Sunday, 28 November 2004

Advent pastoral letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has sent a pastoral letter about the well-being of the Communion and the future of its common discipleship to all Anglican Primates. In connection with the current controversy he wrote “Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent.”

The Sunday Times saw a copy of the letter before its official publication and, picking up on this last point, published this article this morning:

Williams tells clergy: stop gay bashing

Similar stories have subsequently been carried by the BBC and The Scotsman and many other online newspapers around the world.
Churches warned over ‘gay slurs’ (BBC)
Archbishop’s Bid to Heal Rift over Homosexuality (Scotsman)

Monday morning update

Two articles from this morning’s papers:

Williams’ call for Anglican unity falls on deaf ears (Guardian)
Williams calls for healing in gay rift (Telegraph)

The Archbishop’s letter is also available here and here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 28 November 2004 at 10:00pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

No-one can possibly argue with the Archbishop's comment that "any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent.”

The trouble is that his words can be taken to suggest that anyone who adopts the Biblical line on homosexuality is being homophobic. It is depressing to think that the head of the Anglican church seems unable to distinguish between homophobia and a declaration of the gospel.

Posted by: Robert Leggat on Sunday, 28 November 2004 at 11:00pm GMT

"...anyone who adopts the Biblical line on homosexuality..."

(sigh) For the umpteenth time, faithful Christians *disagree* on what Scripture says, if anything, about loving, monogamous relationships between gays or lesbians. You may *not* claim sole Biblical justification for your ultra-conservative view without appearing, quite frankly, to be arrogant.

To disagree, and label it so, is perfectly fine. Please do so, and feel free to try and convince us of your position if you feel you must. However, it is a False Dilemma to claim "that the head of the Anglican church seems unable to distinguish between homophobia and a declaration of the gospel."

"[The Bible] has been hijacked by the religious right. That is our Bible. It's time we take it back." -- The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson

Posted by: David Huff on Monday, 29 November 2004 at 12:53am GMT

OK. I'll bite. If there is a distinction to be made between "the biblical line on homosexuality" and homophobia, would you explain how you make it? Specifically, your explanation must show that there is no contradiction between these two texts.

1) "any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent"

and

2) "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Monday, 29 November 2004 at 7:42am GMT

. . . not nearly as depressing as hearing the repeated *canard* that there is a "Biblical line on homosexuality."*

It seems to me that ++Rowan is finally waking up and smelling the coffee that there IS a bright line between the Gospel and homophobia (actually, a chasm of _sin_), and that it's essential to the Church's mission to proclaim this Truth--calling those guilty of this sin to repentance, and reconciliation (particularly w/ their LGBT brothers and sisters).

*The only upside to repeating this lie (when it's not due to simple ignorance, and sadly, it's increasingly not) is that it does tend underscore the reality of "by their fruits you will know them."

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Monday, 29 November 2004 at 8:48am GMT

I'm glad he finally said it. Too much intolerance and injustice is (and has been over the centuries under different guises) spread in the name of religious beliefs. It's time to put a stop to it once and for all, in whatever form it takes.

Posted by: Sandy on Monday, 29 November 2004 at 9:33am GMT

I apologise for for my comments, which have unintentionally caused offence. This was my first visit, so I wasn't to know, David, about comments evidently made many times before.

I would have thought that St. Paul's reference to homosexuality was pretty clear, but it would seem I was wrong.

Perhaps the writers of a number of abusive emails I have received in the last few hours, putting into my mouth words that were never uttered, or posing loaded questions, might like to ponder on their own "tolerance" which seems to run counter to the notion of "Thinking" Anglicans.

Again, my apologies. Clearly I don't belong here.

Posted by: Robert Leggat on Monday, 29 November 2004 at 10:20am GMT

Robert, it's not necessary that you spend time browsing through the archives at "Thinking Anglicans" to discover that faithful Christians are not of one mind when it comes to interpreting what Paul, et al had to say (or not say) about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. If one is willing to look around on the Internet (Google is your friend) and visit sites that aren't exclusively "conservative," then you can start to get the gist of the argument. May I suggest ReligiousTolerance.org at http://www.religioustolerance.org/homosexu.htm for a place to start? While they obviously present issues from a stance of tolerance, they do try to present all sides without using harsh language.

