Thursday, 26 January 2006
civil partnerships: Bishop of Bangor responds
The Bishop of Bangor, Anthony Crockett, has responded, in very strong terms, to the recent Fulcrum article by Andrew Goddard, The Bishops of the Church in Wales on Civil Partnerships: A Personal Response.
The bishop’s response is here. It starts out:
Your article The Bishops of the Church in Wales on Civil Partnerships: A Personal Response by Andrew Goddard in Fulcrum appears to be an interesting case of party zeal clouding judgement. It looks like yet another example of the inability of some either to listen to argument or to reject all forms of stigmatisation and to commit oneself to listen to people whose sexual orientation may be different from one’s own. I confess, too, to being puzzled by what seems – but surely cannot be – a lack of knowledge on Dr Goddard’s part of the history of the development of ethical teaching in the Christian Church.
The statements referred to in this exchange are:
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Thursday, 26 January 2006 at 12:26pm GMT
The Bishops of the Church in Wales issue statement on homosexuality
The Bishops of the Church in Wales issue statement on Civil Partnerships
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Another failure to engage with what conservatives are saying and instead just parading the liberal position; this time disguised as a response to Andrew Goddards comments. Just restating the liberal humanist position (variety of opinions, human rights, "homophobia", and obeying the law - when it suits them - otherwise civil disobedience) and the christian revisionist arguements regarding scripture and tradition isn't engaging in debate !!
(At least he didn't repeat the usual references to eating shrimps and mixing two types of cloth - which seem to get trotted out regularly - as if it is an unanswerable conundrum that we don't live like OT Jews!).
Surely he knows enough about evangelicals and traditionalists to know that we do review and revise our positions on issues when it becomes evident that something may be incorrect ?.... The issue between us and liberals like him is the Authority on which we base reassessments. So, to repeat a key criticism of the Welsh Bishops statement.... That there is a variety of views held with [self-]integrity by people who identify themselves as Christians is not enough to overturn clear New Testament teachings, especially when backed up by similar OT moral teachings and consistent theology !
Dave wrote: "Just restating the liberal humanist position (variety of opinions, human rights, "homophobia", and obeying the law - when it suits them - otherwise civil disobedience) and the christian revisionist arguements regarding scripture and tradition isn't engaging in debate !!"
Why not? If the answer to A is B, and you keep saying A, why is it wrong to answer B?
Dave also wrote: "That there is a variety of views held with [self-]integrity by people who identify themselves as Christians is not enough to overturn clear New Testament teachings, especially when backed up by similar OT moral teachings and consistent theology !"
Do you call that engaging in debate? Or are you just restating your previous assertions?
Your post looks like the pot calling the kettle black, Dave.
Where do YOU stand on the clear biblical teaching against usury (one of the points made by the Welsh bishops)?
Badman raised a very legitimate question is his discourse with Dave: "Where do YOU stand on the clear biblical teaching against usury (one of the points made by the Welsh bishops)?"
On another Blog, Titus 1:9, a reasserter brushed off the same question by calling it a variation on the 'shell fish' argument. It was a rather 'cheap shot' answer.
Pray, what's wrong with the shellfish argument?
Is it not a perfectly legitimate question?
Can Dave explain, please.
Göran - Leviticus does not distinguish formally between impurity and sin and from this point of view the question is legitimate. But it is actually a question that has been discussed ever since Peter's vision...
The Thirty-Nine articles neatly sum up tradition: "Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral."
John Richardson provides a more recent discussion in his booklet What God has Made Clean: If we can eat prawns, why is gay sex wrong? (Good Book Company, 2003).
There are obvious problems with simplifications such as the threefold division of the law and there is still a need to discuss issues case by case.
I would have thought that usury has a better claim to discussion than eating shellfish or wearing a poly-cotton shirt but even usury is hardly relevant, maybe except as an ad hominem "argument". Christians who condemn homosexual practice as immorality but happily indulge in financial immorality are hypocrites but this observation doesn't really help us decide whether homosexual activity is against God's will or not,
O, dear, o dear...
