What are Paul Bayes’ goals for the church on sexuality?


Andrew Goddard writes: In an earlier article I looked at three changes which Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, recently said he wanted to see regarding inclusion and sexuality and wondered whether there might be the possibility of agreement but also highlighted the need for clarifications. Looking ahead to outcomes of the LLF process, Bishop Paul made various other comments. Most attention has been on his clear call for “a gender-neutral marriage canon” as this is the first time a diocesan bishop has explicitly supported such a change. Rather than focus on that, though, I want to examine some of his other remarks where again there may be more scope for agreement but also the need to explore the issues further and more deeply.

What should we bless?

Recognising that a change to the marriage canon is unlikely in the short-term, Bishop Paul calls more immediately for the right “to honour, recognise and, yes indeed, to bless same-sex unions whether civil partnerships or civil marriages”. However, he then proceeds to extend this much further by stating, “I want to see a church that proclaims that love is love and the recognises and affirmed [sic] and blesses love where it sees it”. This wording, although widely repeated in society and increasingly in parts of the church, raises enormous questions given the range of forms of relationship in which love exists or is claimed to exist. As Peter Lynas has pointed out in a thread of tweets, statements like this and that “People grow up and fall in love and their mysterious bodies lead them to love as they love, and they will love whom they love, and no amount of harrumphing is going to change that” seem to abandon all moral discernment in the face of “love”. They would appear, logically, to open up affirmation and blessing of extra-marital affairs or open marriages and polyamory. I struggle to believe this is what Bishop Paul intends but I also struggle to see how his rhetoric does not entail that development. There is, however, thankfully no great pressure for this much greater abandonment of a traditional Christian sexual ethic and so in what follows I will focus instead on the specific appeal for the blessing of same-sex civil partnerships and civil marriages.

Here it seems that the bishop has a particular concern about conscience. 

What place is there for appeals to conscience?

Bishop Paul expresses what he wants to change in these terms:

I don’t want any longer to see the conscientious rights of progressive people, who believe the truth of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York when they ask for a radical NEW Christian inclusion, I don’t want to see their consciences ignored and explained away and overridden and indeed criminalised by the power of conservative groups and people.

These are remarkably strong terms. Few if any people would say they want to see what he here describes as happening in the church and, as in my earlier article, I am struggling to see what they refer to in current practice. How exactly are “conservative groups and people” using their “power” to criminalise the consciences and conscientious rights of progressive people? [In the current context, that terminology seems much more applicable to some aspects of the campaign to ban conversion therapy]. And given the thorough and respectful way in which such voices are presented in LLF, including through powerful films enabling us to view for the first time in official CofE materials the testimonies of those who wish the church to change, can it really be said that people and their views are simply being ignored and explained away? 

Perhaps the key word here is “overridden” and what is being said is that the church’s current teaching and practices do not permit “progressive people” to do certain things within, and on behalf of, the Church of England. This would then be connected with the earlier appeal for “conscientious freedom for the Church’s ministers and local leaders to honour, recognise and, yes indeed, to bless same-sex unions whether civil partnerships or civil marriages”.

Claims around conscience and “conscientious rights” and freedoms are, as Bishop Paul’s address confirms, increasingly being made and likely to become a significant focus in discussion about what the Church of England should say and do in the light of LLF. As I explored at the end of my response a few years ago to Bishop David Atkinson, I think appeals to conscience are much more complicated than is often realised. At least the following three issues are raised by Bishop Paul’s statements.

First, there are often tensions between individual conscience and our responsibilities towards others on whom our words and actions have an impact, especially when we are part of a group where there are recognised structures of authority. We see this in relation to “collective responsibility” in government and many other situations (including “collegiality” among bishops). Those employed in certain contexts have to limit their freedoms and these limits can be quite severe such as the need for civil servants to be impartial which places restrictions on freedom of speech and action. 

How these tensions are navigated is a complex business which is regularly being negotiated either implicitly or explicitly. The broad outline of the current position in the Church of England as regards sexuality is clear – the Church has various received teachings in relation to sexual ethics, those who are ordained are expected to live and to minister in accordance with that teaching even if they disagree with it, there are established processes by which that teaching can be reviewed and changed (as is now happening through LLF). In such a situation, any appeal to conscience, and especially accusations about consciences being “overridden and indeed criminalised”, needs to be related to these realities. They arise because we are not isolated individuals who can simply assert our own views and enact our own wills but people who are bound together in relationships. In relation to the church, we are nothing less than members together of the body of Christ.

Secondly, an appeal to conscience in the abstract is insufficient when faced with substantive moral disagreements. I noted above that Bishop Paul at one point appears to extend his appeal in relation to legally recognised same-sex unions and speaks of “a church that blesses love where it sees it”. Does this mean that anybody who is prevented by the church from blessing a relationship in which they conscientiously believe they see love is having their conscience “ignored”, “explained away” and “overridden”? Do we need to follow the Methodist Church in its recent decisions to affirm any “form of life-enhancing committed relationship” freely entered into?

This question of the limits of conscientious freedom is one which the Church of England has largely side-stepped, apparently assuming that we easily recognise and agree on these limits. So, Issues, after stating that lay Christians may conscientiously decide to enter committed same-sex sexual relationships despite this being contrary to church teaching, denies applying this logic to “promiscuous, casual or exploitative sex” (5.7) and then explains this in relation to bisexuality (5.8, with little or no understanding of bisexual experience), more open gay relationships (5.9, with again no real engagement with that experience or the testimony of gay clergy such as Malcolm Johnson or the belief statement of LGCM as it then was and now One Body One Faith) and paedophilia (5.10). The reality is that as soon as a group of people define expectations of behaviour they will need to determine how to respond to those within the group who live in ways contrary to that definition. Those who are living that way out of a conscientious belief that they are right and the group is wrong will then likely feel, to varying degrees, excluded or at least marginalised. However, simply drawing attention to this fact and complaining that their conscientious rights are being ignored does not prove that the boundary has been drawn in the wrong place and needs to be moved.

Thirdly, Bishop Paul is clear that “I want to see the conscientious rights of conservative people preserved for them” should the church change its current practice in ways he wants. He does not, however, give substance to these rights which are to be preserved. My guess is that these rights would focus on not being required to participate in a service of which they disapproved but that is a very limited freedom of conscience. Would such conservatives be able to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for such a service? Or to reject the ministry or authority of a bishop who permitted or presided in such a service or was in a same-sex sexual union? Or to require those leading in the local congregation to live in line with a traditional sexual ethic? Would bishops who conscientiously hold traditional views be able to refuse to approve liturgies of blessing or same-sex marriages for their clergy (as happens in the US and Canada) and continue to apply the current rules for clergy conduct in their dioceses?

As Bishop Paul’s support for a ban on conversion therapy shows there are limits for him – as there are for all of us – concerning which claimed “conscientious rights” are to be respected and given space and which are rejected because they are simply a cover for wrongdoing. The logic of his insistence that these matters relate to the fundamental moral norm of justice, and his linking of issues of sexuality to matters of racial justice, would all point to there being very limited if any freedom of conscience for traditional views. As they are to be viewed as a form of injustice they are, by analogy, closer to the three areas which Issues stresses are not currently included within respect for a lay Christian’s freedom of conscience. For those who accept the current teaching of the church, this logic, plus the experience of those unable to accept women priests and bishops, and wider society’s increasingly hostile attitude to those holding a traditional sexual ethic, make “I want to see the conscientious rights of conservative people preserved for them” a welcome but far from sufficient statement.

It is questions such of these relating to conscience which – if the Church of England is to move in the direction Bishop Paul wants – need urgently to be explored together. In the words of the LLF book,

It is important to recognize that an appeal to conscience cannot be used to treat every issue as one on which Christians should simply ‘agree to differ’. Questions of conscience are complex, involving psychological and sociocultural dimensions as well as spiritual ones. They also relate to and are shaped by the communities which we belong to. Disagreements about topics that are a matter of conscience for many of the people involved (on all sides) should properly make us cautious about how to proceed. We need to consider (as we have done elsewhere in this book) the psychological and sociocultural factors that shape our consciences and make us fearful of, or resistant to, the views of others. We need, as much as possible, objectively to evaluate the harms that may be associated with views on either side of a debate. We may also want to conclude that some issues are too central to the gospel to be matters on which we can agree to differ. However, that is exactly why the present debate is so difficult. Christians who take opposite viewpoints each feel strongly that the issue is central to the gospel as they understand it. Can we, therefore, find ways to respect and include those Christians who, in good conscience, we disagree with? (p. 359)

What do we want for the church?

This points to the final two wishes of Bishop Paul that I want to explore: he wants “to see conscientious freedom for the Church’s ministers and local leaders to honour, recognise and, yes indeed, to bless same-sex unions whether civil partnerships or civil marriages” and he also wants “us to remain one church, and within that church for example I want to see the conscientious rights of conservative people preserved for them”. 

Despite my serious questions and concerns relating to the limits of any appeal to conscientious freedoms and rights, and my conviction that the current teaching of the Church of England is right, subject to what I say below, I actually have some considerable sympathy with the first claim. That sympathy arises simply from realpolitik. There is now a sufficiently large group of people in the Church of England who no longer accept the historic and current teaching and discipline of the church of which they are part. In addition, many of them are so distressed by being required to do so that the current situation seems unsustainable and something needs to change. To carry on as at present or somehow compel those Anglicans in this position to leave, and perhaps now join the Methodists or seek to affiliate with the Scottish Episcopal Church, seems both unrealistic and unlikely to assist the unity or mission of the church.

The problem is that our disagreement is deep as it is both a doctrinal and a practical one. What Bishop Paul is seeking (certainly in his ultimate goal of “a gender-neutral marriage canon” and I believe also in his “necessary but not sufficient first step” of blessings) is contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England which I and many others believe and wish to see upheld and to witness to in our congregations. The disagreement relates—as he acknowledges in his criticism of a double standard explored in the earlier article—to the pattern of holiness to which we are called by our baptism. What he wishes is for the church to cease describing certain sexual conduct as a form of sin and so something which in baptism we commit to repent of and die to in our union with Christ. Instead, we are to “honour, recognise, and bless” such behaviour. This raises serious questions as to the degree to which we can say that the church before and the church after such a shift recognisably “remains one church”.

The significance of the call into holiness is shown by the fact that Living in Love and Faith proposes that

Across our differences, Anglicans affirm that God gives us the Bible for two central and inseparable purposes. The first is to tell us the good news of God’s saving love, and the second is to call the whole world into holiness….God speaks to the world through the Bible, guiding, challenging, correcting and encouraging us (Proverbs 3.12; Hebrews 4.12; Jeremiah 15.16). All people are called to turn away from everything in their lives that rejects God, to turn to God in faith, and to grow into loving relationship with one another and with God. God’s great purpose is that we ‘may share [in] his holiness’ (Hebrews 12.10), ‘the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12.14). God uses the words of the Bible as a school of righteousness, of justice, and of love (pp. 275, 276).

As that chapter and indeed the whole of Section Four of the LLF book show, our differences over the pattern of holiness arise in large part from more fundamental differences in how we believe God speaks to us. These relate to how we read Scripture and also how Scripture relates to other sources of revelation. Bishop Paul says nothing in his address about the former but perhaps this is because on the latter he is quite clear that “the agenda of same-sex love and faithfulness and the blessing of its expression has been given to us, and certainly to me, by the world”.

Like Bishop Paul, I too want if at all possible somehow “to remain one church”. We need to recognise however that what it means to be “one church” in an organisational and denominational sense, especially given the reality of historic and recent church divisions, is far from crystal clear or something fixed. The extent to which we can claim to be “one church” does though depend, both theologically and practically, on there being a certain level of agreement concerning the truth we proclaim and the pattern of holiness into which we seek to be formed together. That agreement apparently no longer exists to an extent sufficient to maintain the status quo in relation to sexuality and marriage and as a result “conscientious freedom” now may have to be granted in some form to those who no longer believe what the church has taught. 

What is less clear is what structural form such conscientious freedom to act contrary to church teaching could take. Might it be, for example, the creation of flying bishops or a new province for those clergy and parishes wishing to perform blessings or same-sex marriages? I suspect MoSAIC and Bishop Paul would not welcome such a proposal. They are instead looking for a change to church teaching but although LLF sets out arguments against the current teaching and practice, there is no obvious agreed substantive alternative which has a greater consensus than the current teaching. There is certainly no clearly articulated and widely shared theological rationale that could underpin any new statement of what the church now believes and should do. One response to this is to claim that we should just say as a church that mutually contradictory views are equally valid (a route taken recently by the Methodist Church in relation to marriage). This is not only logically and theologically incoherent, in practice it still amounts to abandoning the current teaching and, under the guise of generous diversity and giving more space to conscience, installing the newly authorised approach as effectively the church’s doctrine and discipline. 

If the sort of changes that Bishop Paul wants are going to be seriously considered then this creates a responsibility to engage much more than advocates for change have yet done with these hard challenges. Those who are willing to rethink the church’s current and historic vision of holiness also need to be willing to rethink the church’s current and historic vision of what is meant by the church’s unity. This is because, in the words of CEEC’s statement arguing that some form of visible differentiation will be required if we change our teaching or practice, many are convinced that “moving away from ‘apostolic’ and ‘catholic’ teaching concerning what it means to be ‘holy’ will tragically mean we are less visibly ‘one’”. 

The tragic and painful experience of other churches and our wider Anglican Communion shows how necessary and urgent it is for us to address these questions of ecclesiology alongside those of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. It would therefore be a great encouragement if Bishop Paul and those committed to the vision of MoSAIC could add to their wish list “I want to dialogue seriously with those who are committed to the church’s teaching and discipline about what achieving what I want will mean for them and what it will entail for our life together and our ecclesial structures”.


Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.  He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF.


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215 thoughts on “What are Paul Bayes’ goals for the church on sexuality?”

  1. “REMAIN one church”???
    In terms of the truths and errors we believe and preach, much, much deeper than the sexuality differences (important though they are), more important than sense or life itself, we are not now “one church”.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
  2. I think there are many parallels with the situation over the remarriage of those who have divorced. In particular:
    The issue was one of sexual (im)morality (as if remarriage is not possible then the church is condoning and blessing adultery) and therefore holiness.
    The issue affected canon B30 (which talks of marriage being ‘permanent and lifelong’).
    The issue was one which divided clergy and congregations.

    Basically, the CofE agreed to allow the remarriage of those who have divorced while recognising that some in the church disagree, and the issue is not seen now as one that fundamentally affects the unity of the Church. Individual clergy have the absolute right to accept or to refuse to marry people who have been divorced as a matter of conscience. The Church has been in a similar situation over many issues, which can equally claim to be as important or more morally (eg ‘just war’ vs pacificism – is a soldier fighting in a war committing murder?).