I'm sorry you received hateful emails on this. Having been the recipient of far too many of those myself after posting to various religious discussion sites like this, I can sympathize. Any so-called "Christian" who thinks that abusive communication is the way to make a point really needs to cool down and go pray about it some more. Remember that bit in Scripture about the log in your own eye? (and not that I don't get upset and intemperate myself sometimes ;)

Posted by: David Huff on Monday, 29 November 2004 at 2:41pm GMT

This is what is so hard to understand: the world is full of biblical scholars - and of those the New Testament scholars are the ones who should now concern us, since the Leviticus verse quoted by Andrew Brown belongs to a previous dispensation.

So the question is: what proportion of New Testament scholars agrees that the NT line on actively homosexual relationships (and indeed any sex outside marriage) is not clear? (This is the world I inhabit, & I have never come across any highly accredited NT scholar -e.g. a member of SBL or SNTS - with the exception of Robin Scroggs- who thinks thus.)

It is clear to the extent that there is not a single counter-example: not a single NT passage that says extramarital sex is good - or even ok - or even neutral.

There is a fundamentalism that says that all biblical teachings 'must' be opaque. On the contrary, they are on a standard deviation curve from very opaque to very clear.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 30 November 2004 at 9:57am GMT

I'll bite on this one--I'm a New Testament PhD student so not quite a doctor nor a member of SNTS. You're absolutely right that the NT record is clear that sexual immorality is incorrect. Furthermore, the first century Jewish setting of early Christianity included homosexuality within sexual immorality. I'm willing to go on record as saying that in the very few cases where the NT mentions the issue it says that homosexuality is wrong. But what are we looking for when we go to the NT--are looking for prescriptions or for methods? Do we look for "answers" or for examples of apostolic thought processes? Time and again we see throughout the NT (perhaps most vividly in Paul and Acts) pictures of the apostles scratching their heads in dismay at the way that God is active in the world. Their consistent response is to head back to the Scriptures to try and figure out what God is up to even if it seems to contradict Scripture--like accepting Gentiles or having a *crucified* messiah (since Deut clearly calls crucifixion/death by hanging a curse and a sign of God's displeasure).

As a biblical scholar I think that the text is against. As an Anglo-Catholic within ECUSA, I believe that the spiritual gift of discernment is critical here. The Holy Spirit is living and active and we believe that it guides the church. What we must do, then, is to go back to the Scriptures, keep our eyes open, and attempt to discern with prayerful hearts whether the church has been corrupted by modernist liberalism or whether God is doing a new thing in our midst. Jumping to hasty conclusion in *either* direction is certainly not the way to continuing building up the Body of Christ.

Posted by: Derek Olsen on Tuesday, 30 November 2004 at 6:06pm GMT

Andrew Brown has half a point. But the necessary comparison is between what Rowan Williams has said, and what the New Testament says about gay sex.

There is of course no inconsistency.

The problem is with AB's assumption that all Evangelicals regard the entire bible as a collection of proof texts, all of equal standing. We don't.

Posted by: V Coles on Tuesday, 30 November 2004 at 10:27pm GMT

Derek Olsen is right to distinguish the two questions: (1) what does the NT say? and (2) is the NT right?

The claim that was being made was that the NT position on 'faithful' extramarital same-sex relationships is unclear. I was just pointing out that this is not true, since it can be deduced from wider prohibitions against homosexuality and extramarital sex.

It's correct to say that there is a differende of opinion on this - but the point is: is there a difference of educated or informed opinion? Or is there any difference of unpartisan opinion, with no axe to grind? Some of those who deny the clarity of the NT teaching may be being dishonest, or 'believing what they want to believe'. Others may simply be ill-informed: they include many people in religious office, but hardly any with New Testament expertise.

Take Romans commentaries, for example. Romans has been commented on with more distinction and in more detail than probably any other biblical book. How many of the great commentaries - many of them modern - even mention such a position as even possible? Not one (cf. Luther, Barth, Nygren, Cranfield, Dunn, Fitzmyer, Moo).

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 1 December 2004 at 11:34am GMT

We should add that calling on the Holy Spirit's support is extremely hazardous, for the following reasons:

(1) Most people reckon the Holy Spirit agrees with them. It's fairly easy to guess why. But obviously they can't all be right.

(2) If this stance is correct now, why was it not correct before? This sounds very unfair on faithful gays of previous generations.

(3) Why is it that the Holy Spirit, by coincidence, supposedly moves in exactly the same direction as social fashions?

