily by good scholarship closing down nonsense!

          • Simon
            I’m sorry if I misrepresented you and implied that you believed in ‘no platforming’. I’m also sorry that you confuse blasphemy with scholarly engagement and persist in believing that theses with which you do not agree are ‘nonsense’ and are, therefore, not ‘good scholarship’.

          • Penelope

            When the eternal Son the divine Logos in his incarnation, as revealed in Holy Scripture, who knew no sin, but became sin, to bear the sins of the world, is twisted and co-opted to promote sin then yes, I call that blasphemy. Jesus, Son of Man, fully human, was tempted in all ways common to humans – and God alone knows the depths of temptation he entered into. But for someone to claim that Jesus was involved in a gay relationship with the youth John is not scholarship, it is indefensible from the texts, but its horror is to say that Jesus was sinful and violated his own law. And that may be acceptable to ‘liberal’ or secular or atheist scholarship, but it is not orthodox, not Biblical, not evangelical, not Catholic, not Christian, because it is not Jesus in his revelation.

          • Simon
            Did you read about the Mediaeval story of John and Jesus’ marriage in Cana which I mentioned in a comment above?
            It shows that a playful approach to scripture persisted for two almost millennia until late 19th century fundamentalism imposed its own culturally constrained reading of the texts on the faithful.
            I said that I don’t believe – from the texts – that Jesus was involved in a pederastic relationship with John, but it would not violate his own Law if that Law did not see gay relationships as inherently sinful.
            I am shocked that, as a university chaplain (I didn’t know you were, until David mentioned it) that you would want to stifle debate.

          • Penelope you appear here to be endorsing pederasty, since you say Jesus having a pederastic relationship ‘would not violate his own Law if that Law did not see gay relationships as inherently sinful.’

            This implies you think: 1) accepting gay relationships involves accepting pederasty; 2) pederastic relationships are acceptable (since you do not regard gay relationships as inherently sinful).

            Do you want to clarify any of this?

          • Dear Penelope

            Yes, I was a university chaplain for 7 yrs – I haven’t been for over a decade. Now I am a minister in Oxford and in a church replete with scholars of all disciplines. At one time we counted over 100 PHD/DPhil & medical doctors (maybe more now including those researching), so quite intimidating for a bear with a small brain like me, yet also encouraging that so many world class scholars and intellectuals subscribe to and are alive to evangelical faith.

            I was not aware of a medieval depiction of Jesus as practicing gay (but heterodoxy has always been present in every age of the Church) – I was aware of ancient portrayal of Jesus as lover of Mary Magdalene and of course I am aware of modern poems/movies which present Jesus in homoerotic scenarios.

            No, I certainly don’t want to stifle debate nor seriously scholarly study of Scripture – I have pastored and supported and wiped the nose of numerous DPhil students, including many theologians – one or two some now Professors. I have several of their DPhil theses scattered around my home, toilet, etc 🙂

            So I am passionately committed and admiring of theological intellectual enquiry. I do not myself hold a PHD, but 20+yrs ago did a research piece (60,000 word MLitt) on Karl Barth and was happy to say why I thought this giant was very wrong.

            A brief survey of Church history shows she often makes mistakes, follows false trajectories and serious but humble & prayerful study must be done – I am a Protestant and so believe in ‘semper reformanda’ – but in line with Scripture whose meaning may have been shrouded or clouded.

            As a priest I believe it my vocation, my ordination to teach the faith as once delivered and to contend for it against that which would seek to undermine the faith. Like all ordinands in the CofE, I was handed a NT, then a Bible at ordination – the Word is our work and ultimate authority.

            The faith is always being undermined – much of the NT is written to defend and contend for the faith against error that has wormed its way into church doctrine and practise. The spirit of anti-christ is ever restless.

            The question then is at what point does theological scholarship become, dare I say, ‘demonic’. I believe it is anti-Christ when its foundations, intentions and conclusions subvert the revelation in Scripture and Orthodox tradition.

            If I may say so, I wonder if sometimes you and I and others here almost become caricatures of our faith traditions as we compress our thoughts and fire them back and forth – and being online much is missed that would not be in face to face discussion and debate. Sometimes we all can sound shrill yet in most other circumstances be more moderate, or at least more nuanced. Theology should be done from prayer and worship and lead to prayer and worship (which is why I dont actually think an atheist or agnostic can contribute much to the discipline – from faith to faith as Paul says).

            You and David R have taught me, and challenged me, and provoked me and made me go back to Scripture and prayer – and for that I am grateful. But I wont ever ignore a comment which implies Jesus was a sinner – and that is what I took issue with above.

