Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 20 February 2016

Martin Freeman Plymouth Herald The serpent, the dove and the Bishop of Truro

Angus Ritchie ABC Religion & Ethics Scripture and Sexuality, Once Again: A Response to Ian Paul

Spitalfields Life The Broderers Of St Paul’s Cathedral

Jana Riess Religion News Service No, St. Francis didn’t say that. (Or Thomas Merton. Or Buddha. Or C.S. Lewis.) Where do we get these fake religion memes?

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dr.primroseMarkBrunsonErika BakerSusannah ClarkJames Byron Recent comment authors
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Pam
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Pam

If it looks like a diplomat, and sounds like a diplomat, it might be a churchman. Diplomats actually work for politicians. They are (usually) more adept at the finer points of getting along with people and extracting information for the benefit of their nation. That is what they do. Does the church want to do diplomacy? Maybe it’s a necessity. Maybe not. I’ll be diplomatic about it and say that the Bishop of Truro seems a very fine churchman.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Angus Ritchie has some powerful arguments for “Two Integrities” – something that had not been heard of in the Church of England until the advent of women clergy. Since that time, the Church has recognised that women are equal to men in the sight of God.

Now the Church has come to the place where – maybe at first through a process of “Two Integrities” – we will come to realise that homo and heterosexual people are also equal in the sight of God, deserving of God’s Blessing on their monogamously faithful Same-Sex relationships.

Edward Prebble
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Edward Prebble

To Jana Riess’s list could be added: Archbishop William Temple never said: “The Church is unique among human institutions in that it exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members” – or words to that effect. Or if he did say it, no one seems to be able to find it in the published sources. There seems to be agreement that it is just the sort of think he might have said, but if he did, it was in an unpublished speech. If anyone wants to contradict me, and give chapter and verse, I (and other… Read more »

ExRevd
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ExRevd

Did St Francis of Assisi really say “Preach the Gospel. Use words if you have to”?

A former colleague used to cite that saintly authority frequently.

James Byron
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James Byron

Ritchie is strong in arguing for “two integrities,” but weak in trying to find a biblical loophole big enough to squeeze through committed gay relationships. Yet again, biblical authority is presupposed, and the affirming argument significantly weakened. For God’s sake, why not just concede this point? Paul of Tarsus wasn’t God. He was a flawed human man. He persecuted the followers of Jesus; he condoned slavery; he thought the world was about to end; and he condemned homosexuality in all circumstances. He. Was. Wrong. Stop treating this man as an oracle. The affirming argument has foundered on this for decades.… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

If “the only sixpenny article in a penny bazaar” didn’t say “The church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of others” (or words to that effect) then who did?
A little research suggests that it may well have been the German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer who might have been misquoted as he quite possibly said “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others”.

Father David
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Father David

The count shews 6 Comments but only 3 appear?

ED: there are 6 well now 7 that appear to me.

He that hath eyes to see…

S.

Paul
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Paul

Francis never said it, it cannot be found in any of his writings and actually unlikely if you read his work that emphasised preaching coupled with works of poverty and charity

JCF
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JCF

“For God’s sake, why not just concede this point? Paul of Tarsus … condemned homosexuality in all circumstances. He. Was. Wrong.”

Not doubting that Paul was wrong on many things, JamesB. I just don’t see how it’s POSSIBLE for him to have condemned a concept that wasn’t discovered/named for 1900 years. Why do you want to accept deeply (anachronistically) flawed, homophobic Bible translation&interpretation?

MarkBrunson
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MarkBrunson

James Byron does point to a fundamental problem – possibly a fundamental heresy – common to all established Christian denominations: all give equal honor and authority to human beings who wrote the scriptures as they do to God, and worse, elevate Paul’s teachings above and beyond those of Jesus *within that scriptural framework*!

It isn’t a problem of hermeneutics or cultural difference, but a faith-wide endemic error – scripture is NOT God, and can and must be interpreted within a living context held in greater, or at least equal, importance with the texts.

James Byron
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James Byron

JCF, by “homosexuality,” I’m not referring to the concept of sexual orientation (which, as you rightly say, came centuries later), but sexual activity between people of the same gender. Given that the Mosaic law condemned men having sex with men unreservedly, that Paul was a devout Jew and Pharisee, and that the plain reading of his authentic letters is condemnation (probably including lesbianism), the religious, textual and cultural factors combine to make an affirming reading of Paul extremely unlikely. I don’t want to accept this — just the opposite — but I don’t see how I can do otherwise without… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

I completely agree with James: by far the greatest likelihood is that the early Christian communities would have condemned man-man sex as sinful. The point (as Mark suggests) is that we risk making the Bible into an idolatry if we insist it is inerrant and infallible. Why shouldn’t the authors of the Bible get some things wrong, or be culturally conservative on some issues? After all… was Noah’s Ark true? did Adam and Eve have no ancestors? Were all the languages of the world diversified at the Tower of Babel? Did God really command the ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites?… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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But then, there are already precedents (like some listed above) for a Bible that is expressed through fallible humans like you and like me… making mistakes, which are subsequently seen to be palpably untrue. The way we regard the Bible, and how we read it, as inerrant truth or fallible attempts to describe divine encounters… these are the fundamental forks in the path to divergent consciences. Whichever way, we can still access God, and it is grace – not one path or the other – which opens us to grace, to union in Christ, and communion with one another. As… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