(4) Why is it that the Holy Spirit lags behind the social fashions rather than pre-empting them? Are the social fashions a more powerful force than the Spirit?

If anyone can give specific, direct answers to these 4 points, I take my hat off to them.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 1 December 2004 at 11:42am GMT

Derek,

You said:

"Furthermore, the first century Jewish setting of early Christianity included homosexuality within sexual immorality. I’m willing to go on record as saying that in the very few cases where the NT mentions the issue it says that homosexuality is wrong."

Are you SURE that first-century Jewish writers said that "homosexuality" was sexually immoral? Aside from the oft-noted problems with seeing any word in Greek or Hebrew at the time as corresponding to our 21st-century notion of "homosexuality," there's also the question of whether ancient writers, and particularly Jewish ones, saw sexual activity between women as sex, let alone sexual immorality. The rabbinic material I've read places sexual activity between women in an entirely different category than that between men, and does not consider anything that women do with one another to constitute sex.

So here are my questions for you: Are you aware of any first-century text, or any text representative of a branch of Judaism in the Second Temple period, that includes sexual activity between women in the category of "sexual immorality"? I think it's also worth noting that Romans 1:26 doesn't say that women had sex with each other, but only that "women abandoned the natural use for that with one another" -- a phrase which, in an overwhelming majority of Hellenistic texts that use it, refers to sexual activity between women and MEN, not women and women.

If there are no texts from Second Temple Judaisms or the NT that condemn sex between women (and there are no texts in the Hebrew bible that do either), do you think you can still say that the bible mentions "homosexuality" in a negative context, or would you need to say instead that biblical texts and texts in their cultural context have a negative view of sexual relations between men?

Is there any basis at all in biblical texts for condemning sex between women? If not, what are the implications of pointing this out?

Blessings,

Dylan (also a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament)

Posted by: Sarah Dylan Breuer on Wednesday, 1 December 2004 at 6:08pm GMT

Dr. Shell, while your points/questions are somewhat leading, I will take a stab at them. My disclaimer is that I am relatively uneducated on theology compared to most of the good people here. A mostly-forgotten Bible college education 30 years ago, a secular work career... I am an unremarkable working-class American married with two kids who deprive me of adequate sleep.

(1) Couldn't agree more. By genuine faith, Godly people seek the Holy Spirit. And many fail, and not for lack of faith. It is a true paradox.

(2) The subjugation of women. Racism. Slavery. Murder. Genocide. Were these not all correct during some "before" time, in the history of Christianity?

(3) In case you haven't noticed from your vantage point in the UK, the "social fashions" among the voting majority in the United States include: (a) an immoral, land-grab war, begun by us unilaterally, with sparse support from the international community (save your Tony Blair), and justified by a pack of shameless lies; and (b) a reallocation of wealth and power from poor and middle-income citizens to corporate interests and the wealthiest 1% of our citizens. To name just two. So either the Holy Spirit has discarded the 1/6th of Jesus' words that direct our attitudes toward the poor, or else He is doing "a new thing". Either the Holy Spirit has discarded Isaiah and most of the other prophets on the subject of earthly war, or else He is doing "a new thing".

(4) QED.


Posted by: Jay on Wednesday, 1 December 2004 at 6:42pm GMT

Jay -

Good points on (3). Not good on (2) - murder, racism, slavery have never been good, or Christian, at any time. You're not seriously suggesting that at certain times in Christian history the Spirit sanctioned such things.

Certainly the current dispensation is a 'new thing' when compared with the Old Testament. What I'm questioning is whether right and wrong have changed since the Book of Acts - it's not clear that they have.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 2 December 2004 at 11:40am GMT

Hi Dylan

How many texts are there that even mention lesbian activity in the culture and period in question?

Re Romans, why would Paul reserve such a recondite and obscure sin as 'women abandoning heterosexuality for homosexuality' for special censure, as opposed to homosexuality tout simple?
Don't you think that there's a danger that ppl will split interpretative hairs only when it suits the position that they already wish to hold?

Blessings

Posted by: Dr Christopher Shell on Thursday, 2 December 2004 at 11:46am GMT

Hi, Christopher,

You're correct that I wasn't "seriously" suggesting that the Holy Spirit has sanctioned those things. However, haven't men, claiming to be led by the Spirit (and in all likelihood, absolutely sincere in that belief), gone ahead and done them? Often with impunity, and perhaps even the blessing of their clergy? That's where I was going with my comments on point (2). So really, it's a continuation of point (1).