          • Simon

            I have only just seen your comment. Thank you for your response. Your present church seems to be rich and fascinating. I, too, don’t believe that Jesus was sinful. But I am more open to heterodox and variant opinions and readings. I came across this today: “Tradition is not merely a formal repetition of what was stated in the past, but is an active experiencing of the Christian message in the present. The only true tradition is living and creative, formed from the union of human freedom with the grace of the Spirit.” Bishop Kallistos Ware. That, put rather better than I ever could, is what I believe.

          • Hi Penelope

            That’s not a definition of tradition. The whole point of tradition is that it is something received, handed down from the past, not something that is of the present moment. True, traditions have to be kept alive by participating in them today, and creative development of certain kinds (within certain limits) is possible while still remaining recognisably tradition. But the essence of tradition, what makes it a distinct concept from ‘what we happen to do now’ is that it is what we have received from our predecessors. In that sense it is not something ‘living’ but fixed and received, and to be passed on unchanged.

            Btw I’m still hoping you’re going to clarify your apparent endorsement of pederasty, as per my comment above?

          • Will
            Tradition is a living encounter with faith, scripture and experience. It changes and has changed throughout history. It is not petrified.
            But I suppose that Bishop Kallistos Ware, like Gerard Loughlin, Dale Martin and countless others are also wrong, heretical, heterodox: false believers..who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ.

            No, I don’t really want to clarify my thoughts about pederasty. I think my comments have made it perfectly clear. But since you seem so ready to distort much of what I write, I will explain. No I don’t think a relationship between two people one of whom is older than the other is illicit, if both are over the age of consent. On the whole, we don’t regard heterosexual relationships, where there is a disparity of age, immoral.

            And now, if you’ll forgive me I’ll desist from commenting further. Your comment earlier this morning was graceless and condescending. I need time to recover my usual cheerfulness,

          • Thanks Penelope. But how does support for such relationships fit with sexual relationships being PSF? Surely pederastic relationships by their nature are not P. And often not really S or F.

          • Penelope I’m not trying to misrepresent you. The opposite in fact. I’m trying to get an accurate picture of your views and your reasons for holding them. What you’ve just said implies that you would be content with a, say, 50 year old man having a sexual relationship with a 16 year old boy. Is that correct? You say we don’t usually regard such relationships as immoral. But of course from an orthodox Christian point of view we would regard any sexual relationship outside marriage as immoral, as fornication (or adultery). A pederastic relationship we would further regard as abusive and corrupting.

            You (like David) say what you are seeking to defend are PSF relationships, a new version of marriage. But surely if you are defending pederastic relationships you would also want to defend sexual relationships that are quite different from that. Would David also defend pederasty? I was criticised on a previous thread for suggesting that we start talking about the real agenda, which is wider than SSM. But surely here when you argue for the moral acceptability of all consensual sexual relationships, including pederasty, that wider agenda is clear?

            Older men seeking sexual relations with teenage boys is to my mind gravely immoral, for a number of reasons. You speak as though you are shocked that I might regard you and other liberals as false teachers, but surely you are aware that that is precisely how many evangelicals regard liberal theologians, scholars and clerics? Our civil engagement (such as it is!) shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of regard for the gravity of these matters. Liberal theology of the kind that embraces full-on heterodoxy is to be repudiated and defeated in the church as far as possible, accommodated only as much as strictly necessary, and never welcomed. This isn’t supposed to be offensive; it’s just contending for the truth.

          • Will
            If you are asking if I support adults having sexual relations with underage boys or girls I don’t.
            I must have missed something. I am really not sure why this question surfaces here.
            I expect exactly the same standards of behaviour in same-sex relationships as I do in other-sex relationships.

          • Hi David

            Not underage. Teenage. 16+ (I don’t know how committed Penelope would be to the 16 cut off point rather than say 14, which is the age of consent in a number of places, and where some campaigners such as Peter Tatchell would prefer to see it (or lower)).

            The reason the questions arises here is clear from the foregoing discussion:
            Penelope: ‘I said that I don’t believe – from the texts – that Jesus was involved in a pederastic relationship with John, but it would not violate his own Law if that Law did not see gay relationships as inherently sinful.’
            Me: ‘Penelope you appear here to be endorsing pederasty, since you say Jesus having a pederastic relationship ‘would not violate his own Law if that Law did not see gay relationships as inherently sinful.’ This implies you think: 1) accepting gay relationships involves accepting pederasty; 2) pederastic relationships are acceptable (since you do not regard gay relationships as inherently sinful).’
            Penelope: ‘No, I don’t really want to clarify my thoughts about pederasty. I think my comments have made it perfectly clear. But since you seem so ready to distort much of what I write, I will explain. No I don’t think a relationship between two people one of whom is older than the other is illicit, if both are over the age of consent. On the whole, we don’t regard heterosexual relationships, where there is a disparity of age, immoral.’
            Me: ‘But how does support for such relationships fit with sexual relationships being PSF? Surely pederastic relationships by their nature are not P. And often not really S or F.’ (Plus the comment you have just responded to.)