    Therefore I would suggest something similar as happened with divorce. A note is added to canon B30 similar to the one for people who have been divorced, and the necessary measure/act (I’m not a lawyer) is passed through parliament. Clergy will already have the full protection of law as to whether or not they decide to marry couples who are same-sex. Churches will presumably also have the right (via the PCC) to decide whether or not to register for same-sex marriages. Clergy will also have the ability to consent or not for a wedding to take place. For reassurance, this can be duplicated from the civil law into the CofE.

    Reply
    • I could not think of anything that more affects the unity of the church. This was the point where the church lost its mojo, its power, its Jesus centredness. A spirit of negativity descended completely unnecessarily.

      Reply
    • Hi Jonathan,

      “Adultery” can be literal—when a married woman has sexual intercourse with somebody not her husband (e.g., Leviticus 20:10).

      “Adultery” can be used rhetorically, that is used for a ‘shock’ effect as in: “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matt 5:28–29).

      “Adultery” can be used metaphorically: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign” (Matt 12:39) —Jewish people had not been faithful to their God—Jesus was not saying that lots of Jewish people were committing adultery.

      “Adultery” in the Bible is used metaphorically nearly as often as it is used literally—that is, a lack of faithfulness by Israel to their covenant (e.g., Jeremiah 3:8).

      This metaphorical understanding is gender neutral—whereas the literal biblical understanding of adultery is not.

      The ‘divorce verses’ do not work with the literal understanding of adultery. Why would a man be committing adultery marrying after a divorce, when he could marry another woman without having a divorce? David had many wives (given to him by God) —the problem was when he took Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1–15).

      Jesus could not have assumed that his audience would understand he was changing the definition of adultery that had stood for at least 2,000 years (i.e., making it gender neutral)—when speaking about something else, that is, when speaking about divorce.

      Ipso facto —the divorce verses use “adultery” metaphorically and the adultery is in the invalid divorce.

      Thus Craig Blomberg (Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary, USA):

      “The whole debate about whether a second marriage, following a Scripturally illegitimate divorce, is permanently adulterous or involves only an initial act of adultery dissolves. Neither is true; the ‘adultery’ (faithlessness) occurred at the time of divorce.”

      Craig L. Blomberg, “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Celibacy: An Exegesis of Matthew 19:3-12,” TJ 11NS (1990): 175.

      And John Edwards … argues that the Greek in Luke 16:18 (“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery”) requires that the actions translated as “divorces” and “marries” must occur simultaneously with the verb “adultery”—eliminating any possibility that Jesus is suggesting that the adultery occurs after marriage—it occurs at the same time as the divorce and remarriage—not later.

      John L. Edwards, An In Depth Study of Marriage and Divorce. (Joplin, Miss.: College Press Publishing, 1990), 150–51.

      Colin

      Reply
      • Hi Colin,
        For these purposes, it actually doesn’t matter whether or not you are right. What matters is that a significant number of clergy disagree with you, and do consider it adultery. For the record, I don’t think remarriage after divorce is adultery. But I am in a church where some do. And therefore, for them, it is a serious sexual offence.

        Reply
        • So you are treating the opinions of NT scholars as precisely equal to those of non NT scholars when everyone knows that the former are worth more?

          On what basis?

          When you say they ‘think’ these things, what is their ‘thought’ based on?

          Reply
          • Everyone ‘knows’ no such thing.

            The ‘opinions’ of NT scholars are not univocal.

          • NT scholars are not so easily corralled. Nor are we forbidden to scrutinise their opinions.

            Having been opposed to the remarriage of divorcees in the early 70s I chose the issue as my year long ethics topic. Reading the scripture again and carefully, looking at, the then, NT “experts”. There was some good CofE stuff around as well.

            As a natural conservative in things biblical I changed my mind. Not about adultery or becoming “it’s love so it’s OK” simplistic… but that, on occasion, it was not wrong.

            My views, as best as I can, are based on scripture not merr”my thoughts “.

          • Whoever said they were? Two sentences, one misunderstanding.

            The point made was that JT is saying each person should decide for themselves, however ideological they are and however much or little they have studied the evidence. That means that education, schools, universities of all kinds can close down at once. So: a different point.

          • ‘Whoever said they were?’ refers back to PCD ‘The opinions of NT scholars are not univocal.’.

          • Christopher

            You said the opinions of NT scholars were worth more than those of none NT scholars.
            Which opinions?
            Worth more in what ways?
            What happens when the NT scholars differ? Which NT scholars’ opinions are worth more than those of other NT scholars?

          • On average the more people have studied anything the more they should be listened to on that topic (and the less they have studied, the less they should be listened to). This has nothing to do with whether they agree – though scholarship is a refining process so the informed will have a narrower margin of overall disagreement than the uninformed. And the Pope is a Catholic. And bears

          • Christopher

            This does not answer my questions about worth. what is this worth, and how is it measured?
            And your assertion that the more people study, the more they agree is simply nonsense. Scholarship is not a ‘refining process’.

          • The more people study, the more they agree, because the more options become impossible, and are ruled out. Way-out hypotheses are found largely among the unlearned.

            Scholarship is indeed a refining process. I am certainly puzzled that you think it is not. Is it making no progress at all? Does it never rule out certain options?

        • Jonathan,

          “For these purposes, it actually doesn’t matter whether or not you are right. What matters is that a significant number of clergy disagree with you, and do consider it adultery. For the record, I don’t think remarriage after divorce is adultery. But I am in a church where some do. And therefore, for them, it is a serious sexual offence.”

          Thanks for your comment —and yes, I understand.

          But I think a problem for the Anglican communion is if they conflate the relaxation of the traditional understanding of adultery on remarriage after divorce with same sex relationships. The former understanding is not well founded in Scripture, but I suggest the latter is.

          Colin

          Reply
          • Jonathan, first you say you ‘think’ something, but how are we to make head or tail of that or believe your word ‘think’ to have any meaning unless you explain the ground of your belief? Second, are you not thereby disagreeing with Jesus? So why belong to an organisation that follows Jesus?

          • Hi Colin, the issue is that a significant number of people disagree with you and consider both company with scripture.

          • No – they only disagree in one era. We are asked to believe that it is coincidental that that era is one where social forces would produce that result anyway. That is not possible to believe. Social forces always have an effect, a strong one. In fact, a substantial proportion of people cannot resist them, while others have not the historical nor analytic powers to do otherwise. Nor does the most detailed scholarly work, that in commentaries, back up what you say. There are incredibly detailed critical commentaries on Romans and on 12 Cor. And there are many of them. And I do not recognise what you say within their very detailed content. It does not figure, though millions of other things figure.

      • And John Edwards … argues that the Greek in Luke 16:18 (“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery”) requires that the actions translated as “divorces” and “marries” must occur simultaneously with the verb “adultery”—eliminating any possibility that Jesus is suggesting that the adultery occurs after marriage—it occurs at the same time as the divorce and remarriage—not later.

        But if the remarriage is irrelevant, as I think you are arguing — if the divorce itself is adultery, even if the husband never has sex with another woman ever again — then why did Jesus mention marrying another at all? Why didn’t He just say, ‘Everyone who divorces his wife commits adultery’?

        The rest… I think I would want to know about the original language before I accept an argument based so much on fine distinctions between literal and metaphorical usage. The word ‘adultery’ in English, for example, comes from Latin, where it comes from the word for ‘mixing, contamination’. So there is no ‘literal sense’ of ‘adultery’ in any language with that derivation: the word itself is a metaphor, seeing sexual infidelity as metaphorically equal to contamination.

        Reply
        • Hi S,
          “But if the remarriage is irrelevant, as I think you are arguing — if the divorce itself is adultery, even if the husband never has sex with another woman ever again — then why did Jesus mention marrying another at all? Why didn’t He just say, ‘Everyone who divorces his wife commits adultery’?”

          Because all the evidence from NT times is that a divorce was undertaken for the very purpose of remarriage. Unlike today when divorce might be a lifestyle choice.

          “The word ‘adultery’ in English, for example, comes from Latin, where it comes from the word for ‘mixing, contamination’”

          But the Bible is not written in English (o Latin). And the unequivocal testimony of all Scripture teaching in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek—is that the understanding of (literal) adultery is as I have outlined. It is in all its teaching and the narrative accounts. There are no exceptions.

          Colin

          Reply
          • Because all the evidence from NT times is that a divorce was undertaken for the very purpose of remarriage. Unlike today when divorce might be a lifestyle choice.

            That doesn’t answer the question I’m afraid; quite the contrary, in fact. If ‘divorce’ in New Testament times implied remarriage, then why did Jesus specify ‘Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery’? If the ‘and marries another’ was so universal as to be effectively included in the definition of ‘divorce’, as you suggest, why specifically mention it?

            One possibility is that He was just using expansion for rhetorical emphasis, of course. But another possibility — one I don’t think you have ruled out — is that Jesus was leaving open the possibility that divorcing and then living as if still married (ie, not having sex with anyone else) is not adultery.

            The reason I ask is that I can easily imagine scenarios where it might be necessary for someone to disentangle themselves legally from, say, an abusive spouse, in order to avoid the abusive spouse being able to control them financially, for example. Provided they don’t then marry anyone else, I don’t see how such an administrative divorce would be in itself sinful; you apparently do.

            But the Bible is not written in English (o Latin).

            That’s why I say that before I accept your arguments from the metaphorical / literal distinction I would have to see them set out explicitly with reference to those original languages.

        • Hi S

          Picking up from a later comment of yours:

          “The reason I ask is that I can easily imagine scenarios where it might be necessary for someone to disentangle themselves legally from, say, an abusive spouse, in order to avoid the abusive spouse being able to control them financially, for example. Provided they don’t then marry anyone else, I don’t see how such an administrative divorce would be in itself sinful; you apparently do.”

          Yes, of course, no divorcee is compelled to remarry in any Scripture teaching.

          There are many complications in understanding the Bible’s divorce/remarriage teaching – but most arise because we try to read Scripture in light of church tradition, coupled with the state registration of marriages (a recent phenomena).

          Colin

          Reply
          • There are many complications in understanding the Bible’s divorce/remarriage teaching – but most arise because we try to read Scripture in light of church tradition, coupled with the state registration of marriages (a recent phenomena).

            So can I just check: if someone in an abusive relationship with a spouse who exerts financial control over them were to divorce said spouse in order to make their finances legally separate, but were not then to remarry or begin any other sexual relationship, would you regard that divorce as (a) adultery or (b) sinful?

            Your initial comment suggested you would; the above suggests maybe you wouldn’t. Could you clarify?

          • S, I think you are misreading Colin. Colin seems to be suggesting that in the ancient times, one would only get divorced so as to be able to marry another. In such a situation, the divorce would itself be part of the adulterous act- it is one single process. Colin is suggesting suggesting that your hypothetical was not known to the ancient world, and thus not what Jesus was referring [I would add that I struggle to believe that one could really use the word ‘apolyon’ for such a hypothetical.]

            I do not know if he is correct. But, he is being consistent, I think.

          • S, I think you are misreading Colin. Colin seems to be suggesting that in the ancient times, one would only get divorced so as to be able to marry another. In such a situation, the divorce would itself be part of the adulterous act- it is one single process. Colin is suggesting suggesting that your hypothetical was not known to the ancient world, and thus not what Jesus was referring [I would add that I struggle to believe that one could really use the word ‘apolyon’ for such a hypothetical.]

            No, I get that. What I am querying is whether he translates this into meaning that the divorce itself, and not the remarriage, is the adulterous act in a modern context, when the idea of divorce without remarriage is known.

            So I’m asking him what he thinks is the adulterous act in a hypothetical, but realistic, situation specifically constructed to divorce (s.w.I.d.t.) the act of divorce from the act of remarriage and asking where he would locate the adultery, if any, in a situation where there is one but not the other — a situation he claims, and I am happy to accept, would have been unknown in Jesus’ time, but which is not at all unknown today.

        • Hi Simon,

          Thanks for your comment. I am aware of Gordon Wenham’s views, but William Heth, who used to agree with Gordon Wenham, and has co-authored books with him on this subject, has since publicly withdrawn his previous position based, in part, on the recently published Judaean Desert Documents that give the context to the teachings of Jesus.

          These, and other texts, have been analysed in detail by David Instone-Brewer (he holds a Cambridge PhD on the understanding of biblical Hebrew) and he has convincingly demonstrated that the previously widely held position by the church is untenable. Craig Blomberg agrees. William Heth wrote the 1,500 word Foreword to my 2015 published PhD and David Instone-Brewer was my external examiner.

          Craig Blomberg (who gave a fulsome commendation of my study) and David Instone-Brewer are on the translation committee of the NIV.

          Colin

          Reply
          • Thanks Colin – I merely mention it for balance – the question is far from open and shut and serious scholarly evangelicals are on opposite sides on it. I am no scholar but find the argument proposed above not obvious from the immediate sense of the text. It feels casuistic. Compassion and pastoral experience and an expansion of ‘porneia’ to cover other factors that violate covenant promises has led me to support divorce and remarriage, but the sayings of Jesus on the matter still cause me to wonder if I am right to have shifted position

          • Giving in to negativity is untenable and has self-fulfilling consequences.

            Jesus’s words in Mark can be balm to the ones whom anyone would specially care about: people abandoned by a compromised spouse who then get doubly abandoned when the law turns round and reveals a mocking face towards gentle folk and towards everything that is good and right.

            They force this poor soul to wake up every morning in irresolution (to the realisation ‘I am a d******d person’, and indeed ‘I have been forced to be so’), which will continue to the day of death, meaning they have imposed an unresolved life on their loved one. To which I say, how dare they? Love wins.

    • I’m not convinced the parrallels are that clear.

      On the one hand divorce is allowed conditional on ‘sexual immorality’ (Matthew 19:8) , but even this is only permitted “because your hearts were hard”, i.e. it is not God’s plan for marriage. Remarriage after divorce is an acknowledgement by the church that people can seek repentance and healing. It shouldn’t happen in cases where there is no repentance, and certianly shouldn’t happen where the remarriage is giving blessing to a relationship which caused the previous marriage to end.

      On the other hand, Gay marriage is a category error: it cannot happen any more than I could marry a tree, or a dog, or a car. This is because marriage is revealed as between man and woman. (Matthew 19:4-6) This cannot be a pastoral response acknowledging the fallenness of human relationships, which the remarriage issue is.

      Reply
      • For some, remarriage after divorce is a category error. How can you remarry when your permanent, lifelong spouse is still alive?