Posted by: Jay on Thursday, 2 December 2004 at 2:37pm GMT

Greetings Dylan,

A few thoughts in response...

First, am I SURE that first-century Jewish writers thought that "homosexuality" was immoral? It depends on what conditions you require for certainty. I'm most familiar with the pseudepigraphical tradition and Hellenistic Jewish authors and I can say with certainity that everything that I have read in those texts disapproves of the notion/behaviors; I have not seen texts that mention it in a neutral or positive context. If you have, I would like to take a look at them.

Second, you're absolutely right to say that the terms for homosexuality, homosexual acts, behaviors, etc. in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic--even English for that matter--are notoriously slippery especially when euphemisms are put into play. And no, I cannot recall any texts that mention sexual acts between women. Given the entrenched patriarchy of the period (which, btw, I don't think the Holy Spirit approved of then or now) I'm not surprised to see mention of it. One could try to make an argument from silence on this point (I'm not suggesting that you are), but I could not find it compelling. An absence of data from the period does not translate to permission or permisiveness concerning such activities. I would wager that if you asked one of the first-century Jewish authors whose works we currently have about his position on the matter he would have negative feelings about it.

To directly answer your final point, then, yes--there is *some* basis at all for condemning sex between women. As Dr. Shell pointed out, many have and do interpet the Rom text to be speaking about lesbian relationships--it's debated but it is a basis. In addition, an argument on the basis of coherence suggests that if male homosexual acts were condemned, if beastiality was condemned, female homosexual acts were likely to have been condemned as well. This is *some* basis--the next question is whether it is a *good* basis. Too, this is where we get to the implications. The major one is, of course, that the writers seem more concerned with men then women; no surprise there. Further implications--I believe--are tied up with one's relationship to the text, one's understanding of the tradition's relationship with the text, and--ultimately--the God who has chosen to disclose himself in the text, tradition, and our lives. That is, to flesh out fully how *I* see this would be a much longer--and more boring--post.

Posted by: Derek Olsen on Thursday, 2 December 2004 at 6:49pm GMT

Dr. Shell,

A quick question for you--are social movements impersonal forces or are they propelled by decisions linked to the hearts, minds, and convictions of the men and women who form the society? Obviously some--perhaps many--social movements are contrary to the gospel and to the Living God but can we say that the Spirit cannot use them to accomplish the work of God through the incarnate Body of Christ? I think of the American abolistionist movement spearheaded by Christians convinced they were guided by the Spirit... Given the advantage of hindsight, I agree--they were right, their Southern and apathetic Northern brothers and sisters were wrong. Unfortunately, we who are in the midst of this dilemma don't have that advantage and must rely on living and acting as faithfully as possible even if it means acting at cross-purposes with one another. In God's good time the Spirit will prevail--and I don't use that to mean "my side."

Posted by: Derek Olsen on Thursday, 2 December 2004 at 7:13pm GMT

They have indeed. Which is why it's lucky we've got the attitude of Jesus and the primary documents as a yardstick to test these things against. Had the Spanish Inquisitors etc been using such a yardstick, they could never have considered that their actions were bona fide Christian.

Their mistake was to go along with the prevailing attitudes in their society; and where the church goes astray even today, this is in my view still the most common reason for their doing so.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 3 December 2004 at 11:23am GMT

'But staying together as a Communion is bound to be costly for us all. To be in the Church at all obliges us to try and discern the difficult balance between independence and responsibility to each other, and to face the dangers of causing others to stumble (Mark 9.42, Rom.14). How can we be true to our consciences, yet aware that the Church as the whole Body needs to reflect and decide - not just ourselves and our friends? The only thing that will ultimately keep us together is a recognition in each other of the same love and longing for the same Lord and his appearing'.

part of ++Rowans Williams letter to add to the discussion...and a question

why do we spend so much time on the homosexuality subject, when there are so many others of major consequence to the existance of humanity and its relationship with our Lord Jesus? The statistics that talk of the breakdown in community and the lack of trust in our neighbourhoods and many other subjects of great concern. ++Rowan Williams embraces the fact that love is an action and it needs to be excercised. Didn't Jesus also do that?

Pause for thought that is all.