            I’m glad to hear, David, that you don’t endorse pederasty. Penelope however appears to be happy with it as part of her approval ‘on the whole’ of consensual sexual relationships. She is yet to respond to my most recent comment. But it is hard from what she has said to avoid inferring that she holds primarily to a principle of consent as the touchstone for sexual relationships rather than marriage, and includes pederastic relationships in that. That of course is a very long way from biblical Christian sexual morality. If Penelope does hold these views I don’t think she is unusual among liberals. Your own views on the other hand (endorsing gay sex but only in PSF relationships) are really quite rare. Yet the debate in the church gives them disproportionate attention which I think unhelpfully skews matters, concealing the true nature of the changes proposed.

          • Will
            ‘appears to be happy to ….’. These discussion threads are so fraught with misunderstanding, misreading and misinterpretation of the view of others I would be very wary of assuming you know what Penelope thinks or believes in the absence of an actual response. Especially someone who has evidently thought through these issues with great care.
            I did not use the word ‘pederasty’ in my response you.

          • Citing ”the age of consent” automatically puts human law (which constantly changes from culture to culture and age to age) as a *higher* authority than any divine law (sex is for marriage). Which of the two do Penelope, David R etc consider the more important?

          • David, that was understatement. In fact, Penelope was, as she put it, ‘perfectly clear’:
            No, I don’t really want to clarify my thoughts about pederasty. I think my comments have made it perfectly clear… No I don’t think a relationship between two people one of whom is older than the other is illicit, if both are over the age of consent. On the whole, we don’t regard heterosexual relationships, where there is a disparity of age, immoral.

          • Christopher
            The age of consent has been constant in the UK since 1885 when it was raised from 13 to 16 to protect children from child prostitution. It had been 12 since 1275 and had been raised to 13 in 1875. This is hardly fluctuating change change ‘age to age’ . Each change was for the better. And C19 Christian social reformers were significant in those reforms too. It will be news to them in glory that in protecting children and young people in this way they could be accused of making the law of the land a ‘higher authority’ than God.

          • Will
            OK. It’s a long thread and hard to keep track.
            But since you found Penelope so clear why understate her stated position on this ?
            And I agree with Penelope that there is nothing illicit in relationships between people who are of different ages where both above the age of consent. Do you agree?

          • Hi David

            I agree with Penelope that there is nothing illicit in relationships between people who are of different ages where both above the age of consent. Do you agree?

            Absolutely not! Sexual relationships outside of marriage are fornication (or adultery) and thus sexual immorality. And you have said that you only regard sex in PSF relationships as morally acceptable. Yet here you say you agree with Penelope that there is nothing morally wrong with any consensual sexual relationship, including pederastic ones (you won’t use the word, but Penelope does, and you are agreeing with her).

            See how easily that new view of marriage slips into affirmation of a modern sexual ethic of consent.

          • David R

            You didn’t answer the question. Which of the 2 is the higher / better / more reliable authority?

          • Will

            OK, you win. I said I was not going to comment any further but this discussion in my absence prompts me to clarify.

            I wrote that pederastic relationships between two people over the age of consent are not illicit. I did not use the word immoral. I did not say that they couldn’t be PSF. I did write that we don’t, on the whole consider mixed sex relationships where there is a disparity in age as immoral. You say that you consider a pederastic relationship as immoral, do you therefore consider a mixed-sex relationship where there is a disparity of age immoral? It was you, I think who used the example of a 50 year old man and a 16 year old boy. I have no idea if that is typical of pederastic relationships today. It wasn’t in antiquity. Like many others, I suspect, I sometimes feels queasy when I see sexual relationships where there is a wide age disparity. I suppose because they could be exploitative. But, so long as they are consensual and faithful, it is not really my place to judge them. I am not sure why you keep citing Peter Tatchell. He’s done some great work, but in my opinion, his views on the age of consent are flawed and hardly relevant.

            I don’t believe PSF gay relationships are a new version of marriage. I think they are marriage. And yes, consent is my touchstone for sexual relationships. I cannot impose my Christian convictions on those of other faiths and secularists. (But consent remains key, which is why I would strongly oppose forced marriages.) I believe there is such a thing as Christian marriage derived in part from scripture and from tradition. I do not believe there is such a thing as ‘biblical marriage’, though there are many biblical marriages and many of those are not models which a virtuous Christian would want to follow! There are also biblical marriages which are only marriages because we read the institution into the text, Adam and Eve, for example and Abraham and Sarah.