        Reply
        • That’s right. Though ‘for some’ is relativistic (reminds one of Meghan’s my/her truth) and relativism is self-refuting. Evidence never spikes at the poles, though ideological entrenchment does (who would listen to that?). Normal distribution is the exact opposite (peaking at the centre).

          Reply
      • Gay marriage is a category error.
        There is no form of marriage specific to gay people.
        There is marriage.
        Some marriages are between same-sex couples.
        Some marriages are between other-sex couples.

        Reply
        • There is marriage.
          Some marriages are between same-sex couples.
          Some marriages are between other-sex couples

          Out if interest, what would be your argument against calling faithful, committed relationships of three or more people marriages?

          Reply
        • No Penelope, there really is more than one type of marriage: The marriage our Lord Jesus Christ tells us about is, in his words, between one man and one woman. Marriage is also decided by God and not the State. It is this crazy secular world that no longer even understands what a man and a woman is (even though a kindergarten child could tell them, and suffragettes could equally tell them what a woman because they were denied the vote)

          Reply
          • Yes, the sexual revolutionaries are always less intelligent than a 6 year old, or present as such. They also call ‘equal’ things where the ratio is actually 1000:1. That would not get them many marks in a maths class. But some of them are even teachers.

          • I agree Clive there are all sorts of types of marriages:
            Levitical, morganatic, contractual, polygamous, sacramental, dynastic, compelled, white, religious, secular, state, church, convenience…….
            But there isn’t a subset called ‘gay’.

          • Dear Penny

            In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ it is clearly against polygamy when Jesus says a woman (singular) should be joined to man (singular) – There is no polygamy there. Similarly in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ the man and woman after marriage leave the “clan” and form their own family – so Dynastic doesn’t work either.

            The modern generation are celebrating koinonia (intimate fellowship, not just fellowship) by pretending it is Gamos (which you could translate as both wedding and marriage. By pretending that koinonia is Gamos they doing everything they can destroy. yet the reality is that they have not won the argument at all and had to resort to vainly shouting it louder! Christopher talked about 6 year olds, but sadly thre are children who resort something louder when in reality they completely lack decent evidence.

          • Perhaps you really should have mentioned our Lord Jesus Christ. It was you who mentioned on this site that you are involved in teaching ordinands, so excluding Jesus Christ might be par-for-the-course now, but I hope not.

          • Clive

            If I am talking about Jesus I usually mention him.
            If I am talking about social and cultural constructs of marriage, I usually don’t.
            And sometimes the answer is ‘squirrel’.

      • A problem here is that marriage to a different person does not achieve ‘healing’ or resolution but, to the contrary, actively works against it and prevents it.

        Reply
        • A problem here is that marriage to a different person does not achieve ‘healing’ or resolution but, to the contrary, actively works against it and prevents it.

          Indeed; the key here I think is:

          ‘Remarriage after divorce is an acknowledgement by the church that people can seek repentance and healing’

          What is being repented of? One can only repent of a sin. for remarriage to be seeking repentance, that would imply that the first marriage was repented of, would it not? But getting properly married is never a sin, is it? So how can one repent of it?

          Reply
          • Yes. One cannot repent of a marriage! That is nonsense. But I was not meaning that. I was meaning that if one was truly repentant one would reconcile. Making a union with someone else, far from healing, is in fact exacerbating. But that should be obvious. One always has to disentangle the lies of the sexual revolution, but at the time they were plain as day and were blatantly trumpeted to demonstrate how passive the good side were.

            The foundational lie: there is bound to be compulsion either way: one cannot excape compulsion, only choose between different compulsions; and there is no possible universe where compulsion to be divisive can ever be better than compulsion to be together and/or forgive.

          • Yes. One cannot repent of a marriage! That is nonsense. But I was not meaning that. I was meaning that if one was truly repentant one would reconcile. Making a union with someone else, far from healing, is in fact exacerbating. But that should be obvious. One always has to disentangle the lies of the sexual revolution, but at the time they were plain as day and were blatantly trumpeted to demonstrate how passive the good side were.

            The foundational lie: there is bound to be compulsion either way: one cannot escape compulsion, only choose between different compulsions; and there is no possible universe where compulsion to be divisive can ever be better than compulsion to be together and/or forgive.

          • And there is nothing more beautiful than forgiveness and reconciliation. And nothing more powerful. It has white hot power. The proposed alternative is compromised and tawdry. So it is hard to see why there is an issue.

    • Clergy will already have the full protection of law as to whether or not they decide to marry couples who are same-sex.

      But what if, for example, a vicar who does not accept the validity of same-sex marriages runs a group for married couples in the church; would they have the protection of law (and the backing of their superiors if a complaint was raised against them, say) if they refused to allow a same-sex couple to attend? If not, can their freedom of conscience really be said to be protected?

      (And what if they refused to allow a divorced and remarriage couple to attend? Would it depend on whether the couple had been remarried in church, or not [eg because the remarriage was the continuation of adultery that had started during the first marriage]?)

      Reply
      • S,

        You query: “And what if they refused to allow a divorced and remarriage couple to attend?” –

        – the irony here is that in the Bible’s pervasive marital imagery God divorced Israel and Jesus as the bridegroom Messiah offered Jew and Gentile a new marriage. Thus at the eschaton Jesus is in effect marrying a divorcee – and if you consider him to be God incarnate is a divorcee himself.

        Perhaps such a church group would look to cancel the marriage supper of the Lamb?

        Colin

        Reply
        • in the Bible’s pervasive marital imagery God divorced Israel

          Where do you get that from? I thought — I may be wrong — that the image of God was always as the faithful spouse waiting for the return of Israel as the adulterous partner.

          Where in the imagery does God divorce Israel?

          Reply
          • Hi S,

            First your question about remarriage. I am sorry if I have given the wrong impression, but I do not see that there is any immorality, sin, or any criticism of any sort in Scripture for those who divorce but do not remarry.

            Regarding God’s divorce of Israel this is in Jeremiah 3:1–10 and Isaiah 50:1 —but it is in fact embedded throughout Israel’s story in the Hebrew Bible. I have given a fuller explanation of this in my reply to Christopher Shell below.

            And of course you are right—it wasn’t God that was unfaithful it was Israel.

            Colin

    • Exactly so. Another parallel is, of course, women’s orders. The Guiding Principles do not always work, but Sarah Mullally standing beside Rod Thomas at an ordination is a testament to something!

      Reply
  3. Have you seen the bishop of Liverpool’s apology today?

    He has framed the whole thing as being traditionalists on the one hand and progressives (who are they?) on the other.

    Where to start?
    One person’s progress is another’s regress.
    If one perspective truly is progress, then no point having a debate.
    It is fine to call those who disagree with you regressive?
    If they are progressive why are they producing such bad results and why is their system failing?
    Why do Christians and Christian societies who are not ‘progressive’ score so highly on these measures?
    Does he think that stances are held because they are old rather than because they are good? Or proven? Or dominical?

    We have said a thousand times: liberal discourse can average one error or incoherence of thought per sentence. This example averages higher than that.

    Reply
    • He hasn’t framed the whole thing like that at all!
      This is what he has said:
      ……
      “Some days ago I gave a speech to the annual conference of the Movement of Supportive Anglicans for an Inclusive Church (MoSAIC). In it I made a number of substantive points to which I remain committed. I also made some passing remarks which clearly conveyed a lack of respect for those who think differently. I deeply regret that I did so. I have asked for the published text of my speech to be adjusted accordingly,” he said.

      “I am very sorry that these remarks have caused offence or distress to sisters and brothers in Christ whose views on the matters under discussion differ from my own. I gladly and freely apologise to them. I seek the forgiveness of all those to whom these remarks caused offence.

      “I fully accept and regret that my own impatience has caused me on this occasion in the closing months of my ministry to overstep the limits of good manners, mutual respect and common courtesy. I am very sorry indeed that this has been the case.”
      ……
      Where does he mention traditionalists or progressive?

      Reply
      • See Julian Mann, Christian Today. PB speaks of ‘conservative people’ and ‘progressive people’, so showing his lack of understanding. However Julian Mann includes this in a section ‘later he said…’. Maybe it was an annex or afterthought to the other things he said.

        Reply
        • I have quoted his complete apology Christopher. You are welcome to look it up.
          The level of journalism in Christianity Today is not high and frequently contains errors.
          Please tell me where, in his apology, he frames any of the debate as about traditionalist or progressive, as you claim he does?

          Reply
          • You just made one such error yourself by confusing Christianity Today (an organ of the Billy Graham organisation) with Christian Today.

            You made a second by not taking in my words ‘later he said’. If it was said later then it may not have been part of the apology – just something he said later. But he still said it. And it is unremarkable by today’s standards. The error it makes is so fundamental that people miss it. To notice it would be to have to reconstruct their thought patterns.

          • Terrible isn’t it when people make such sweeping statements about ‘traditionalists’ and ‘progressives’ without defining their terms.
            Good thing that no one here would ever make sweeping statements about ‘liberals’ without defining their terms or providing convincing evidence.

          • I don’t. I only make such statements when the said liberals have already designated *themselves* thus. It is not a mortal sin to accept someone’s self-designation.

            2 sentences, 1 misunderstanding.

          • Julian Mann is not a journalist by any stretch of the imagination Christopher. He is quoting parts out of context to make up a story, which is not untypical of the way you write here either, so I’m not surprised you can’t see what’s going on.

          • I don’t see what is ‘going on’. What *is* going on? The only relevant thing here would be if he has misquoted the bishop. Has he? If not, what are you complaining about?

          • You have called yourself both passionate and a truth seeker.
            Pity you can’t allow the Bishop to be both of those things too.

          • If he were a truth seeker he would give evidence rather than just asserting. He would also have developed intellectually beyond the level of thinking the world is divided into die-hard traditionalists and die-hard progressives, and realising that some people actually study issues and can be surprised by their own conclusions rather than just doing no study and sticking to their original preferences. There are 7.9 billion people in the world. Some of them must study things.

          • Christopher

            Again, you present no evidence that Paul Bayes doesn’t himslef give evidence and that he hasn’t been surprised by his own conclsuions (have you?).
            Instead you attack him for not having developed intellectually, agian without presenting any evidence, except via a second hand reference to an article by the, hardly dispassionate, Julian Mann.
            If anyone is figuring the world in crude binaries, it is you, I’m afraid.

          • (1) In terms of [preliminary] conclusions, there is no way that I could ever fail to be surprised by them, given that (a) conclusions are by their nature often so nuanced and therefore unpredictable, and (b) I have zero presuppositions.

            (2) If anyone is figuring the world in crude binaries, it is you’, you say. This commits the elementary error of saying that there must always be precisely one person doing that, and also the second error of thinking that my potential to do so is in any way symbiotic with or adversely dependent on his.

            (3) I thought we were analysing his recent sayings and writings in this thread. All I was saying is that these evince cliched and unthought-out presuppositions, not that he has *never* done any thinking. But if today at 67 this is the sort of thing he comes up with, then how much thinking has he done previously?

          • Again, you accuse Bayes of cliche and unthought out presuppositions without saying what these are or why you view them as such.

    • You may have said a thousand times that liberal discourse can average on error or incoherence of thought per sentence.
      This doesn’t make your assertion either convincing or well evidenced

      Reply
      • Which is why I do a precise count each time, so that it can be seen how accurate I am or not.

        That count *is* the evidence – and I spell out the evidence each time for why the misunderstanding should be seen as such. On this occasion it is because enumeration is given, and no more can be done in the cause of accuracy and precision.

        Reply
        • Christopher

          It’s your count and thus your view. Others might not agree with your views or with your ‘evidence’.

          My view is that your comment above about NT scholars’ opinuions being worth more is supported by no evidence and is offered without any context or support. I believe it is nonsensical. But that is just my view.

          Reply
          • The opinions of those who have studied a topic will on average be worth more than those who have not, to put it no stronger than that. I am heartened that you disagree, and demand a speaker’s spot at the next astrophysics conference immediately. What nonsense.

            As for the ‘count’ point, I agree. Anyone who thinks I have wrongly identified something as a misunderstanding has ample opportunity for comeback. Although since it is I that have been misunderstood in each case, I am best placed to know what I was saying and whether it was correctly understood.

          • Again, Christopher, worth more in what way?

            And again, scriptural hermeneutics, theology and Christian ethics are not astrophysics.
            Yes, experts know more than ‘lay people’ about some stuff and that makes their work worth attending to, but it is not the only ‘worhty’ epistemology in an incarnational faith which comes to us from and with embodied experience.
            A white theologian cannot tell us what it is like being black. So, although their knowledge may be ‘worth’ more in some areas, it is ‘worthless’ in others.
            Besides ‘worth’ is such an innately neoliberal concept isn’t it?

          • A white theologian cannot tell us what it is like being black.

            What would ‘being black have to do with theology?

            The subject of theology is God, who is neither white nor black nor any other colour.

          • So at the end of your studies your expertise does not outstrip that of even the *average* bloke in the pub?

            Familiarity with relevant language, culture, thought, genre, history – the things that enable interpretation – is not the same thing as lack of familiarity with these!

            I’m off to star in the conference.

          • Christopher

            Of course my knowledge of exegesis and koine Greek and of scriptural hermeneutics and theologies is greater than that of the average ‘lay’ person. Which is why I was asked to teach other lay people, and ordinands. But that is about expertise. It doesn’t make my opinions ‘worth’ more than theirs. I have no knowledge outside my own experience of being, say, autistic or black.
            The problem with asserting that scholarly opinions are always worth more is that you end up with panels on neurodiversity where all the panellists are or panels on women’s place in the Church where all the panellists are men. Both true examples.
            The problem is also that, despite your assertion, ‘top’ scholars’ opinions are often poles apart

          • I made no such assertion – a further misnuderstanding. I know very well they can be far apart. There are many millions of topics in the world, after all, and on a few of those they are even ‘poles’ apart. But they are still less far apart than the population as a whole, partly because they are better informed.

            Worth is self-explanatory – unless you consider my views on astrophysics to be worth as much as those of a professor. So a direct question: Do you?

          • “A narrower margin of overall disagreement”
            Your words, Christopher.

            And no ‘worth’ is not self explanatory. Your views on astrophysics are less likely to be expert or accurate than those of the astrophysicist.
            But I don’t think your astrophysicist is a good analogy.
            To return to the panel on neurodiversity, who are the experts?
            Professors of neuroscience or autistic people?
            Might there be different kinds of expertise?
            Might a black theologian approach the imago dei differently from a white theologian?

          • To count the misunderstandings again:

            (1) ‘A narrower margin of overall disagreement’ is a phrase I affirm, not deny.