Posted by: James West on Friday, 3 December 2004 at 12:56pm GMT

'But staying together as a Communion is bound to be costly for us all. To be in the Church at all obliges us to try and discern the difficult balance between independence and responsibility to each other, and to face the dangers of causing others to stumble (Mark 9.42, Rom.14). How can we be true to our consciences, yet aware that the Church as the whole Body needs to reflect and decide - not just ourselves and our friends? The only thing that will ultimately keep us together is a recognition in each other of the same love and longing for the same Lord and his appearing'.

part of ++Rowans Williams letter to add to the discussion...and a question

why do we spend so much time on the homosexuality subject, when there are so many others of major consequence to the existance of humanity and its relationship with our Lord Jesus? The statistics that talk of the breakdown in community and the lack of trust in our neighbourhoods and many other subjects of great concern. ++Rowan Williams embraces the fact that love is an action and it needs to be excercised. Didn't Jesus also do that?

Pause for thought that is all.

Posted by: james wood on Friday, 3 December 2004 at 2:20pm GMT

Derek -

There are 4 categories:

-Fashionable & Spirit-led
-Unfashionable & Spirit-led
-Fashionable & against the Spirit
-Unfashionable & against the Spirit

The category that you were referring to is the first of the four.

All this goes to show is that 'Is it fashionable?' and 'Is it Spirit-led?' are two unrelated questions. One can neither identify the Spirit's work with social forces, nor oppose the two to one another.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 3 December 2004 at 6:01pm GMT

"One could try to make an argument from silence on this point (I’m not suggesting that you are), but I could not find it compelling. I would wager that if you asked one of the first-century Jewish authors whose works we currently have about his position on the matter he would have negative feelings about it."

Please. Explain to me why I should subject my life, and my life in the Church, to what you, Dr. Shell, "find compelling" (or your little 1st c. "You are There!" fantasy)?

As with Windsor, there is this bass-ackwards perspective that the oppressed have to *justify themselves* to their oppressors (instead of the other way around).

_I refuse to play!_

And why among y'all here, NT scholars or no, is there so little understanding that ethics consist not just of acts, but with the frame-of-mind(s) connected to those acts? The same physiological act could be love-making OR rape.

The only proper sexual frame-of-mind acknowledged in the 1st century is "I should be home with my wife, being fruitful and multiplying (and then if we have a little Song-of-Songs pleasure to boot, well Woo Hoo!)" _If_ that's the case, then one man having sex with another man is obviously discordant. Disobedience to the Creator, and bad behavior.

But what if that's *not* the only proper (God-given) frame-of-mind? What if someone _knows in the depths of his soul_ "For me to take a wife would be a *lie*, because I'm a male oriented to other men? I can't _give_ myself to a woman in that (fruitful/Woo Hoo!) way!" (And vice-versa for certain women?)

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times (and been just as often ignored, it seems): *there is no "homosexual behavior" -- good OR bad -- without homosexual orientation*. To posit a "Biblical view on homosexuality" *without* any indication of a Biblical understanding of sexual orientation is LUDICROUS!

But nevermind me: my axe to grind (in my pants?) obviously fogs my brain, and makes me spout only self-serving statements. Please enthrall me with what Paul (et al) "would" say about this or any other subject (Windsor apparently having determined one has to be straight in order to ride the Time Machine). _{snort}_

More Light, Lord Christ, _please_ grant us More Light.

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Saturday, 4 December 2004 at 7:39am GMT

JC -

I think you were responding to Derek Olsen there, not to me. Though I largely agree with him, I dont think we need to resort to what we would wager people would say - since we have enough evidence of what they actually did say.

Ethics is both frame of mind and acts. How can it be either/or? It's both/and.

Having an inclination a certain way is not the point. All of us have many many inclinations to acts which we know would not be individually or communally beneficial.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 4 December 2004 at 10:04am GMT

My bad, Dr. Shell (I think that Simon's new "rest of comment here" linkage makes it a little harder to cut-n-paste -- but it could just be my aging eyes!)

"Ethics is both frame of mind and acts. How can it be either/or? It’s both/and." (I hope I've cut-n-pasted that correctly)

Perhaps in a perfect world. In the fallen one we find ourselves in, I believe we are judged on our good intentions (one of which ought to be that our actions match our good intentions as much as possible).

"All of us have many many inclinations to acts which we know would not be individually or communally beneficial."