            Now, I speak here only for myself and not David R nor for any other affirming people. Sexual morality (or rather, society’s attitude toward it) has changed greatly in the UK since the 1950s. There may be many reasons for this, such as the so-called ‘permissive society’. But several things promoted those changes in society: changes in the divorce law, the availability of affordable, safe, and reliable contraception, and the Church of England which fostered a ‘tolerance’ (by no means the majority view at the time) to homosexuality. And so now we have, without much fuss, an heir to the throne who is married to the woman who was implicated in his marriage breakdown. They had a service of prayer and dedication in church after their civil marriage. His two sons lived with their partners before they were married and had other girlfriends with whom they had sexual relationships. The younger son is married to a divorcee. They, like all young couples, can ‘live together’ before the wedding ceremony without fear of pregnancy. Most young couples I know, whether they marry in church or not, live as partners before the wedding. This includes the children of priests and minsters. I have Christian friends both young and old who choose to live together without being officially married. I have no idea why. I don’t enquire. None of the people I have mentioned is promiscuous or unfaithful. (Well the Royals may have been, but most probably aren’t now.) I think we should be encouraging people to embrace the discipline of marriage as a ‘holy estate’ and for the sake of society and I think we should be compassionate when marriages fail. But people come to marriage in a very different way from 60 years ago. The genie is out of the bottle.

            I cited Miranda Threlfall Holmes’ marvellous blog, written at the time of the ‘Take Note’ debate on another thread. She sums up my position rather well.

            I find this constant probing rather distasteful, as if I am required to submit my views to your approval. I may be mistaken, but I infer a desire to catch me out in some ‘liberal’ heresy or heterodoxy which will then nullify all my beliefs, label them as sub-Christian, and implicate all other poor liberals n my blasphemy. This does not seem, to me, to be simply debate on varying points of view on the theology of sexuality but a calling to account. I am answerable only to my confessor, to my conscience and to God.

          • Thanks for replying, Penelope.

            I don’t see what’s distasteful about probing the logic of views in the minds of their most eloquent and informed exponents. Presumably you are not ashamed of any of your views. Yes I am looking for where those views are inconsistent with biblical orthodoxy in further ways. Given the nature of the discourse that seems perfectly reasonable.

            Your reply is helpful but none of it is reassuring. Christians believe that the moral law is God’s law for all people, laid down by divine injunction and built into the fabric of creation (that’s one of the main points of Romans 1-2). We don’t believe in one morality for believers and another for non-believers, as though reality and morality differ depending on whether a person holds certain religious beliefs. Christians tolerate deviation from the marriage standard because of human weakness; they never affirm it or refrain from recognising its immorality.

            You suggest pederastic relationships can be PSF. But that is nonsense: pederasty by its nature is an unequal relationship focused on the youth of the beloved. People who seek them are never looking for permanent monogamy, if they were they wouldn’t be seeking out a teenage boy as a lover, who will not remain youthful forever.

            Anyway I think I’ve made my point: the agenda for same-sex marriage cannot logically or psychologically or sociologically be limited to affirmation only of PSF marriage-style sexual relationships. This gives orthodox believers a further strong reason to reject it, beyond its formally immoral nature.

          • Will
            Thank you for coming to your verdict on us about all this.
            What shall we talk about now?
            Are you into cricket by any chance?

          • Yes, Will, I am not ashamed of the gospel, as Paul says. But, since I am not Paul, I do not seek to forensically examine whether your views are ‘orthodox’ enough. Indeed, I would see that as gross presumption on my part, abrogating to myself the eschatological winnowing and assuming that salvation is predicated on correct belief.
            You say that pederastic relationships cannot be PFS. What evidence do you have for that? You forget to mention mixed-sex relationships where there is a disparity of age or to say whether you belieythese can be PSF.

            Your unbiblical argument that Christianity should impose its particular moral law on the rest of humanity may have some parts of tradition on its side, but it is deeply unscriptural. Both the HB and the NT recognised that ‘aliens’ or non believers were not bound by the rules of those outside the ‘religion’. Thus, what is licit is distinct from what is (considered by the cult) immoral.

            Most offensive is your triumphalist use of the term ‘orthodox’. In most periods of Christendom, most of the tradition you believe is fixed and unchanging, your beliefs about marriage would have been heretical. That is not to say that they are wrong, now; simply that orthodoxy is a slippery concept. Tread carefully on the shoulders of giants.