            (2) The phrase is equivalent to ‘less far apart’ which is the phrase I use in my most recent comment. After I have reiterated / reaffirmed the same thought, you then expect to embarrass me by the fact that I have uttered it?

            (3) Worth is a general word meaning ‘how good?’. So in the context of debate (our present context) it means ‘how accurate?’.

          • Christopher

            I jave no wish to embarrass you. But scholars cannot be both poles apart and within a narrower margin.

            And ‘worth’ does not mean how good/accurate?
            It denotes value. And value is subjective.

          • ‘Value’ is the same thing I mean by ‘how good?’ – namely: How does it rate?

            What do you mean ‘I have no wish to embarrass you?’. My point was that you said something was ‘Your words, Christopher’ as though I denied words which I had never done anything but affirm. It was therefore an error you made, and an attempted ‘gotcha’ which was a misunderstanding on your part. So how could that embarrass me. A further misunderstanding, then.

            I repeat: if liberalism produces inability to understand at this density, then seek out something that doesn’t.

            Poles apart I have already dealt with. Scholars are rarely poles apart, since that would mean that their understandings are as far away from each other as they are possible to be. It’s a cliche. What we are looking for is something accurate. Being different or very different is not to be poles apart, since poles apart means maximum difference.

          • Christopher

            Robert Gagnon and Dale Martin are ‘poles apart’ in their conclusions about sexuality from their readings of scripture.

          • No, not remotely. That would mean that one says ‘the word means wrong’ and the other says ‘no, the same word means right’. If one says ‘The word means God’, the other says, ‘no – that same word is to be translated satan’. That would be poles apart.

            Informed scholars are limited by dictionary word meanings in a way that uninformed laypersons are not. That is why there is a limit to how much they can disagree on exegesis.

          • There may be a limit on how a word may be exegeted. Gagnon and Martin are at opposite poles in their exegesis of arsenokoites, for example.
            There are no limits on hermeneutics and here the two really are at opposite poles. Despite both being ‘informed’.

          • Not even close. If they were at opposite points, one would say ‘arsen’ meant males and the other would say it meant females. One would say ‘koites’ implies lying with and the other would say it implies standing apart from.

            Different yes, opposite no. The flaw in what you say is that you are confusing the concepts of different and opposite. But once we have established that what we have here is different not opposite, then the next thing to notice is that different is a very weak term. Practically everything is different.

          • Christopher

            It seems you have a different definition of ‘opposite’, just as you have a different definition of ‘worth’.

            I’ll leave it there.

          • Of course I do not have a different definition of ‘opposite’. Name one way in which I understand anything different from the word ‘opposite’ from what is understood by the generality of people.

            What you mean is that there have to be two positions (untrue), that as a matter of course these 2 will be precisely identifiable as traditional and conservative (again untrue), and that these are opposite ideologies (true, always supposing anyone holds to them).

  4. People need to be held accountable for their words in ways that impinge on them. I suggest that a public debate (meaning with speakers) be held within the church over what the Bible says on the subject. Paul Bayes should be challenged to speak from his side, and some leading Anglican evangelicals too.

    Would one side be more reluctant than the other to take part, and if so then why?

    Reply
  5. I would be interested to know if the author (Andrew Goddard) finds today’s apology satisfactory? This part in particular.

    “In it (referring to his address) I made a number of substantive points to which I remain committed. I also made some passing remarks which clearly conveyed a lack of respect for those who think differently.”

    So we have the classic apology for tone, but not for substance.

    “I am not in any way sorry that I hold opinions contrary to the teaching of the CofE (teachings that I am sworn to defend and uphold), express said views publically and with great optimism and pride, and undermine the organisation I represent by pre-empting the outcome of LLF. But I am am sorry if I said these things in a slightly rude and dismissive way.”

    Just own it Bayes. Be honest about what you think. You’re going to be critisised either way now that you’ve stood on your soapbox.

    Reply
    • But I am am sorry if I said these things in a slightly rude and dismissive way

      Not even that. You didn’t quote the actual apology:

      ‘I am very sorry that these remarks have caused offence or distress to sisters and brothers in Christ whose views on the matters under discussion differ from my own. I gladly and freely apologise to them. I seek the forgiveness of all those to whom these remarks caused offence.’

      So not even ‘I’m sorry I said something offensive’, but ‘I’m sorry that you were offended by what I said.’

      Reply
      • Correction taken.

        I should not have put my cynical paraphrase of the apology in quotation marks without being clearer that the words were my own. Doubly so because, as you point out, what he actually said is even less of an apology. 😉

        Reply
    • I don’t understand why Bayes has apologised at all. Nothing he said was gratuitously offensive nor an ad hominem attack. If he has the courage of his convictions he should stand by what he has said. People were offended – so what? I am often offended by what commentators write on this blog but I don’t expect an apology for it, not least because it is my choice whether or not to read it. You believe as you do and think I’m wrong, and I believe as I do and think you are wrong. And there it is. For what my opinion is worth, I cannot see the two ‘sides’ ever agreeing.

      Though a regular reader, I don’t engage in debate on this blog as (a) I am neither a Christian nor a theologian, and (b) I am not an academic with the necessary level of debating skill. I tend only to comment to correct errors of fact in relation to my husband, Jeremy Pemberton.

      Reply
      • Hi Laurence

        You see the 2 possible shortcomings as being offensiveness and ad hominem. Both are emotional matters.

        So there can never be rational shortcomings?

        It has often been pointed out that exclusive focus on the emotional is something found in children and teenagers.

        There certainly can be rational shortcomings – and in *debate* (as opposed to some other arenas) these are by far the main issue. What rational shortcomings can there be? There can be – Failure to answer the question. Wrongly framing the question. Failure to understand the question. Thinking there is only one question. Being too binary. Entertaining incoherence. Committing any of the logical fallacies (of which there are hundreds including ad hominem). Stereotyping. Giving respect to positions which are entirely ideological and not evidence-based. And so on.

        Reply
      • I sort of agree with you Lawrence, in that I too would rather Bayes were just honest.

        If he thinks that the traditionalist arguments, attitudes and position is/are weak (and I am not saying that he does think this, just that he might), then he should be allowed to say to so.

        What I am objecting to is the having it both ways. If the ‘substantive points’ are not something he’s prepared to back down from, then he shouldn’t be halfheartedly apologising that they’ve offended anyone.

        Reply
        • And, to finish that last point, he absolutely should be prepared for the (for want of a better, more positive, word) backlash.

          Reply
      • Laurence

        I believe that the apology showed Bayes’ customary grace, though I agree that he had no need to apologise.
        I also believe that there is a vast difference between being offended by criticism of one’s views and offended because of criticism of who/what one is. There is often a false equivalence offered between beliefs and lives.

        Reply
  6. Dear Ian,

    From what you have written, and others, it appears that the problem first begins at the definition of the terms, male, female, marriage. Divorce is another issue entirely. I would highly recommend the articles by David Instone-Brewer at Tyndale House.
    1. God created mankind into two groups: male and female.
    a. Genesis 1:27,
    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. …
    So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

    Notice the emphasis on “image” three times, “created” three times, “male and female.” The Hebrew is quite clear on this. There is no created “male, female, male identity, female identity, etc. BTW, science agrees since gender dysphoria is a psychological problem NOT a biological problem nor is there any scientific proof that there is a gene for homosexuality.

    b. Genesis 2:24, 25,
    Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

    There is the implied “male and female” paradigm with the terms, “father and mother,” and “man and wife.” Furthermore, this definition of marriage is before human governments came into existence and, before, the sin of Adam in Genesis 3. Here we have two opposites, male and female, that are joined together in marriage.

    c. Matthew 19:4 and Ephesians 5:28 also hold to the same paradigms.

    2. Thus, God has determined what is male, female, marriage.

    The Bible has stated the opposite of what the world, in its rebellion against God, does.

    Reply
    • Do elaborate on why you recommend David Instone-Brewer’s writings on divorce.

      Matthew’s change to Mark at the relevant point is slight (‘for any cause’ is added), but this is clearly a development that comes later in the tradition than Mark, let alone than Jesus. For at least 3 reasons: (a) that is the normal pattern with Mark and Matthew, and most changes Matt makes to Mark are just adjustments according to his own emphases and interests (here, for example, is an instance of his known interest in rabbinic minutiae). (b) New information on the historical Jesus would not be at this kind of micro level of slightly different wording. (c) From what follows in Matthew’s text, he might just as well have written as Mark did, since his subsequent logic does not follow his own text but Mark’s (Mark’s which is at the root of his own work) – as inevitably happens when one makes slight redactions to an integrated whole – you find it is thereafter impossible to produce an equally integrated result yourself.

      Reply
      • Hi Christopher,

        From this I take it that you see the account in Matthew 5 and 19 are both unreliable—and that Jesus was overturning the Deuteronomy 24 teaching.

        If we put that to one side for the moment, there are many other fundamental problems with the suggestion that the NT forbids divorce and remarriage.

        A principal understanding of how metaphors are to be understood (as linguists argue and common sense suggests) is that there is a vital connection between the source and target domains of any metaphor. Thus, Raymond Westbrook points out that:

        “If God’s relationship with Israel is to be explained by a metaphor drawing upon the everyday life of the audience then that metaphor, to be effective, must reflect accurately the reality known to the audience. If the narrator were to invent the legal rules on which the metaphor is based, it would cease to be a valid metaphor.”

        A key (and I suggest dominant) metaphoric vehicle to describe mankind’s story in Scripture is its marital imagery.

        It is dealt with as a topic in: Isaiah 54:5–7; Jeremiah 3:1–8; Jeremiah 31:29–34; Song of Solomon; Hosea; Ezekiel 16 & 23; Matthew 22:1–12; John 2:1–12; John 4:5–29; Ephesians 5:22–33.

        —and there are at least 97 other specific references and a great many allusions.

        In the imagery God is ‘married’ to Israel, then ‘divorces’ northern Israel (complete with the Deuteronomy 24 divorce certificate to remove any doubt—Jeremiah 3:1–10; Isaiah 50:1); ‘separates’ from Judah (in the Babylonian exile—no divorce certificate given) and then finally, it seems, divorces Judah (Malachi 4; Luke 13:34–35).

        Then Jesus as bridegroom Messiah (John 3:9) offers both Israel and Judah (as prophesied in Hosea 1:10–11; Isaiah 54:5‒7) a remarriage (many scholars point out that this is what is happening in the exchange with the Samaritan woman)—not a reconciliation of the old marriage as Jeremiah 31 and the imagery throughout the NT of the “bridegroom” make clear.

        In other words, Jesus as the incarnate son of God is a divorcee offering a remarriage to divorced Israel (as he promised he would) at the eschaton.

        But the church (I suggest, at least in part, because of its adoption of a neoplatonic sacramental Roman Catholic model of marriage in contrast to the Hebrew Bible social contract model) has largely ignored this imagery—but nonetheless it is a fundamental tool in the hands of the Bible writers to describe mankind’s relationship with God from Eden to Revelation.

        Colin

        Reply
        • Hi Colin

          Brilliant. But I think it is telling that you have to take a panbiblical view to make your case. That is the reverse of what Jesus does. He says ‘Moses did A because of your hardness of heart but now I do B.’

          Jesus’s words here are few, so we cannot ride roughshod over an idea that is central to his few words.

          My suggestion is not that the NT forbids these things in all circumstances – because clearly Matt does not and Paul arguably does not. I was saying that Jesus forbade them not the NT.

          The overriding of Deuteronomy is therefore explicitly Jesus, not me.

          Reply
          • Together with which I think the best thing to do is say How would you either translate or paraphrase Jesus’s words in Mark (which is agreed by 90% of scholars to be the earliest)?

          • Christopher.

            Thanks. But that panbiblical view was just my first shot.

            Before I answer your question about Mark’s brevity—what do you make of this brevity:

            “Thou shalt not kill.” Exodus 20:13 (KJV) —but Israel’s armies killed thousands under God’s direction?

            Colin

          • Christopher,

            In addition to my question re Exodus 20:31, can I have the temerity to ask just one more question—what is the missing word from this newspaper headline in our local newspaper: “The town centre rowdiness after the England win was clearly caused by after hours drinking.”

            Colin

          • The command not to kill is a sensible and natural one to include in the list of ten. War was such a prevalent reality that I suppose people thought war ddn’t count because it had its own rules.

            The headline makes sense by itself so I don’t know. But I have rarely seen ‘clearly’ in a headline, nor such a verbose headline.

          • Note that I did not ask a question about Mark’s brevity, although I asked one about what the text of Mark said. (a) Brevity is a relative word; (b) we have no reason to believe that Mark was any more brief than Jesus; (c) my other point was that his words replacing Moses’s sytem with his own were ifirstly central to his whole message in Mark and secondly constituted a significant proportion of what he said.

          • “The town centre rowdiness after the England win was clearly caused by after hours drinking.”

            I didn’t know town centre’s got rowdy. I thought it was just a geographical place.
            And what did England win? The war? The one day cricket game? The Eurovision sing contest?
            See how much a sentence from a newspaper assumes…….

          • Christopher (and Andrew)
            Point 1: The marital imagery.
            Point 2: An exegetical principle.
            —Exodus 20:13 is a brief summary—the wider understanding is given elsewhere in the text. Thus the first point that Jesus (and Paul) make in their teaching is such a summary: “No divorce.” But then the exceptions are given.

            The word missing in the newspaper headline is alcohol—most people subconsciously insert it not having realised its absence—in this case it is cultural context that fills the gap.

            The Church’s take on marriage/divorce is a radical departure from the creation ordinance/social contract model of Hebrew Bible teaching—which is evidenced in marriage/divorce contracts contemporary to NT times, discovered in my lifetime.

            Every published scholar that has studied them accepts they are representative of the Jewish understanding in 1st century Palestine but only a handful of Christian scholars have engaged with them—and I do not know a single systematic/historical theologian who is even aware of them. But contemporary context is important to a biblical theologian.

            The NT writers would have had to spend time explaining a radical change—and yet less than 1% of the NT text is devoted to the teaching. This indicates that they writers accepted either that teaching elsewhere in the Bible was to be assumed (as per Exodus 20:13) and/or assume the contemporary cultural understanding (as per the newspaper writer).

            Point 3: Novelty
            Can you think of any significant NT teaching that comes out of the blue? It is either latent, foreshadowed, or articulated in the OT? This novel neoplatonic view of marriage is completely alien to the Jewish mindset. Peter Williams—one of the foremost biblical scholars in the UK states:

            “Christianity arose in the cradle of Judaism, and the further back we go in time, the more Jewish all our records of Christianity are.… Scholars disagree on many matters concerning the Gospels, but on one thing they seem almost universally agreed—the Gospels are Jewish.”
            [Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 22, 78.]