. . . and *that* is not the point. We're talking about actions -- homosexually-oriented people in covenanted same-sex relationships, persons of whatever sexual orientation answering a call to ordained and/or consecrated ministry -- that are believed by those so acting to _be_ "individually or communally beneficial," not the converse.

One may undertake an action with a good intention, where that good intention is itself flawed in some way: of course (it's that nasty business of the Fall again). But since *all* our best intentions (that is, the best intentions of each and every one of us) is similarly subject to be flawed, by what criteria is one's flawed judgment to be deferred to another's flawed judgment?
(And then *which* of the many other "flawed judgments"?)

At the end of the day, one simply can't remove the "I" doing the judging (flawed or not). The best one can do is listen to as many voices as possible (starting with those emerging from Scripture and Tradition), and then offer up to God the plea that one's conscience will be Holy inSpired as it reaches for discernment.

Where _my_ conscience is, at this moment -- listening to all the different voices (some quiet, some clamorous) -- is that it would be well, good and holy for me to lovingly touch a (life-vowed) Beloved of the same-sex . . . IF God were to so grace me (which God hasn't, as yet).

There may still come *another* voice (speaking in the name of Scripture, Tradition and Reason) which may move my conscience to another (i.e. opposite) conclusion.

But if that happens, I will be no more, or less, conscience-bound than I am now.

The question, to the Anglican Communion, is (forgive the first-person grandiosity for the moment) "Will you *respect my conscience*, _by maintaining fraternal bonds_ (via the sacraments of the Church), OR will you *reject my conscience*, by breaking those fraternal bonds?" Every Anglican must answer Yea or Nay here: I can't be a "little bit partaking" of the Body and Blood of Christ (or a "little bit ordained").

If Anglicans should answer Nay, that is their right of course (I have to respect _their_ consciences).

But have we not seen, through humanity's sorry (Fallen) history, that there is an iron-shackled bond between *the rejection of a person's conscience, and the destruction of a person's dignity?* It is this depressingly recurrent connection, that I believe the ABC is identifying, and (I hope) condemning.

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Monday, 6 December 2004 at 7:30am GMT

I guess it depends on what the source of our conscience is. Is it the voice of reason? the voice of our own community, or mini-community? the voice of our parents? the voice of God?

What we call 'conscience' may be any one of these things. This being so, 'conscience' is sometimes fallible.

Sticking to reason alone, it's rational for one's conscience to reject practices which claim to be equally valid to those that have a much clearer biological purpose; that are associated with higher average promiscuity rates; that are associated with higher average STD rates; that are associated with lower life expectancy. But that's merely common sense. How can two different lifestyles which produce markedly different average life expectancies (e.g., smoking and non-smoking) ever be seen as equivalents?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 6 December 2004 at 9:48am GMT

Reading through all of these comments I wish to make a couple myself:

How can anybody deny the work of the Holy Spirit and not deny scripture, and not deny God himself, and not deny the creeds and and not break the first commandment?

How can anybody deny the work of Jesus on the cross to sinners--any sinners? If we deny the work of Jesus on the cross to another, are we not denying the work of Jesus on the cross to ourselves? And, again, how can we deny this and do this without breaking the first commandment?

Where do you think faith comes from? According to scripture, it is a gift as so much else is a gift. It is not our place to close the doors to the kingdom of God to anybody--is it? I see that we are to spread the good news--not keep it to ourselves. I see that Jesus came to save sinners--the righteous did not need him.

Paul says that if you have a clear conviction, apply it to yourself in the sight of God. Who am I to say to my brother or sister--God can't work in you? Is this not breaking the second and also the first commandment? And, as an aside, he also warns that if a person is Spiritual, we cannot judge the value of his message. Considering the great work Paul did for us gentiles, I'd say he had an inkling what he was recommending we do. This is the proper form while we patiently await the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the Church.

I keep seeing where those who are against homosexuals having loving committed relationships are standing in defense of the Gospels and I see nothing in the Gospels that they are, indeed, being supportive of. What is it that they feel they are supporting?

Posted by: Annie on Monday, 6 December 2004 at 2:55pm GMT

To clarify a few things:

Dr. Shell--

You are correct in separating out the four categories that operate around the spirit/fashion polarities. I was reacting to your comments from earlier:

>(3) Why is it that the Holy Spirit, by
>coincidence, supposedly moves in exactly the
>same direction as social fashions?