      • Will
        I was not talking about marriage.
        And I too find the persistent tone of your questioning here aggressive and overbearing. I am not obliged to declare my beliefs to you. This is a discussion thread that I choose to be part of because it is one of the places I have found to debate, listen and learn on issues that matter.
        I am guest here and so are you.

        Reply
  41. David – do I hear you right? That you consider it ‘more offensive’ for Angus to righteously protest the most grotesque blasphemy than for that person to blaspheme?

    Reply
    • Simon
      Grotesque blasphemy? Surely grotesque blasphemy would be trying to force men and women made in God’s image to rebel against that image by hating and denying that which He made?

      Reply
        • FWIW I don’t think the author of John depicts Jesus’ relationship with the Beloved Disciple as erotic – well, more particularly, as genitally expressed. Nor do I believe that Jesus had a ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ sexual relationship. Though I find it interesting that when I point out that, as a 1st century Jewish man, Jesus might have been married, the reaction is often one of horror. It would appear that there is still a lot of unacknowledged Gnosticism and Docetism in Christian belief, which influences the popular belief of sex (even ‘straight’ sex)as something inherently unclean or sinful.

          Queer readings are those which trouble, disrupt, and question the normative, dominant and hegemonic readings of texts. In queer theology and queer biblical studies these are religious and scriptural texts. Such readings speak not only to LGBTi experience, but to those who have been figured as marginal in the dominant Christian discourse such as the disabled, people of colour and women. And, as Gerard Loughlin writes “Theology is a queer thing. It has always been a queer thing” (Queer Theology: 2007). In the same work, Loughlin tells of one mediaeval version of the wedding at Cana story in which the bridegroom, who is John, leaves his bride on their wedding night and marries Jesus instead. The scene is pictured in miniature of the Basel Libellus around 1493.

          So, transgressive or queer readings of the Bible are nothing new. They are, contrary to your statement, heard in rigorous academic debates at university seminars and conferences. I would expect students to be aware of transgressive readings. Of course they do not have to be persuaded by them, but I would think they deserved the label ‘snowflake’ if they tried to ‘no-platform’ them. Much better to bring their academic rigour to bear on their perceived weaknesses of this reading

          Reply
      • David: well, such grotesque blasphemy would not be heard in a rigorous intelligent theological context so I doubt the students would have cause here to protest. It is certainly something I have never heard taught, although I have caught whiff of it over the years. But if the students did have to endure such bile, then protest they should. No, I would never advocate shouting down a lecturer – but there are several ways to protest: first, by questioning the argument in the lecture by serious Biblical debate and by exposing the scholarly emptiness of such a position; secondly, by writing a compelling rebuttal and showing the banality of the thesis presented. Thirdly, I would encourage talking with the tutor and explaining why such a view is so painful to those who love Jesus and his Word.

        No Penelope: I did not suggest that to be gay was blasphemy (although have you read Karl Barth on exactly this Church Dogmatics 111.4 ?). But I do say that to claim Jesus had gay relations with the adolescent John is blasphemous because it says Jesus was sinful and violated God’s Holy law. That unravels our whole doctrine of Christ and redemption. Much is at stake.

        Reply
        • Simon
          Thank you. I commend your strategy for disagreement to Angus.

          Meanwhile what is it exactly that is such a vile and grotesque blasphemy?
          Is the view that any discussion at all about the sexual side of Jesus’s humanity is surely wholly inappropriate? So the same fierce condemnation would be reserved for people suggesting Jesus had a relationship with Mary Mag. or to those pondering the impact on Jesus of the woman intimately washing his feet with her hair. (And in practice we never talk about any of this in church do we – which may be one reason why talking about sexuality at all is difficult for Christians).
          Or is this very extreme language reserved for those suggesting that Jesus in the might in any way have known an attraction to a man?
          My own view on this is is the same as Penelope’s. But I just note that those of us who believe that God blesses the commitment and love of same-sex couples as he does other-sex couples will not find this suggestion quite so offensive.
          And for those who have only known rejection and isolation in their search for love because they are gay the thought that the incarnate Jesus might actually understand them at such an intimate level of their need and longing must be infinitely comforting and precious – as it always has been for me as an other-sex attracted man.
          I know you find this very upsetting and we disagree strongly – so let us not go over well worn ground here.

          Reply
          • yep, only one kind. I explicitly and specifically said that didn’t I? Oh wait….I didn’t?

          • You presented a false either/or: August 5th 10.12.

            ‘Grotesque blasphemy would be [not A, but rather B].’

            There’s no reason for an either/or here. Just because B is hypothetically gross blasphemy, that doesn’t in any way affect or lessen A’s claim to be gross blasphemy, which is a separate question.