            Point 4: Christopher says: “The overriding of Deuteronomy is therefore explicitly Jesus, not me.”
            Douglas Moo commenting on Matt 5:32; 19:9 says:
            “The Mosaic teaching is not done away with in the new age of the Kingdom; indeed, the case of ‘serious sexual sin’ which justifies divorce is a prominent example of just that. As under the Mosaic law, the fact of human sin is recognized and provision made for it.”
            [“Jesus and the Authority of the Mosaic Law,” JSNT 6, 20 (January 1984): 20.]

            Point 5
            … if you are still with me I can briefly consider 1 Corinthians 7.

            Colin

          • But why would you need to skirt round the issue unless because the text itself does not support you?

            Appeal to the original intention (Genesis explicitly states the original intention, and secondly the Mosaic law is equally explicitly said to be a concession which means it is not the original intention) is a very common thing. In fact it lies behind the present ‘house-church’ move which we have just been talking about.

            Secondly, a law that produces injustice cannot stand. This is Jesus all over. Look at how he deals with the sabbath law. Law is in order to produce injustice, so if it fails to do so it has failed in its purpose and gets trumped by justice, which lies deeper than law because it is law’s intent. The ‘d’ law produces so much injustice, mostly because of the failure to realise the solemn and sacred nature of union.

          • Christopher, Andrew, Bryant

            Re 1 Corinthians 7: Mixed marriages

            Mixed Marriages are not addressed in the Gospels and it is possible that the Corinthians had specifically asked Paul a question about them (v. 1). He begins in verses 12–14 by pressing home the ‘no divorce’ principle:

            “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” (1 Cor 7:12–14)

            This might have seemed a surprising position for Paul to take when the teaching in Israel (Deut 23:2) was that, “No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD”—and Ezra’s instruction to the men of Judah had been to divorce their non-Jewish wives (Ezra 10:11). In Israel, you were accepted as being Jewish because you were descended from Jacob—your personal faith in God was incidental. Thus, a mixed marriage was not an unbeliever with a believer, but a person with non-Jewish blood married to a Jew; any children they had were considered, in effect, “unclean” and were not accepted into the congregation.

            Some understand from vv. 12‒14 that Paul is teaching that the children of mixed-faith marriages, and thus by deduction, the children of all Christians are, in some way, special to God. But I suggest that this is not Paul’s argument here. Instead, he is saying that the understanding of national Israel, whereby children of mixed marriages are excluded from the congregation, does not come through to the Christian faith community. The children of mixed-faith marriages in the church are ‘holy’ (v. 14), that is, not ‘unclean,’ and are to be accepted on the same basis as any other children—whether of believers or unbelievers. It follows that any exegesis of the rest of the chapter that understands mixed marriages are less valid, or have different divorce rules to non-mixed marriages, should be treated with caution. Such is another neoplatonic concept foreign to any Jewish understanding.

            Thus Blomberg:

            “Desertion was Paul’s primary concern; that it was an unbeliever wanting to leave is “accidental” in the technical sense of that term…. Once again, in an age and culture in which divorce almost universally carried with it provisions for remarriage, Paul would have had specifically to exclude this possibility in v. 15 if he had expected anyone to understand that he was actually forbidding all remarriage.”
            [Craig Blomberg, “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Celibacy: An Exegesis of Matthew 19:3–12,” TJ 11NS (1990), 188.]

            Colin

          • Hi Christopher,

            Thanks for sticking with this. It is an important, complex, and sensitive subject. You ask: “So on that basis, given the Jewish cradle of Jesus’s thought, how would you render Jesus’s words in Mark?”

            “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’” (Mark 10:5–6)

            Marriage is a creation ordinance——heterosexual unions are God’s intention. And in Eden no divorce—but since Eden (including Gen 2:24 cited in vv. 7-8 below which is the situation outside Eden) divorce was allowed. No separate rules for believers (including in 1 Cor 7, such is not a Jewish concept), just different expectations. All (including Christians) are sinners outside Eden.

            “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.” (Mark 10:7–8)
            —that is one family, the affinity union creating a new family unit.

            “What therefore God has joined together [in the institution of marriage], let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9)
            —we should not change the God given rules for marriage or divorce.

            “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her [by an invalid divorce], and if she divorces her husband [invalidly] and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11–12)
            —this is similar to Luke 16:18. The adultery (the covenant breaking) is in an invalid divorce, this is the repeated understanding in the marital imagery.

            And it is a summary statement, like Exodus 20:13. Like the newspaper headline, like: “the motorway speed limit is 70 mph” —but it is not always so, as there are many exceptions.

            If Mark 10:11–12 and Luke 16:18 stand as they are God is an adulterer. And it would be a revolution overturning 2000+ years teaching in Israel and the wider ANE.

            Gospel (and 1 Cor 7) harmonization dictates that we treat Mark 10:11–12 and Luke 16:18 as summary statements—like Exodus 20:13.

            That is my take on it.

            Colin

          • (1) Harmonisation dictates – yes, but harmonisation has no right to dictate. Because that is to say that harmony can be assumed. But it is clear that it cannot.

            (2) Your need to insert square-bracketed material (‘[by an invalid divorce]’ and ‘[invalidly]’) into the actual text arises from things not being in the text. They are absent from the text for a reason.

            Recently in the John Smyth Scripture Union report a square-bracketed gloss which was in fact inaccurate was quoted as though it was part of the Ruston report upon which it was merely a gloss and not an accurate one at that. Which shows the danger of putting square-bracketed material inside a text.

            (3) Further, and most damagingly, if you were right, then Jesus would simply be saying that invalid things were out of bounds. Which would be a tautology – saying the same thing twice. Which would not be a startling saying but a pointless one.

          • (1) Harmonisation dictates – yes, but harmonisation has no right to dictate. Because that is to say that harmony can be assumed. But it is clear that it cannot.

            (2) Your need to insert square-bracketed material (‘[by an invalid divorce]’ and ‘[invalidly]’) into the actual text arises from things not being in the text. They are absent from the text for a reason.

            Recently in the John Smyth Scripture Union report a square-bracketed gloss which was in fact inaccurate was quoted as though it was part of the Ruston report upon which it was merely a gloss and not an accurate one at that. Which shows the danger of putting square-bracketed material inside a text.

            (3) Further, and most damagingly, if you were right, then Jesus would simply be saying that invalid things were out of bounds. Which would be a tautology – saying the same thing twice. Which would not be a startling saying but a pointless one.

            I don’t know that it’s a case of sticking with things – it’s a case that the debate was under way, so of course cannot be just aborted for no reason. I think debates show (by the questions people are willing to address, or not) which questions can actually be answered satisfactorily, and which cannot. Which is a great contribution to advancing the debate. Unanswerable questions are probably strong and telling questions, and that way truth lies. I have repeatedly found with secularists and liberals – though not with yourself – that they pronounce (!) the debate closed at a remarakably early stage, when it had scarcely begun, usually after they have just been asked an awkward question. I am surprised that they think we will not notice this pattern and become suspicious. Anyone would notice it immediately.

          • Anyway, your view is (to summarise): Moses allowed exceptions to the Eden principle. Jesus said ‘Moses said A, I say B’. How does Jesus say B? By allowing exceptions, not that he ever says so or lists any (in Mark). But then A=B. So Jesus’s big announcement is ‘I overrule Moses by – er – agreeing with Moses’? Not likely.

          • Christopher,

            So, no square brackets in “You shall not kill” —we have to live with the contradictions between that clear teaching and Israel’s actions at God’s behest to acquire the promised land?

            Similarly, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” —no square brackets here, there is a universal salvation, contra other clear Gospel statements?

            And thus we have to live with the seeming contradictions between Mark, Matthew, and the teaching of Paul?

            “Further, and most damagingly, if you were right, then Jesus would simply be saying that invalid things were out of bounds. Which would be a tautology – saying the same thing twice. Which would not be a startling saying but a pointless one.”

            No, as I (and others) see it, Jesus is saying that invalid divorces (that is, those not based on scriptural grounds) are, wrong, sinful, and amount to adultery. God’s divorce of Israel was holy and right because it was based on valid grounds.

            Incidentally, I suggest Jesus had to die because his proposed remarriage to ‘Israel’ was against the Deuteronomy 24:1-4 rule – the “law of marriage” as per Romans 7:1-4. N.T. Wright makes a similar point. With this understanding the Deuteronomy 24 rule (as I see it, affirmed by Jesus) remained in force until the eschaton.

            “Anyway, your view is (to summarise): Moses allowed exceptions to the Eden principle. Jesus said ‘Moses said A, I say B’. How does Jesus say B? By allowing exceptions, not that he ever says so or lists any (in Mark). But then A=B. So Jesus’s big announcement is ‘I overrule Moses by – er – agreeing with Moses’? Not likely.”

            No, my understanding is that Jesus’s big announcement is to affirm OT teaching and forbid the prevailing Hillelite easy divorces on “any grounds” —but I do understand (if I am correct) that you do not accept the Matthew 19 account.

            I think a key difference is that you (as per somewhere in this or a previous blog) see marriage as “sacred.” In contrast, Calvin understood marriage “a good and holy ordinance of God, just like farming, building, cobbling, and barbering” —but at the end of his life in his comments on Genesis 2:18:

            “in the conjunction of human beings [i.e., sexual intercourse], [the] sacred bond is especially conspicuous, by which the husband and the wife are combined in one body, and one soul; as nature itself taught Plato.” [John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, (Ethereal Classics), 79 (translated from the Latin)].

            So Calvin eventually deferred to Plato, and this is what has come through in our Confessions today. I think he was right in his earlier statements.

            What makes you think marriage is sacred?

            Colin

          • (1) Paul, Mark and Matthew: Mark states Jesus’s teaching. Paul (the other one of our 2 earliest sources) agrees strongly that Jesus forbids divorce and separation, and that he sees reconciliation as the only remedy (a point which is very strangely absent in most discussion). It is easy to see Jesus’s logic here, and his vision and prescription are commonsensical and natural.
            Then comes Matt, who not only changes ‘poor’ to ‘poor in spirit’ when he chooses, but also adds exceptions to the new divorce perspective, so that the prohibition is no longer on divorce per se but on unfettered divorce, and secondly so that adultery (something that (a) could be seen to constitute divorce, but also that (b) does not prohibit reconciliation, a dominical point not included by Matt) constitutes grounds. A typically rabbinic and Matthean redaction, but within the Markan framework, so that the train of thought is less coherent than in Mark.

            (2) Harmony and discrepancy. It is clear that there is only one possible approach, since other approaches involve (unargued) presuppositions and assumptions, i.e. things which are illegitimate in scholarship. The only possible approach is that there may or may not be harmony, and we discover, by investigation, whether or not there is harmony.

            (3) Of course marriage is sacred unless sex is not, and no-one could argue that sex is not. To become one flesh is a rite of passage where the ‘after’ is quite different to and certainly more mysterious and also more wonderful than the ‘before’. But if even that is now being said to be held by some not to be sacred, what then *is* sacred? As they say, is nothing sacred?

            Even if only one person (rather than, as is the case, many) had experienced the sacredness of marriage, they could not have experienced it unless it were something real.

            (4) To use ‘Thou shalt not kill’ to prove what must be the case in an unrelated passage is a clear non sequitur. Your argument is: ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has a lacuna therefore any other passage we care to name also has a lacuna. The argument clearly fails.

            (5) It is beyond me why you say Jesus has Hillel primarily in mind when he himself says he has Moses primarily in mind.

          • No one could argue ‘sex is sacred’?

            I am questioning this (not arguing). In what way is sex sacred?

          • Colin

            Not on the same page re reception history nor SSM.
            But agree on marriage and kinship from your reading of the NT and Hebrew Bible.
            Though I also respect those who hold a sacramental view of marriage.

        • Marital union is sacred not sex. My bad. Attending 2 ceremonies one of which is between cohabitees and the other of which is between eager novices shows how magic and sacredness can be either present or absent.

          Reply
          • Christopher (and Penelope),

            My perspective is that of a biblical theologian who treats the text as we have it as the word of God, and who sees the first century Jewish context of Jesus’s statements as key to exegesis—I give very little weight to reception history (tradition), contra: “[The] Anglican method of theological reflection, [is] based around Richard Hooker’s pattern of Scripture, reason and tradition,” Living in Love and Faith, 2020, viii.

            Regarding “sacred sex,” the “one flesh” in Genesis 2:24 almost certainly meant “one family” in ancient Israel (created by a marital ‘covenant,’ not by sex)—and this seems clear in the narrative accounts. There is a wide consensus about this among Hebrew Bible scholars. In the paper I mention below I trace how a sexual understanding came to be read into this verse.

            And: “It is beyond me why you say Jesus has Hillel primarily in mind when he himself says he has Moses primarily in mind” —because the Hillelites and Shammaites were arguing what Moses said/meant (there is a quirk in the Hebrew grammar of the Deut 24 teaching). Again, there is a wide consensus about this in biblical scholarship.

            I am not aware of any biblical theologians who have thoroughly examined the first century context of Jesus and Paul’s teaching as recorded in the NT as we have it that would be far from the understanding I have articulated in this blog. And even Systematic/Confessional theologians have conceded divorce and remarriage as being taught in Scripture—even in the WCF.

            In summary, I see that marriage is a creation ordinance that was brought into the church in the Middle Ages, but it never belonged there—you might find interesting a paper I have on Academia: “How the Church Redefined Marriage.”

            I have enjoyed this exchange and am pleased that you engaged in a thoughtful and meaning way with me even though our perspectives differ.

            To come back to the beginning, I think there are dangers for the church if we treat divorce and remarriage (accepted historically, for example in the WCF) as being the same as same sex relationships.

            Colin

          • hi Colin

            (1) You have 2 assumptions – Scriptural status is to be assumed not earned (in which case why is the Book of Mormon not Scripture?) and one should be Anglican (why, unless the Anglican way proves its superiority by comparison?). You can see why I’d say these 2 assumptions are not to be entertained.

            (2) NT scholarship, i.e. a more rather than less informed reading of the documents, sees Mark in a different way from Matthew.

            (3) I have not the slightest doubt that the Hillel-Shammai dispute is relevant context. But if Jesus’s words set out to set himself against Moses, as clearly they do, can you outline how he differs from Moses? Because if he does not in any substantial way differ from Moses, your interpretation is thereby demonstrated to be wrong.