James “why do so many in the affirming camp allow their position to be framed by the very doctrine of authority that caused oppression to begin with?” Because so many of us actually truly don’t believe that your interpretation is correct. If Paul could not know about homosexuality, it stands to reason that he would condemn all same sex activity. What you know about something influences how you interpret it. You then have to look at WHY he condemned it, not the mere fact that he did. Why does it matter? Because there are thousands of gay evangelicals who believe… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

“You then have to look at WHY [Paul] condemned it, not the mere fact that he did.” I couldn’t agree more, Erika, but that isn’t an authoritarian POV. Authoritarianism is rooted in power and obedience, not reason and persuasion. The whole point of authoritarianism is that “why” doesn’t matter: all that matters is that an order be valid and understood. Once it is, you obey, end of debate. An enlisted man may believe that an officer is wrong, but their opinion counts for nothing: they do as they’re told, or face the consequences. I agree that gay relationships can be… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

And very eloquently put, Susannah: you’ve laid it out as comprehensively and succinctly as I’ve seen. 🙂

Mark has it exactly right: Bibliolatry is a faith-wide endemic error. It must be fought, regardless of whether the church comes to affirm gay relationships on other grounds. Liberalism isn’t a single-issue position; it’s a radically different framework. It seeks to overturn authoritarian orthodoxy, and far from being ashamed, I’m proud of it.

If authoritarianism isn’t fought, some new target will be selected, and we’ll be straight back to where we started. For all our sakes, this cycle must be broken.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Erika, I do not believe in the integrity of contorting biblical interpretation in order to maintain the concept of ‘inerrancy’ while trying to argue one’s way out of difficult things that the Bible asserts. That’s a bit like fundamentalists who argue that dinosaurs must have existed at the time of humans, since they could not die out before the Fall, when death was allegedly introduced. Even if gay romantic love and sex are a new thing – do we really believe that anyway – the bible makes no effort to amend the ‘haram’ nature of one man having sex with… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

We may not believe the Pope is infallible, so why should Paul be? Why aren’t biblical authors as fallible as the rest of us. If God is truly God, and allows us to discover different and conflicting accounts of creation, then why not other things too. Perhaps God oversaw the Enlightenment knowing that it would introduce precedents for daring to say “We need to set biblical text in context, not as infallibility, but as culturally-influenced attempts to make sense of mysteries and the deeper reality of God, and to open up the exercise of our conscience (instead of a sort… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

The Bible being wrong about specifics does not make it wrong about fundamental principles – for example the Greatest Commandment of Love, in the context of which, the whole of the Bible can make sense, even if the specifics are sometimes wrong. Perhaps the whole (and fallible) bible needs to be read in the context of love’s primacy – and perhaps the challenge for us is to open to love and grace, which is superbly communicated in biblical texts however fallible they are in detail. Perhaps the entire Bible is meant to be subordinated to the primacy of God’s call… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Susannah, “I do not believe in the integrity of contorting biblical interpretation in order to maintain the concept of ‘inerrancy’ while trying to argue one’s way out of difficult things that the Bible asserts.” I don’t believe that this is what evangelical are doing. Certainly, all my lgbt conservative evangelical friends are absolutely clear that passages have to be read in context. Even Ian Paul wouldn’t disagree with that. And they are firmly of the opinion that context changes when you discover that something you had thought to be true isn’t true. We are not doing them a favour by… Read more »

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

In discussing Paul’s attitude toward same-sex relations, it’s important to remember what Paul actually said (and didn’t say). According to the actual text of Romans 1, Paul is condemning homosexuality resulting from idolatry. Paul says that the “wicked,” although they knew God, did not honor or give thanks to God, and “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animal or reptiles.” (vv. 21-23, NRSV). “Therefore” (“Dio” in Greek), “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (v. 24) because (again) they worshiped a creature rather… Read more »

MarkBrunson
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MarkBrunson

While I respect the deep scholarship that has resulted, I still cannot commend an attitude which holds that the scriptures are so absolutely above question that they need to be exhaustively studied in order for us to say, “No. This is not a correct understanding. If we err in rejecting it, we do so in good faith trusting in God’s Mercy.” It’s why I have a real problem with making verses of psalms and other scripture “optional” in the lectionary because they are bloody or violent or unpleasant. This sends a message to kids, to new hearers of the scripture,… Read more »

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

I suspect there aren’t lots of folk on this site who think that the Bible is “absolutely correct.” But I think it’s extremely important to know what it says in the context of the author’s time and place, which can be a place quite alien to us 21st Christians, before we start considering the issue of whether the particular passage continues to apply to us and, if so, how and to what extent.