>(4) Why is it that the Holy Spirit lags behind
>the social fashions rather than pre-empting
>them? Are the social fashions a more powerful
>force than the Spirit?

...and was concerned that point 4 in particular denied possibility the movement of the Spirit in "social fashions." Being a strong believer that the visible church on earth is the Body of Christ on earth and is guided by the Spirit (however much we resist or grieve it, knowingly or not) I wanted to be certain that you were not denying the potential for any social movement to be be a working out of the Spirit's purpose. It seems that you are not denying this but that you seem to limit the possibility more than I would. I have no problem with that.

J.C.--
I want to clarify my position on the matter as it seems that you misunderstood it. My reply to Dylan was a reply about 1st century conditions. She asked me about a certain body of texts and I responded accordingly. I will, however, refer you back to my first post. I agree with you that we don't live in the 1st century and that 1st century norms cannot be flatly applied to a completely different situation. This seems, in part, to be the discussion that Dr. Shell and I are having--it has to do with how we faithfully use the Scriptures. If I am reading things clearly--and I'm fully open to correction--Dr. Shell and I both believe that the Scriptures--especially the NT--contain 1) prescriptions and 2) methods. That is, it makes legislative statements but also shows a method for Christian thought--the apostolic decision-making process that they used when confronted with Scriptural conundrums. Dr. Shell seems to focus more and work more out of category 1 where as I focus more and work more out of category 2. Dr. Shell would rather hold to the prescriptions of Scripture and make relatively limited alterations that follow an apostolic though-process where I find myself less tied than he to specific prescriptions and I place more emphasis on the thought process. I'll always go back to Augustine: "Virtuous behavior pertains to the love of God and of one's neighbor; the truth of faith pertains to a knowledge of God and of one's neighbor. For the hope of everyone lies in his own conscience in so far as he knows himself to be becoming more proficient in the love of God and of his neighbor." (De Doct. Chr. IV.10)

This is a long way of saying that I find myself rather surprised to be accused of playing 1st century fantasies.

Dr. Shell, I hope I was fair to your approach--if not, I'm sure you'll let me know.

Posted by: Derek Olsen on Tuesday, 7 December 2004 at 2:18am GMT

Annie -

Everybody has always agreed that the Holy Spirit can work in absolutely everyone. Everyone has always agreed that there is no sin too great to prevent people being saved (except the sin against the Holy Spirit - which certainly is not homosexuality).

Jesus neither condemned sinners nor condoned sins. So where does the attitude come from that sins are not sinful? Not from Jesus.

Why do you think we are 'awaiting the Holy Spirit's guidance for the Church'?
(1) Why would the Holy Spirit delay in giuving such guidance. What sense would it make to do so?
(2) What is wrong with the guidance already given in New Testament times?
(3) Has the Spirit changed his mind since New Testament times? If so, isnt this rotten luck on homosexuals of former generations?
(4) Wouldnt it be a coincidence for the Spirit to change his mind on homosexuality at precisely the time when society did so (or a bit later, as usual)?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 7 December 2004 at 3:52pm GMT

Christopher:

I'm afraid brevity wasn't my strong point today. I apologize. I answered you in my blog, leaving your identity completely out of it and merely addressing your questions. I thoroughly loved them! If you would be so kind to visit my blog: http://myweb.poncacity.net/jenandew/

Thank you.

Posted by: Annie on Tuesday, 7 December 2004 at 11:35pm GMT

Derek -

I appreciate your attention to this question. I dont think I am viewing NT as merely prescriptive without room for further enlightenment. There's ample room for further enlightenment on a myriad of topics. But such enlightenment will be supplementary to the NT, like twigs on a branch. What is being proposed is that our further enlightenment is directly opposite to the NT. If this is so, then it no longer stands in the same process or trajectory, but is part of a different tree altogether, i.e. not the Christian one. I expect you may well agree?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 8 December 2004 at 8:13pm GMT

David-

Even if just one person claims a different interpretation, one will be able to say that 'interpreters disagree'. It will then be concluded that it's not clear what the right position is. Which is a convenient position for some ppl.

In the present case, the position being proposed was till recently unheard of. That being so, it clearly didnt leap out of the page. By coincidence (?) it was first proposed at the very time when it became expedient & topical.

So how can the vast-majority position be classed as ultra-conservative? That shows a lack of understanding of what the word ultra means. :o)

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 10 December 2004 at 7:14pm GMT