            (4) Marital union might be sacred in reality, independent of any scripture. I am always surprised by the idea that it is not, since it is obvious enough that it is. Also there is a tradition of matrimony being a sacrament – and there is the Ephesians ‘mystery’ passage.

      • Dear Christopher,

        I suggested David Imstone-Brewer due to the fact that he has written extensively on the topic of Marriage and Divorce-Remarriage. There are many people on both sides and in the middle of the debate on Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, etc.
        Now, the OT is quite clear on what is marriage, what is divorce, etc. It is man that has attempted to play “verbal gymnastics” with the topic in an attempt to “justify” sin with regard to this topic; so also in the NT as well.
        Divorce is the separation and cutting-off, death of the marriage state by the breaking of the covenant made between a man and a woman. Two causes are given for the divorce in the NT.
        1. Adultery, Divorce, Lying, Matthew 5:27-30, 31-32, 33-37., 19:3-9.
        a. This is Jesus’ commentary, interpretation of the 8th, 9th, and 10th Commandments in all of its facets especially the internal dimension.
        b. Matthew 19:3-9 explicitly refers to divorce and, possibly, remarriage with an additional charge of adultery by the offending party.
        c. This indicates that adultery would be a legitimate reason for divorce since God had divorced the Northern Kingdom of Israel (cf. Hosea).
        d. A cause of adultery is mentioned twice. Mark and Luke do not mention adultery but it is interesting that they both mention that a woman can also divorce her husband.
        e. The general thrust of Mark 10:2–9 is the same as in Matthew 19:3–8. But there (1) the Pharisees ask their test question without “for any and every reason”; (2) Jesus mentions Moses’ command; (3) the Pharisees reply in terms of what Moses permitted; and (4) only then does Jesus offer his basic perspective in terms of the creation ordinance. The net effect of the two passages this far is the same. But it is not easy to reconstruct the historical details. Matthew seems more concerned about the thrust of the exchange than about who said what first.
        Both Matthew and Mark show that Jesus taught that Moses’ concession reflected not the true creation ordinance but the hardness of men’s hearts. Divorce is not part of the Creator’s perfect design. If Moses permitted it, he did so because sin can be so vile that divorce is to be preferred to continued “indecency.” This is not to say that the person who, according to what Moses said, divorced his spouse was actually committing sin in so doing; but that divorce could even be considered testified that there had already been sin in the marriage. Therefore any view of divorce and remarriage (taught in either Testament) that sees the problem only in terms of what may or may not be done has already overlooked a basic fact—divorce is never to be thought of as a God-ordained, morally neutral option but as evidence of sin, of hardness of heart. The fundamental attitude of the Pharisees to the question was wrong.
        2. The Second reason is “desertion.” I Corinthians 7:10-11, 12-16.
        a. 7:10-11 prefaces the remarks to verses 12-16.
        b. 7:12-16 addresses the actions of the “unbelieving” spouse.
        1) Should either “unbelieving” spouse wishes to end the marriage, i.e. divorce the other spouse, then Paul permits it.
        2) Should the believing spouse who has now been divorced want to remarry, then that person is allowed to but only to a believer (cf. II Corinthians 6:14-18).
        3) The brother or sister in Chris is no longer enslaved, i.e. under the Law (Romans 7:1-3, 4-6).
        3. In all of the instances above, it is understood that we are talking about the issue of marriage between a man (male) and a woman (female) NOT man-man nor woman -woman nor. for that matter, those with gender dysphoria. This biological science.
        4. God does not recognize any relationship that defies the definition of marriage as stated in Genesis 2:24, etc.

        Reply
      • Three quotes to summarise the problem:

        Peter Williams:
        “Christianity arose in the cradle of Judaism, and the further back we go in time, the more Jewish all our records of Christianity are.… Scholars disagree on many matters concerning the Gospels, but on one thing they seem almost universally agreed—the Gospels are Jewish.”

        John Witte:
        , “All … [Western] models of marriage started with several basic assumptions … inherited from classical Greco-Roman sources.”

        William Inge (1860–1954), an Anglican and one time Professor of Divinity at Jesus College, Cambridge:
        “Platonism is part of the vital structure of Christian theology. If people would read Plotinus, who worked to reconcile Platonism with Scripture, they would understand better the real continuity between the old culture and the new religion, and they might realize the utter impossibility of excising Platonism from Christianity without tearing Christianity to pieces.

        The Galilean Gospel, as it proceeded from the lips of Jesus, was doubtless unaffected by Greek philosophy. But Christianity from its very beginning was formed by a confluence of Jewish and Hellenic religious ideas.”

        Colin

        Reply
    • BTW science does not agree that gender dysphoria is a ‘psycholigical problem’. The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Health Related Problems does not classify gender incongruence as a mental disorder.

      Reply
  7. In the world that Bayes looks to, for freedom of conscience, among other things, many organisations would summarily tell a senior officer to clear their desks and escort them from the premises, rather than working a notice to terminate their employment, when it is clear that their continued presence would undermine the organisation, it’s very existence, its foundational ethos.
    Andrew Goddard draws out some points about Bayes seeking individual freedom of conscience.
    I’d suggest that it is a philosophical incoherent and practically destructive of collective, community cohesion. Is he really saying that there should be freedom to follow our own individual conscience in all spheres of human life and endeavour?n It’s untenable, absurd.
    And it takes little to no account of a conscience that may be seared by sin, that may be deaf or dead to God in a world that has no God consciousness, a world Bayes wants to govern the church collective conscience.
    It also raises individual human conscience to a place of supreme sovereignty, in God’s place, in the church.

    Reply
  8. “Despite my serious questions and concerns relating to the limits of any appeal to conscientious freedoms and rights, and my conviction that the current teaching of the Church of England is right, subject to what I say below, I actually have some considerable sympathy with the first claim. That sympathy arises simply from realpolitik………………………..”
    The thin end of the wedge.

    Phil Almond

    Reply
    • Yes Philip,
      It is like having some sympathy with Gerald Ratner.
      The real politics is that Bayes is on a campaign trail.

      Reply
        • Penelope

          No, I am on a campaign trail to make sure that the LLF Next Steps Group is taking the following view into account:

          “After reflecting on what the Bible says I have come to the view that same-sex attraction is sinful and like all sinful inclinations (we all have some of one kind or another and all Christians are commanded to mortify and refuse to obey the sinful inclinations we have) is a result of the Fall and Original Sin.
          I am in essential agreement with the following from ‘12 Statements on Human Sexuality (thegospelcoalition.org)’

          “4. Desire
          We affirm not only that our inclination toward sin is a result of the Fall, but that our fallen desires are in themselves sinful (Rom 6:11-12; 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11).
          The desire for an illicit end—whether in sexual desire for a person of the same sex or in sexual desire disconnected from the context of Biblical marriage—is itself an illicit desire. Therefore, the experience of same-sex attraction is not morally neutral; the attraction is an expression of original or indwelling sin that must be repented of and put to death (Rom. 8:13).
          Nevertheless, we must celebrate that, despite the continuing presence of sinful desires (and even, at times, egregious sinful behavior), repentant, justified, and adopted believers are free from condemnation through the imputed righteousness of Christ (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21) and are able to please God by walking in the Spirit (Rom. 8:3-6).
          5. Concupiscence
          We affirm that impure thoughts and desires arising in us prior to and apart from a conscious act of the will are still sin.
          We reject the Roman Catholic understanding of concupiscence whereby disordered desires that afflict us due to the Fall do not become sin without a consenting act of the will. These desires within us are not mere weaknesses or inclinations to sin but are themselves idolatrous and sinful.
          Nevertheless, we recognize that many persons who experience same-sex attraction describe their desires as arising in them unbidden and unwanted.
          We also recognize that the presence of same-sex attraction is often owing to many factors, which always include our own sin nature and may include being sinned against in the past. As with any sinful pattern or propensity—which may include disordered desires, extramarital lust, pornographic addictions, and all abusive sexual behavior—the actions of others, though never finally determinative, can be significant and influential. This should move us to compassion and understanding. Moreover, it is true for all of us that sin can be both unchosen bondage and idolatrous rebellion at the same time. We all experience sin, at times, as a kind of voluntary servitude (Rom. 7:13-20).”

          Because Romans 1:18-32 is about the Fall and its results, this is (in my view) the strongest argument for the view that same-sex attraction and practice are sinful.

          I am also on a more important (to me) campaign trail as follows:

          In one of his ‘Reflections of an Anglican Theologian’ titled ‘The Thing that Matters Most’ Dr. Martin Davie explains that he was prompted by Bill Clinton’s successful slogan ‘It’s the economy stupid’ to reflect on what should be an equally clear, brief slogan for the Church of England. He concludes:

          “When all is said and done, the Church’s core business is saving souls, and the only way that souls will be saved is if people come to realize that this life is not all there is, and that they need to put their trust in Jesus in order to avoid an eternity of damnation and enjoy an eternity of blessedness instead. The Church’s calling is to be God’s instrument to bring people to this realization, and for this to happen the leaders of the Church need to switch the focus of their message to the thing that matters most, the life of the world to come.”

          “It’s eternity, stupid”.

          Surely, then, to focus clearly on ‘The Thing that Matters Most’ the Church must believe, teach and preach both the terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, as well as the wonderful invitations and promises to submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, which are the two essential parts of the Gospel, the Church’s core message. As Warfield commented on Elijah’s experience in the cave,
          ‘….it is not the Law but the Gospel, not the revelation of wrath but that of love, which saves the world. Wrath may prepare for love; but wrath never did and never will save a soul’
          But wrath may prepare for love. And an honest, faithful preaching of the gospel has to include that warning. After all, Christ and his apostles gave us the warnings as well as the loving invitations and promises. The Church needs to believe and teach and preach both to be faithful.
          Only thus can the Church as a whole say with Paul, ‘Therefore I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God’; only thus can the Church as a whole take seriously the solemn warning God gave to Ezekiel that the appointed Watchman who ‘does not blow the trumpet to warn the people’ will be held accountable by God for the blood of the unsaved.
          With the publication of the LLF material the Church is about to spend considerable time and effort on the Human Sexuality disagreement. This disagreement is important. But it is definitely not “The Thing that matters Most”. What matters most is that the whole Church should believe, teach and preach both parts of her core message, the terrible part and the wonderful part, and the serious failure, as I see it, of the majority of the Church to preach the terrible part – the warnings.
          The LLF disagreement and this more fundamental and more important (as I see it) failure are linked: by the doctrine of the Fall and Original Sin. So I think that the present LLF situation is an opportunity for those who agree with me to challenge the rest of the church, both evangelicals and non-evangelicals about this most serious failure. I realise it is easy for me to suggest this challenge – I am not dependent on the Church for my livelihood and I have not promised to be obedient to any Bishop in all things lawful and honest. But I want to see that challenge take place, because I want those I dearly love to hear that warning, not just from me, but from the whole Church, before there is any talk of going separate ways on the sexuality disagreement. Put it this way: suppose at the end of the LLF process the church reaffirms the ‘traditional’ view on Human Sexuality. That would leave this most fundamental and most important failure unaddressed.
          According to General Fuller’s account of the battle of Waterloo in ‘Decisive Battles…’ there came a moment when ‘Napoleon still had in hand eight battalions of the Old Guard and six of the Middle, and had he sent to Ney but half this force, Wellington’s centre must inevitably have been overwhelmed…..’. But the decisive moment passed.

          I suggest that if evangelicals are ever going to challenge the rest of the Church about what she believes and preaches about Original Sin, the need to preach the warnings as well as the Good News, about wrath and retribution – this is the decisive moment to do it, by pointing out in the LLF debates that LLF is part of a wider, deeper issue. I suggest writing an Open Letter to challenge all ordained Ministers, including Bishops and Archbishops, and please, please, let the ensuing debate be on the internet open to all, and not behind closed doors. Let us all continue to pray that God in his grace and mercy will revive and rebuke the world-wide Church to focus on the thing that matters most, the Day of Judgment and the eternal life (or eternal retribution) which awaits each of us after death. Let us all also continue to pray that God will convict us all that God and Christ are both terrible and wonderful.

          The point of my ‘thin end of the wedge’ post was aimed at the quote from Andrew Goddard’s article which contained a whiff of the view that I fear will prevail at the 2022 General Synod – that provided measures to protect conservative consciences are strong enough, the Synod will agree to allow same-sex services to be used.

          Phil Almond

          Reply
          • Yep Philip exactly.
            And Paul Bayes is on a campaign trail with a very different ecclesiology and soteriology.
            Geoff seems to think campaigning is wrong.

          • Penelope
            Yes. This disagreement about sexuality is really about disagreements about the Doctrines of the Church and Salvation. I hope the whole LLF Project accept that.

            Phil Almond

          • I think it’s more about ecclesiology than soteriology. But I agree, it’s a presenting issue.

    • With a nod to Andrew Goddard’s articles in relation to holiness and his reference to LLF’s quotation on holiness, I’d suggest it is worldly, unconscionable, unholiness.
      I’d posit that it is Ratneresque in substance at a deeper level.

      Reply
  9. As so often, the foundational liberal misunderstanding in this thread is that one begins with one’s opinion. Life would certainly be stress-free for those who did so. But no – it goes without saying that all honest opinions are worked out, tried and tested. If one begins with it, it sounds suspiciously like an ideology, and that is the point at which alarm bells start ringing.

    Reply
    • You mean an opinion like that of S who firmly believes that to correct any errors in biblical writings by humans God spilled ink over their manuscripts until they got it down correctly?
      What do you make of that, Christopher? Is there any evidence or scholarship for it at all?

      Reply
      • As we have them, they are uncorrectable: title deeds according to you, Andrew?
        Or to put it another way deeds that are not worth the paper they are written on; Ratneresque ridicule.

        Reply
      • 6th comment, for example, but it is the sort of thing one often finds – commenter JT saying that people ‘think’ certain things. No sense that they may be in a process of discovery or research; nor that it would be odd if their thinking had come to an end; no definition of what it means to ‘think’ something (does it mean to prefer,or to consider accurate, or can it mean either,which would be confusing since the 2 are so different); no clarity about which things are presuppositions and which things are hard-won conclusions.

        Reply
        • Christopher

          This thread is becoming so dense that I cannot find your point six, even though I have scrolled back.
          I cannot speak for how Jonathan uses words, but when I write think in one sentence I often write believe in the next. Or when I write argue in one phrase, I t use contend in the next. It avoids repetition.
          And someone who is thinking is pondering the implications of something. It is not a ‘thoughtless’ activity.
          I think we should desist now, we are wandering too far away from the original subject.
          But I shall look forward to further skirmishes.

          Reply
          • Point 6 is the 6th comment made in this thread.

            I don’t look forward to skirmishes, I look forward to getting closer to the truth.