  42. Simon
    More to the point – in your long experience as a university chaplain have you ever encouraged a CU student – distressed at having to attend lectures or public debates that appear to contradict or seriously distort beliefs at the very heart of their understanding of the faith – to shout down and silence the lecturer, publicly denouncing their views and doing all they can to bring the event to a complete halt and shutting down any discussion?
    That behaviour has not only been proposed here but also defended by several others.
    I am appalled.

    Reply
    • I absolutely defend a very forthright and concise controlled response, impromptu and unexpected if necessary, on occasions where it is proportional.

      I do not defend interrupting or shouting someone down. The response needs to be to what someone is clearly saying, In order to know what they are clearly saying they must be given a chance to speak bother before and after.

      You cannot seriously be saying that certain things are not outrageous, or outrageously historically inaccurate, or outrageously ideological in dishonest disregard of the facts and realities.

      Reply
  43. David I think that is unfair. I was a uni chaplain for five years. The context is about a betrayal of loyalty. The equivelant situation might perhaps be akin to breaking marriage vows. An agreement which had been established on hitherto accepted tradition, rules and behaviour.

    Reply
  44. OK David R., Angus can be faulted – but personally I would prefer a passionate (and disruptive) ‘cri de coeur’ from Angus, who clearly loves and honours the Lord, to a smooth , seductive, ‘politically correct’ presentation about those who make blasphemous suggestions about our Lord.
    The local church is not an academic institution. The local church consists mainly of people who love, worship and serve the Lord as well as they are able – and the Christian teaching document which is the theme of Ian’s post is being prepared with local churches in mind.

    Reply
    • And the local church consists also of people who are gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex, who love, worship and serve the Lord as well as they are able. Many would also like not to be demonised and ‘othered’ and to marry their partners in the sight of the Lord, the Church and the World. They hope for a teaching document which does not kick their experience into the long grass, once again.

      Reply
    • Christine
      The material is question is an academic thesis presented in the context of a wider research and study project debate. It was part of a presentation of a long term project. It was not presented in a local church. It was not presented as the mind of the study group or ‘the Church’. The debate is ongoing. And please, those of us here who take a different, including, view from Angus and others are not smooth, seductive, ‘politically correct’ blasphemers and lacking any passion for our Lord.

      Reply
  45. Thank you David.
    And, Christine, please look at my reply above which mentions Mediaeval queer representations of the marriage between Jesus and John. It’s not simply a modernist, secular shock tactic.
    I try to be eirenic here and to present my views as calmly and clearly as I can. But I am increasingly distressed by comments which call into question not only my scholarship but also my core beliefs, my close attention to scripture and my belief in the Word of God.
    I am a liberal. Liberals are not quislings, introducing ‘sepsis’ into the church, but loyal inheritors of tradition. To impugn liberals as poisonous infiltrators is to inhabit a righteous remnant ecclesiology which sees only one tribe as the inheritors of salvation and turns correct ‘faith’ into a work which circumvents grace.
    Lively engagement and robust disagreement might be productive. We might even enlighten each other. Slurs and insults are simply petty and hurtful. They do not encourage good debate.
    Sorry, Christine, this is not directed particularly at you, but at the general tenor of comments and debate.

    Reply
    • Hi Penelope

      Nice try but the liberal approach you identify with is transparently heterodox and hence false teaching that the church needs to resist not embrace. Universities can discuss what they want but please don’t plead academic objectivity – many fields are notorious for being the preserve, indeed the creation, of ideologues pushing a spurious version of history and truth. Queer theory is inherently biased against the plain teaching of scripture not to mention the findings of hard science about the nature of the human male and female. It should be repudiated by all right thinking people and by God’s church. Obscure 15th century references to strange stories of John don’t change that.

      Your pretension to another Acts 10 revolution in understanding betrays the hubris at the heart of the liberal project: you are not Peter and you have no authority to institute such a change contrary to the plain teaching of the NT. It can only lead to schism and failure.

      Reply
      • Hi Will

        I find it desperately sad that the Church of England seems to have been captured by fundamentalist evangelicals who will allow only their version of the truth to obtain. It used to be a broad church in which various ‘tribes’ could co-exist. Furthermore, this fundamentalist tribe are now acting as gatekeepers to salvation, so if anyone is usurping Peter’s role, I fear it is you.

        I wasn’t pleading academic objectivity, surely you see that queer theory would maintain that such a thing is impossible. Nor can it be biased against anything so improbable as the ‘plain teaching of scripture’, but to recover meanings which have been elided by heteropatriarchal cultures. If you think that culture is good, so be it. Genesis 3.16 suggest that it is the result of the Fall. If Jesus came to save us from our sins, he came to save us (also) from the sins of heternormativity and patriarchy, the structural sins which still keep much of humanity in bondage. Obscure references (why obscure?) to strange stories of John simply demonstrate that for almost two millennia, people were confident enough to be playful about and with scripture. That is, until the fundamentalism of the late 19th century destroyed, or attempted to destroy, any reading which was regarded as non normative. Of course the tragic irony is that this dominant, normative reading is as captive to the culture which produced it as any other. It may be a valid reading, but it is heretical to suppose that anything so ‘man made’ (and I use the term advisedly) can be anything other than provisional this side of the eschaton.

        I’m afraid hard science says nothing to support the gender binaries which you presume to read into the creation narratives. Hard science is showing that crude sex and gender binaries are simply not part of the diversity of creation.

        No one is pretending to another Acts revelation, nor presuming to be another Peter, or Paul – I notice that you leave out the references to Acts 15 and Galatians, presumably because they don’t fit your caricature quite so well. Perhaps it is difficult for a fundamentalist to understand the use of analogy in hermeneutics. So, I’ll try once more. There are few, if any, texts in scripture which support the unqualified admission of the gentiles to the chosen people; there are few if any texts in scripture which support the abolition of slavery. Therefor, Peter, more importantly Paul, and the abolitionists argued from the metanarrative of scripture rather than from a few ‘proof’ texts. That is what some revisionists are attempting to do with regard to PFS SS relationships. Just like the abolitionists went against the ‘plain teaching’ of the Bible.

        You may not like being called a gatekeeper or a fundamentalist with a righteous remnant ecclesiology. I don’t care for my ‘liberalism’ being likened to a sepsis, infecting the church. I don’t know why it should lead to schism when we – liberals’ evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics – have agreed to disagree over many much more important issues such as the nature of the priesthood, the Eucharist and the atonement. But I suspect that the gatekeepers are preparing for battle over these as well, and that sexuality and gender are only the presenting issues. I suspect that this is what you mean by ‘failure’; you want your version of faith to be ‘correct’ and imposed upon the faithful. Seems a tad Pelagian to me.

        But let me tell you this, we liberals aren’t going anywhere. Inclusion means embracing those with whom we disagree, who we believe are mistaken about many aspects of faith and doctrine. We are prepared to tolerate you, even when you insult us and caricature our beliefs. Are you prepared to do the same?

        Reply
        • I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.

          Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

          1 Tim 1:3-11

          Reply
          • Penelope,
            I would be interested in your understanding of 1 Tim 1:3-11, quoted by Will above. For instance, why do you think it is included in canonical scriptures?

          • Christine

            I think the letter is aimed at ‘heretical’ teaching which emphasised myths and genealogies as a gateway to salvation rather than the faithfulness of Christ.
            It’s relevance today is that we should depend on that faithfulness and keep Christ’s law. No Christian I know is a murderer, a ‘sodomite’, a slave trader (or kidnapper). Some may be fornicators, liars and perjurers.

          • Thank you, Penelope.
            I know Christians who believe that same-sex marriage is right with God.
            I know Christians who believe that same-sex marriage is not right with God.
            I know Christians and non-Christians who believe that same-sex marriage is unnatural.
            I know Christians and non-Christians who believe that same-sex marriage is not unnatural.
            You have made your position on this clear.
            Please could you offer a charitable explanation of why so many Christians and non-Christians have reached different conclusions from yours on this matter?

          • Hi Christine

            Because we disagree on so many things and, though it might be painful, it shouldn’t divide us.
            For example: women’ orders, the atonement, the Eucharist, whether priesthood is ontological or functional, divorce and re-marriage, salvation, predestination, justification.

            My charitable explanation of why so many Christians (and non-Christians) have reached a view different from mine, is that they have pondered scripture, tradition, ethics thoroughly and thoughtfully and that they have reached a different conclusion about the licitness of same-sex relationships. (Of course, some disagree with me because they see SSM as pandering to heteropatriarchal norms and do not believe that gay people should adopt heterosexual norms.)

            My wish here is that commentators would extend that charity (the understanding that beliefs are arrived at honestly and intelligently) to me.

        • Penelope, you have a fundamentalist unquestioned acceptance that certain groupings like ‘liberals’, ‘AngloCatholics’, ‘evangelicals’ (whose definitions are anyway flexible and changing!!) have to exist and also to be accepted as bona fide. Where does that actually derive from apart from from convention? And what is to prevent anyone inserting any other group of their own making or choosing in that list?

          The correct approach here is a critical one. The proof of the pudding is in the eating as to whether they are bona fide or not. And as to whether they are self-consistent or not, or accurate to reality or not. Otherwise your argument is circular.