    • Oh he most surely did. I quote:

      “God spilled ink over the bits that weren’t correct until the fallible human beings got it right!

      If that isn’t the best description I’ve ever seen of how the Christian God works in the history of the world, then I don’t know what is”

      I have challenged S on several occasions to provide some scholarly support for this and, of course, none can be provided. It’s a wild idea rather than the “best description ever seen”.

      So, as a NT specialist, what do you make of it Christopher?

      Reply
      • Oh he most surely did

        Well, it’s a bit of an unkind reduction, but in essence, it captures the point of the idea of providential preservation, doesn’t it?

        And as I pointed out at the time, what is the Bible but an account of how fallible human beings kept getting things wrong, so God had to step in and put them right?

        What is the whole Old Testament but an account of how fallible Israel kept getting things wrong so God had to step in to put them right through various methods both subtle and extreme?

        What is the whole New Testament but an account of how fallible human beings got things so wrong that God had to step in personally by becoming incarnate in His universe to be killed, to set things right?

        As I’ve said before, this God Andrew Godsall seems to believe in, who is incapable of intervening in the universe, who couldn’t even have stopped the rise of Hitler, doesn’t seem at all like the God of the Bible (perhaps not surprising given his view of the Bible) but seems rather more like the God of the Deists, who created the universe but now is powerless to do anything but allow it to run its course.

        Andrew Godsall denies being a Deist; but I say, if the cap fits, as it most assuredly does form all I can see, he should wear it proudly.

        Reply
        • Andrew
          Is it an actual event that Jesus said, “blessed are those who have not seen yet believe….”?

          Phil Almond

          Reply
          • How would I know Phil, seeing as I wasn’t there?
            I *believe* that the saying had significance for the earliest Christians – those who formulated and wrote the Gospels. I believe that the saying makes sense from perspectives of both experience and reason. Therefore I can assent to it quite easily.

          • Reply to Andrew’s post Andrew Godsall July 12, 2021 at 5:48 pm.

            But the whole point of the saying is to pronounce a blessing on those who, like me and like you, were not there, and yet believe. What do you *believe*? Why do you say that ‘the saying had significance for the earliest Christians – those who formulated and wrote the Gospels. I believe that the saying makes sense from perspectives of both experience and reason’ yet decline to agree that it was an actual event that Jesus said it?

            Phil Almond

        • I don’t think S is at all from previous questioning no. S has been insistent that this is the way God worked.
          S how can it possibly be an unkind reduction given that I’m simply quoting your own words?
          And please do explain why, if God was perfectly able to prevent the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, why didn’t God both to do so?

          Reply
          • Im pretty sure Hitler is dead. So he was stopped, eventually.

            If God were to ‘prevent’ all evil, He would have to destroy the world.

            The only thing He has promised is that one day, justice will reign.

          • Indeed so Peter.
            I have advised S to study the basics of the free will defence several times. God can’t give people free will and then stop people exercising it. Which is just one reason why the ink spilling God idea is nonsense.

          • S how can it possibly be an unkind reduction given that I’m simply quoting your own words?

            You are quoting a single example I gave as if it were the entirety of my point.

            And please do explain why, if God was perfectly able to prevent the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, why didn’t God both to do so?

            If I could understand why God does the things He does, and why God allows the things He allows, I would be God, wouldn’t I?

            But to claim that God could not have stopped the rise of Hitler is simply nonsense. You agree that God is perfectly capable of causing a human being to die at a time of His choosing, correct? There are multiple examples of such occurring in the Bible. So obviously God could have caused Hitler to simply drop dead some time prior to 1930 and so prevented his rise to power that way.

          • God can’t give people free will and then stop people exercising it.

            Not stop them from having free will entirely, no, but He can obviously constrain their choices. Good can send a storm, for example, right? So that could stop people exercising their free will to make a certain sea crossing at a certain time. Or that Icelandic volcano that erupted a decade ago, that stopped people exercising their free will to fly across the Atlantic, didn’t it?

          • “God can send a storm, for example, right?”
            I don’t think so, in such a specific way no. Storms are part of the natural world, even if extraordinary.
            If God could prevent Adolf Hitler but chose not to do so that would make your God a monster.
            Please do explain your ink spilling theory in more detail so that Christopher, who is a NT specialist might evaluate it. If there is a fuller explanation then there will be some scholarship to support it.

          • “God can send a storm, for example, right?”
            I don’t think so, in such a specific way no. Storms are part of the natural world, even if extraordinary.

            So you are a Deist.

            If God could prevent Adolf Hitler but chose not to do so that would make your God a monster.

            I see you are also arrogant enough to think that you can pass moral judgement on God.

          • No more a Deist than you I think.

            Now Please do explain your ink spilling theory in more detail so that Christopher, who is a NT specialist might evaluate it. If there is a fuller explanation then there will be some scholarship to support it.

          • No more a Deist than you I think.

            You think that God set the universe going and then left it to its own devices, either unable or refusing to intervene as events unfold. That’s Deism, not Christianity.

            I, unlike you, am a Christian, not a Deist.

          • Quite incorrect about my beliefs. God intervened definitively through his son Jesus Christ. It’s called the incarnation. Jesus, not the bible, is the Word of God. The bible bears witness to this incredible intervention.
            The natural world responds to forces of nature. The clue is in the title.

            All of this is a diversion I fear because there is no substance to the theory about your mysterious ink spilling God.

          • Andrew, may I ask as opposed to the teachings of Calvinism, would you take a kenotic view of the nature of Gods activity in the world – not only of the Son but of the Father also?

          • Quite incorrect about my beliefs. God intervened definitively through his son Jesus Christ.

            Who calmed a storm — something you say God is incapable of doing. How do you explain that? How did Jesus, who was God incarnate, do something that you think God is incapable of?

            Your beliefs, at least as you pretend them, make no sense.

            The natural world responds to forces of nature. The clue is in the title.

            Yes. And Christians think that God is in control of the forces of nature. You, apparently, think that the forces of nature are stronger than God. That makes you a Deist, not a Christian.

          • “Your beliefs, at least as you pretend them, make no sense.”

            S, this is the issue about your belief in the ink spilling God. There is no scholarship to support it. Once you can produce some I will reply further.

          • S, this is the issue about your belief in the ink spilling God. There is no scholarship to support it. Once you can produce some I will reply further.

            You may think my beliefs are wrong, as is your right, but at least my beliefs are internally consistent.

            You, on the other hand, claim to believe both that Jesus can calm a storm — this proving that God can control the laws of nature — and also that God cannot cause storms, because God is powerless to affect the outworkings of the laws of nature.

            How do you resolve this contradiction? Because this isn’t, to be clear, some trifling side-issue: this is a fundamental paradox that undermines your entire theology, isn’t it?

          • S: it’s extremely difficult to debate with someone who isn’t interested in the basics of biblical criticism. A literal belief in the episode you refer to – stilling the storm – isn’t necessary for a belief in God incarnate in Jesus. Especially if one believes in the Christ who emptied himself of any power and took the form of a servant. Neither does denial of a literal belief in this episode make one a deist, I’m afraid.
            Deists believe quite a number of things that I don’t, so I can’t claim to be a strict deist. The questions that they provide solutions to are mysterious ones to which I don’t have any answers. So you will have to think again I’m afraid.
            You certainly have a right to believe whatever you wish about biblical composition. The LLF document provides 7 possible ways of viewing the scriptures, and I have been quite clear where my own view lies. It’s well within accepted Anglican teaching. Those 7 have scholarship to support them, whereas your ink spilling idea is novel and without any support from scholarship. In fact there is a considerable amount that would count against it. Just ask our resident NT specialist Christopher Shell. Perhaps you would like to develop your theory in an academic environment and then present it for proper evaluation.

          • A literal belief in the episode you refer to – stilling the storm – isn’t necessary for a belief in God incarnate in Jesus. Especially if one believes in the Christ who emptied himself of any power and took the form of a servant. Neither does denial of a literal belief in this episode make one a deist, I’m afraid.

            So, just to be clear, you’re saying you do not believe that Jesus actually stilled a storm? You think that the accounts in the gospels of Him doing so do not accurately record any actual incident that really happened?

            I think before we go on it’s pretty important we clear that up.

          • The point of the story is the relationship between Jesus and God, and Jesus and the disciples, not between Jesus and atmospheric pressure.

          • The point of the story is the relationship between Jesus and God, and Jesus and the disciples, not between Jesus and atmospheric pressure.

            No, I’m afraid I’m going to have to push you to be explicit: do you, yourself, think that the story accurately records, or even possibly accurately records, an actual event?

            Because if you do think it is accurate, or even if you admit the possibility that it might record an actual event, then that blows a fatal hole in your ‘God is powerless to affect natural forces’ theory, doesn’t it?

            So it seems to me you must, for consistency, believe that the event as recorded in the gospels never happened, and Jesus did not, in fact, ever calm a storm.

            So can you be explicit please that that is in fact what you think?

            You believe that Jesus did not ever calm a storm. Contradict me if I’m wrong.

          • Good news S!
            Even in the midst of the storms God is with us.
            In the midst of death there is light.
            In the midst of darkness there is light.
            And blessed are those who have not seen yet believe….

          • *In the midst of death there is life I mean!
            Oh for a bit of ink to wipe out these mistakes eh?

          • Andrew
            Is it an actual event that Jesus said, “blessed are those who have not seen yet believe….”?

            Phil Almond

          • Good news S!
            Even in the midst of the storms God is with us.
            In the midst of death there is light.
            In the midst of darkness there is light.
            And blessed are those who have not seen yet believe….

            You didn’t contradict me, so you obviously do not think that the accounts of Jesus calming the storm accurately record an actual event (again, if this is incorrect, please feel free to say so at any time).

            So the next question is: are there any of Jesus’ miracles that you do think are accurately recorded? Because it seems to me they all pose for you the same problem: any one of them, whether it involves turning water into wine, feeding thousands with just a few loaves and fishes, walking on water, or healing damaged eyes, legs, nerves, or leprosy, never mind raising people from the dead or reversing entropy and coming back to life himself after being executed, would demonstrate that Jesus — and therefore God — had authority over the forces of nature.

            And your argument against providential preservation of scripture relies on God being powerless over the forces of nature.

            So if you are to hold your view of the ‘powerless God’ — and it seems you are determined to, at all costs — then you must logically dismiss all the miracle stories, correct?

            After all if you don’t dismiss all those stories as being accounts of real events then you can’t, logically, continue to mock the idea of providential preservation, which you insist on calling ‘God spilling ink.’ Because if God can calm a storm, or change water to wine, or raise a dead body to life again, then that God certainly can cause a bottle of ink to spill. And it seems very important to you to be able to keep mocking.

            So can I just ask for the wider readership, Ian Paul or anyone else who knows more about Anglican doctrine than me: is it now the Church of England’s official position that the accounts of Jesus’ miracles in the Bible are all fictional, as Mr Godsall so clearly thinks?

          • What is the doctrine of the Church of England?

            It is naïve to think that the LLF process can be conducted from beginning to end in complete and painful honesty and integrity without this question also being answered with the same painful honesty and integrity.

            According to Canon A5:

            “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal”.
            This Canon is supported by Canon C15, which sets out the Declaration of Assent (which all Ministers of the Church are required to make) and its Preface.
            Are all agreed that these two Canons do enable us all to agree that the Doctrine of the Church of England does include the doctrines set out in the Articles?
            Alas, No.
            In two posts to
            Walking Together at Lambeth 2020? | Fulcrum Anglican (fulcrum-anglican.org.uk)
            I trace the trajectory from the Reformation onwards to water down the assent to the Articles and conclude that it cannot be assumed that all who have made the Declaration of Assent mean the same thing in what doctrines they believe.
            In the LLF book on pages 317-318 there is a section headed ‘The Articles of Religion’. It mentions the new form of the Declaration of Assent introduced in 1975 and quotes from the Preface to it and from the Declaration. It then concludes with
            ‘Opinions around the Church of England differ about the implications of this form of the Declaration for appeal to the Articles in disagreements like ours. Similarly, although the church’s canon law says that the doctrine of the Church of England is ‘found in’ the Articles and the other historic formularies, recent legal cases have raised similar questions about the implication of that wording for the Articles’ status in the church’s disputes.318’
            A thorough engagement with LLF will involve the relevance of Article 9 (The Fall and Original Sin) of the 39 Articles for this whole debate. This raises the question of how that Article and the wording of the Declaration of Assent should be understood and the Articles’ status in the church’s disputes. In my view a key question is whether an appeal to Article 9 is absolutely rock-solid from a legal point of view in the light of the legal case referred to in note 318 of the LLF book
            “(Arches Court of Canterbury, In Re St Alkmund, Duffield: Judgement (2012) Fam 51; available at https://www.ecclesiasticallawassociation.org.uk/judgments/reordering/ duffieldstalkmund2012appeal.pdf (accessed 10/03/2020). Citing also Re St Thomas, Pennywell (1995) Fam 50, section 58; and Re Christ Church, Waltham Cross (2002) Fam 51, section 25)”.
            This refers to a Consistory Court appeal concerning an item of church furniture but includes several references to the Articles. This is an extract (bold and underlined by me):

            “Then in Re Christ Church, Waltham Cross [2002] Fam 51 at para 25 the same chancellor said:
            “ … the Articles of Religion are now to be seen primarily in the same way as the other historic formularies, although Canon A 2 of the Canons Ecclesiastical 1969 states: “Of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion. The Thirty-nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England.” They are no longer a definitive formulation of Anglican doctrine, even though they bear witness to that faith.”

            (h) In other words, “the Articles of Religion are no longer seen as definitive arbiters of the doctrine of the Church of England” (per Chancellor Bursell, QC in Re Christ Church, Waltham Cross at para 24). With this we agree and would point out that the view expressed by Sir Jenner Fust in this court in Gorham v Bishop of Exeter (1849) 2 Rob. Ecc. 1, 55; 163 ER 1221, 1241 (“Prima facie, …the Thirty-nine Articles are the standard of doctrine; they were framed for the express purpose of avoiding a diversity of opinion, and are, as such, to be considered, and, in the first instance, appealed to, in order to ascertain the doctrine of the Church.”) preceded the repeal of the 1571 Act and was necessarily based upon the wording of the relevant Canon then in force.