          This is why I always say – reject all ideologies. There is only one valid approach, and that is truth-seeking, together with holding on to all the truth one has so far found.

          Reply
          • Christopher

            I didn’t write that these groups had to exist or that they are unchanging. Nevertheless they, and other groupings do exist: all, I hope, on varying but convergent paths to Christ.
            Some are mystics, some charismatics, some apophatic, some kataphatic, some evangelical, some catholic, some ritualists, some liturgicals, some liberal, some conservative, some revisionists, some fundamentalists; all members of the Body of Christ.

          • So they are members of the Body of Christ by virtue of existing? The idea that ‘you hope’ they are on paths to Christ and the assertion that they are ‘all members of the body of Christ’ contradict each other. Although this is not sleight of hand in your case, it is the sort of sleight of hand sometimes employed.

          • Well, until the eschaton I can only hope. But I trust that we are all members of the Body of Christ.

          • I also hope that when I wake up my pillow will have morphed into a large delicious marshmallow. The only hope/trust that is worth anything is hope based on evidence. Consequently talking of hope will change nothing if the hope is not aligned with evidence; speaking of hope in a context that demands evidence is therefore not worth anything.

          • In the meantime we apply evidence. Hope has not any intrinsic overlap with that evidence. Proof: I am still hoping for that marshmallow.

          • Anyway what Paul means in 1 Cor by hope is not hope disconnected from any necessary connection to evidence.

      • Will – and others
        I continue to be appalled by the way Penelope and her contributions are respond to here. It honours no one – least of all one of the most courteous, articulate, theologically informed and biblically aware contributors on these threads but who happens to own the word ‘liberal’. Unless of course you really believe Penelope (and possibly me?) really are part of this supposed revisionist liberal conspiracy you and others keep denouncing. Our cover is blown is it – we are revealed as wicked, atheist, false teachers planted here on Ian’s blog site to undermine the ‘true faith’. Nice try Will.

        Reply
        • David, people should play the ball and not the (hu)man. n thousand times I have seen people take time out from the actual debate at the point when they are about to lose it to change the subject to style or some emotional or personal issue.

          Reply
          • Christopher
            I completely agree. I think that could well be is what is happening here at times.

          • Yes. However, my point is a different one. Passion for the truth has no connection with emotional or personal animosity.

  46. A comment on some recent posts:

    Three vital, closely linked but distinct questions. It is essential to always remember that they are closely linked but distinct

    Who are the Christians? What does each Christian believe? What are the truths of Christianity? These 3 questions are closely linked but distinct.

    On the assumption (amply supported by the New Testament) that God’s action on a person is necessary to make that person into a Christian, then whether a person is a Christian or not (question 1) is an objective fact, known to God.

    Such a Christian who possesses the necessary and developed faculties will have beliefs and experiences. These, in each individual case, give the answers to question 2. Quite often the beliefs are arrived at honestly and intelligently. But they can still be mistaken.

    The answers to question 3 are the essential objective revealed truths, true for God and true for us, which together make up the truth of Christianity as a whole. It is possible, because we may fall into sin in what we hold to be true or false as well as in moral matters, for an ‘objective fact’ Christian to believe things which are ruled out by the truths of Christianity and/or to reject some or all of the essential truths of Christianity. Conversely it is possible for someone to give merely intellectual assent to all the essential objective revealed truths of Christianity and not be an ‘objective fact’ Christian.

    So it is possible, for instance, (not certain but possible) for someone to (erroneously) reject the idea of the wrath and condemnation of God and deliverance from that wrath by the ‘satisfaction’ of Christ and yet to have been delivered from and by those very things which are intellectually rejected.
    Conversely it is possible (not certain but possible) for someone to intellectually believe the truths of the wrath and condemnation of God and the propitiation of Christ and yet not to have been delivered from and by those very things which are intellectually accepted.

    As far as I am concerned, the disagreements we have among professing Christians are about the right answers to question 3 without making assumptions about whether the participants are or are not ‘objective fact’ Christians. And the best way to handle those disagreements is to confront ourselves and each other with the strongest arguments and counter arguments on all sides. I would never say to anyone, ‘You are not a Christian’. But I would say and do say, ‘What you believe is inconsistent with the truths of Christianity’ – hoping and praying that that person would seriously reflect on whether the God and Christ they believe in is the real God and Christ. Conversely I have to examine myself to make sure that the doctrinal convictions I have are not just intellectual assent but are married to a vital experience of the realities of which they speak.

    There is a fourth vital question: how can any of us be assured that we are ‘objective-fact’ Christians. That would need another post to give my views.

    Phil Almond

    Reply

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