            25. It follows that, although Dr Pickles believes and is entitled to affirm (as he does) that his own theological position is still defined by the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, other clergy of the Church of England may equally affirm that those Articles are not for them the definitive arbiters of the doctrine that they are required to believe. This is of importance not only for all clergy who have to make the Declaration of Assent with a clear conscience but also in relation to the jurisdiction of the consistory court. In so far as it may, the consistory court must strive in the exercise of its faculty jurisdiction to ensure that any decision it makes permits the proper reflection of the doctrinal beliefs of the priest and congregation. Equally, however, it must strive to ensure that nothing is done in the exercise of that jurisdiction which may limit the proper reflection of the doctrinal beliefs of a different priest and congregation within the confines of the same ecclesiastical building.”

            I wonder if there are any similar cases and whether the cases in Note 318 have ever been subject to a legal challenge.

            Of course most evangelicals value the Articles because they summarise Biblical doctrines. If assent to the doctrine of Article 9 is not common ground in the LLF debates those who believe that Article 9 summarises what the Bible says must appeal to the relevant Bible passages (e.g Romans 5:12-21) to make their case.

          • S: I neither affirm nor contradict your simplistic analysis of either/or. It’s both/and. NT Wright expresses it well:

            “Part of the point of the whole story is that He loves the world and intends to rescue it, that He’s put His plan into operation through a series of concrete events in actual history, and that he intends this plan to be worked out through the concrete lives and work of His people. But the Bible, like virtually all other great writing, regularly and repeatedly brings out the flavor, the meaning, the proper interpretations of these actual, concrete, space-time events by means of a complex, beautiful, and evocative literary forms and figures, of which metaphors is only one. Acknowledging (indeed, celebrating) the intended literal reference, investing aging the concrete events thus referred to, and exploring the full range of metaphorical meaning–these tasks are to be integrated together as key elements of Biblical interpretation.”

          • I neither affirm nor contradict your simplistic analysis of either/or. It’s both/and.

            So you think that the account of Jesus calming the storm is both an accurate recounting of an event that happened, and a metaphorical story expressing truths about the relationships between Jesus and the disciples, and Jesus and God?

            Good. Then we agree. But that takes us back to the problem for your ‘God is powerless to affect the outcomes of natural forces’ theory.

            Given you agree that the account is at least an accurate recounting of an event that happened (both/and, remember) then does it not show that Jesus, who is God incarnate, remember, has authority over natural forces?

            And does than not therefore blow a logical hole right through your ‘God cannot affect the outcomes of natural forces’ theory?

            You cannot both think that Jesus has the authority over natural forces required to clam storms, and also think that God cannot affect natural forces. The two are mutually incompatible.

            So will you agree then that God does have authority over natural process, and therefore God can send and calm storms?

          • There is nothing ‘logical’ about the Gospel

            But we’re not talking about the gospel. We’re talking about whether God is capable of controlling the forces of nature, and that’s a question of fact — either He is, or He isn’t.

            If you think He is, then you have to admit that God can cause, or calm, a storm — something you have denied.

            But if you think He isn’t, then you have to say that the accounts of Jesus’ miracles are not accurate records of things that actually happened.

            Those really are the only two options available. God can’t be both capable and not capable of controlling the forces of nature.

            So which is it? Do you think God is capable of controlling the forces of nature, or not?

            Of course anyone reading already knows the answer: you have explicitly written above that you do not think God is capable of controlling the forces of nature, and you resolutely refuse to say that you do think that the accounts of Jesus’ miracles are accurate records. They only mystery — and I admit I can’t figure it out — is why you are so coy (though I admit it is terribly amusing when you realise that you’ve let slip what you really believe and have to frantically backpedal).

            Can I throw this one open to the floor? Why is Mr Godsall being so coy? Why is he so ashamed of admitting what he so obviously really believes?

          • Of course we are talking about the Gospel! That’s the reason we have these stories. And you believe the Gospel stories are somehow tape recordings of events. They aren’t. The gospel stories are interpreting things with the benefit of post resurrection spectacles. This is the essential point Tom Wright is making. The events and the interpretation are all caught up together and you can’t say of this kind of literature that it’s either literally true or metaphorically true. It’s both/and. There is some event that is behind the story which is itself an interpretation of that event.

          • There is some event that is behind the story which is itself an interpretation of that event.

            Right, yes, again, we agree on this.

            So the important question here is: did the event behind the story involve Jesus calming a storm?

            Because if it did, then that proves that God has authority over natural forces, doesn’t it? And therefore your claim that God can’t send, or calm storms — on which your dismissal of providential preservation rests — falls, doesn’t it?

            So if you want to maintain your mockery of my position, and it seems you do, then you must insist that the event behind the story did not involve Jesus actually calming a storm.

            So is that your belief then? You believe that the event behind the story did not involve Jesus actually calming a storm?

          • The miracles, as recorded in the Gospels, are quite different things to your claim that God uses human beings as puppets. The miracles are well investigated by scholarship. The god who makes people spill ink if he doesn’t like what they have written has no basis in scholarship whatsoever. Unless you can, at this 11th hour, produce some. But I am afraid I do not, and never will, believe in a god who makes human beings into puppets. Which is what you seem to believe….

          • The miracles, as recorded in the Gospels, are quite different things to your claim that God uses human beings as puppets.

            I have, of course, never claimed that God ‘uses human beings as puppets’; and I never would make that claim as I believe no such thing.

            But I am afraid I do not, and never will, believe in a god who makes human beings into puppets. Which is what you seem to believe….

            It is, of course, not what I believe at all.

            But back to the point. Above you claimed that God cannot control the weather*. However, if Jesus — who was, we agree, God incarnate — did, on at least one occasion, control the weather, then obviously you are wrong about that, aren’t you?

            So. Will you admit that you are wrong and God can control the weather; or will you admit that you do not believe that Jesus ever calmed a storm?

            I mean, as I keep pointing out, you simply can’t believe both of those things simultaneously. So which is it?

          • Oh dear S. you have consistently claimed that God spilled ink over the bits that weren’t correct until the fallible human beings got it right. You described it thus:

            “If that isn’t the best description I’ve ever seen of how the Christian God works in the history of the world, then I don’t know what is”

            So are you now saying God doesn’t work in that way? God doesn’t make the errant writers spill their ink? You have changed your mind? Because that is making a human being a puppet.

          • Oh dear S. you have consistently claimed that God spilled ink over the bits that weren’t correct until the fallible human beings got it right.

            Yes I have.

            So are you now saying God doesn’t work in that way?

            No I am not.

            God doesn’t make the errant writers spill their ink?

            Not always — the ink-spilling was just an example. God is much more imaginative than I am.

            You have changed your mind?

            Never.

            Because that is making a human being a puppet.

            No, it isn’t. No more than Jesus dying on the cross to spill his blood over the mistakes that fallible human beings made when they sinned makes human beings puppets.

            Anyway, seeing as you are now trying to change the subject, does that mean you have stopped denying that you believe that the incident on which the story of Jesus calming the storm was based did not involve any storms actually being calmed?

            And that therefore you accept that you do not believe any of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the gospels actually happened?

            And can I just check: is that the official doctrine of the Church of England? That Jesus did not, actually perform any miracles; and the accounts of Him doing so are all after-the-fact fictions concocted by the gospel writers to make various metaphorical points?

            That is obviously what you think, as you refuse to deny it; but is it official?

          • No, that was the subject. I started it so I should know! It was you who tried to change it.
            I’m afraid that ensuring a human being spills ink, even if it is only one example, is treating a human being as if they were a puppet. I don’t believe in that kind of God I’m afraid, and I’m quite sure the C of E doesn’t.

          • No, that was the subject. I started it so I should know! It was you who tried to change it.

            So you’re still not going to deny that you believe that all the stories of Jesus performing miracles in the gospels are totally fictional?

            I’m afraid that ensuring a human being spills ink, even if it is only one example, is treating a human being as if they were a puppet.

            Who suggested ‘ensuring a human being spills ink’? I was imagining a God arranging for a cat to knock over the ink-bottle. Or perhaps a gust of wind through an open window. As I wrote, God is more imaginative than me — I’m sure He could come up with a billion ways, not one of which would involve treating a human being as if the were a puppet.

            I don’t believe in that kind of God I’m afraid, and I’m quite sure the C of E doesn’t.

            But the Church of England does believe in a Jesus who never performed a single miracles? The Church of England does believe in gospel-writers who made up entirely out of their heads stories of Him does so? Is that what you’re saying?

            Can someone else confirm that this is what the Church of England believes? Because it surprises me if it is.

          • No, the Church of England doesn’t believe that. And neither do I!
            The Church of England has been clear in LLF that there are a variety of ways of looking at and understanding scripture. I have told you before where I am in that scale and it’s quite within the bounds of what the C of E believes.

            The C of E does not believe in cats or gusts of wind spilling ink however, and neither do I. What a a far fetched imagination you have!

            And orthodox Christianity is clear, as was Jesus, that we don’t look for signs and wonders. Our understanding of God is advanced by seeking the meaning of these, and not focussing on the events themselves. That is what the scriptures do.

            So, was the world and all that is in it made in 7 days, whatever a day meant? No, I don’t believe it was. And science doesn’t either.
            Was there a flood that wiped out the whole of humankind and all living things apart from those on an ark? No, I don’t believe there was. Is it an important story for what it tells us about the relationship between God and the creation? Yes, I believe it is.
            Was there an event when Jesus was in a boat with his disciples? Yes, it’s highly likely given that some were fishers, and that boats and trains and planes didn’t exist. Was there a storm? Highly likely. Did it die down? Storms generally do. Is that the significance of the story? No it isn’t. Is it a significant story that gives us some information about relationships between the disciples and Jesus and his future followers? Yes, as I have explained before, it is significant. Do I believe in Jesus because he can perform signs and wonders? No, I don’t. I believe in Jesus because he enables me – and you – to have a relationship with the father. Even in the midst of storms.

            I’m sure that won’t satisfy you. But it’s basic Christianity. Searching for signs and wonders isn’t. And I don’t do it. But I do take the story that surrounds that event, whatever it was, very seriously.

          • No, the Church of England doesn’t believe that. And neither do I!
            The Church of England has been clear in LLF that there are a variety of ways of looking at and understanding scripture. I have told you before where I am in that scale and it’s quite within the bounds of what the C of E believes.

            You don’t think that Jesus ever performed a miracle. You think the writers of the gospels made up those stories, perhaps basing them on an original, non-miraculous occurrence. Is that the official Church of England position?

            The C of E does not believe in cats or gusts of wind spilling ink however, and neither do I. What a a far fetched imagination you have!

            If you don’t believe a cat can spill a bottle of ink, then you obviously can’t have ever owned a cat. And if the Church of England doesn’t believe that a gust of wind can spill a bottle of ink, then dear me, the Church of England is even less observant than I thought.

            Was there an event when Jesus was in a boat with his disciples? Yes, it’s highly likely given that some were fishers, and that boats and trains and planes didn’t exist. Was there a storm? Highly likely. Did it die down? Storms generally do. Is that the significance of the story? No it isn’t. Is it a significant story that gives us some information about relationships between the disciples and Jesus and his future followers? Yes, as I have explained before, it is significant. Do I believe in Jesus because he can perform signs and wonders? No, I don’t. I believe in Jesus because he enables me – and you – to have a relationship with the father. Even in the midst of storms.

            So — just to be clear — you are saying that you absolutely do not believe that Jesus ever performed a sign or a wonder. You do not think Jesus ever miraculously calmed a storm, or healed someone who was blind, deaf, paralysed or suffering from leprosy; you do not think Jesus ever walked on water, transformed water into wine, or raised anyone from the dead. You do not even think that Jesus cursed a fig tree.

            That’s right, isn’t it? You agree that none of those things record miraculous events that actually happened — you think that they were all just stories made up by the writers of the gospels, based on entirely non-miraculous things that did happen, to express how being with Jesus made them feel? And that the important thing is what these made-up stories tell us about how the gospel writers who made them up felt about their relationship with Jesus?

          • No, I do believe that Jesus healed the sick etc etc etc. Not sure how many times I have to repeat that!
            I could try again but……..
            You don’t seem to be able to read what I wrote in my previous post so there is little point in repeating it.
            The C of E does not believe in cats who spill ink to make human beings into God’s puppets. Or in gusts of wind that make human beings into God’s puppets.
            This conversation is not generating any light, so I’m afraid I’m out.

          • No, I do believe that Jesus healed the sick etc etc etc. Not sure how many times I have to repeat that!

            Okay, now I’m a bit confused. You believe that Jesus could heal the sick, but not that He could calm a storm? How does that work? Illness is just as much a product of natural forces as weather. If Jesus could control the forces of nature in order to heal, why couldn’t He do so to calm a storm?

            You don’t seem to be able to read what I wrote in my previous post so there is little point in repeating it.

            I read it perfectly. You on the other hand…

            The C of E does not believe in cats who spill ink to make human beings into God’s puppets. Or in gusts of wind that make human beings into God’s puppets.

            … seem confused as I don’t believe in any of those things either. I don’t believe in anything that makes human beings into God’s puppets. I can’t be any clearer; you, on the other hand, seem incapable of being clear that you do not believe the miracles recorded in the gospels actually happened as described.

            This conversation is not generating any light, so I’m afraid I’m out.

            We’ve heard that before.

  10. This os a whole mew post article: God’s providence and Sovereignty and free will. Certainly much ink time words thoughts have been emploed over the years, including John Flavel has been more tha
    There has been more than a hint of a broad brush position of Ian Paul, when as something of a tangent in an exposition on Mark, he linked an article by Roger Olsen? or the writer of the Jesus Creed, whose name escapes me at this moment.
    But for those who want to take it further, John Piper has 700+ p new book, Providence, freely downloadable. Evidently he employs mostly scripture rather than philosophy.
    Having said that, I suggest it is a huge diversion from the article by Andrew.

    Reply
      • And that is indeed at the root of this whole article what it is and its place in the life of the church and christians.
        But as I mentioned above: to you they are akin to title deeds, but to follow Bayes and many liberals, Ratneresque they are rubbished, not worth the velum they were written on, other than for historical curiosity of for a theological game of pinning the tail on a donkey by people who have no reason or method to decide what to follow.who from the outset exclude God from its composition and construction, who continue with the Jesus Seminar, in anything but name.
        Little wonder the question of holiness as set out in Andrew Goddards two articles is so resolutely ignored, avoided.

        Reply
        • As so often I’m afraid Geoff, I can’t understand much of what you are saying, and how it relates. I find much of what you say just personally insulting, self righteous and rude so I will bid you good day.

          Reply
  11. If Jesus teaches XYZ on divorce, we are then (according to Colin’s argument) compelled to say
    (1) His teaching must have been incomplete and he must have meant more things that he didn’t say;
    (2) The particular things omitted must have been (out of all the thousands of possibilities) *precisely* what we would want them to have been.

    This is a non-starter.

    Reply

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