Well, I for one see more "obvious problems" with "the threefold division of the law", than just "simplification". This division into 12th century categories has nothing to do with a pre BC text.
Calling a 1st Temple taboo "moral" or "ceremonial" or even "civil" is simply gratuitious, not serious in any way.
Eisegesis, not exegesis.
... assuming that premodern beliefs have contemporary application or a view of God as a 'person' with 'views' and 'will' has any semblance of reality.
But I take the point that it's dishonest ;=)
I have admired the thought and precision in much of Andrew Goddard's writing, I even warm to some of his thinking on friendship etc.
But I thought his piece on Wales was very inferior - well below par. In particular I thought his reference to Akinola most unwise.
I am sure Mr Goddard will not be able to leave it there, so I look forward to his reaction.
Ah yes, but you see, they are getting nervous that Akinola really is going to take his bat and ball elsewhere. Now, whereas I would rejoice to think that such a bigot would have no connection with Anglicanism any longer, conservatives desperately want the premoderns to stay within the tent, whereas I think the more we can do to ensure they go, the better!
After all, we have seen on this site exactly what they are like.
Göran - I did not recommend the threefold division of the law as a solution to the question. I merely wanted to signal that different texts of Scripture function differently for the Christian church and that people have been thinking about this for some time. If Jeffrey John’s booklet ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable: Christian Same-Sex partnerships’ had provided anything like a serious exegesis of the relevant passages, it would be a different matter but merely saying "so what about eating shellfish?" doesn't amount to much of an argument in my book.
The threefold division is entirely useless for establishing anything about the "authorial intent" of the Israelite writers but it was never meant to be a tool in the historical exegesis tool box. It was always designed to help with application of Scripture in the Christian Church. Even for that purpose it is inadequate - no disagreement here.
But I suspect that you'd broadly agree with Merseymike in which case asking about shellfish is just another way of pouring scorn on any attempt at "contemporary application" of "Scripture"...
"clear New Testament teachings, especially when backed up by similar OT moral teachings and consistent theology!"
Oh, brother: if that's not "just parading" (the standard "reasserter" agitprop), Dave, I don't know what is...
One more time: your *interpretation* DOES NOT EQUAL Scripture, Tradition and Reason.
(nor does mine)
Lord have mercy!
No seriously, I'm interested in the reasoning.
Why is the "shellfish" argument an ad hominem attac (except for shelfish ;=)?
How can 1st Temple cultic Taboos (if at all) be "Scripture", valid for the Christian Church?
How can calling Taboos something they are not and cannot be (civil, ceremonial, moral) be "application" of scripture?
It does seem to me that "different texts of Scripture function differently for the Christian church" than for the Sect.
As do the influences of the ways of the World (cf Nigeria).
Sören - you may be interested in reasoning but what do you want to reason about? The shellfish argument seems to me bogus when it is put forward as an argument "amongst those who read the Scriptures with integrity" but is really an attack on the very concept of Scripture (or the place of Leviticus within it).
At the risk of sounding pedantic, the book of Leviticus is a text not a taboo. It may or may not reflect ancient Israelite and/or early Jewish taboos but I fail to see how this affects the status of the book of Leviticus as Scripture which throughout history has been decided on other grounds.
A discussion of the contemporary function of the prohibitions found in Scripture against eating shellfish, taking interest and homosexual practice makes sense "amongst those who [seek to] read the Scriptures with integrity" but if your starting point is "what could 1st Temple cultic Taboos possibly have to do with how we live our lifes today?" and mine "what can we discern about God's good order for life from the book of Leviticus?", we have a very long way to go before we can even start having a discussion. This is why I suggested that raising the shellfish question was not a serious attempt at discussion but your way of saying "what relevance could Leviticus possibly have for the Christian!?"
Göran - apologies for getting your name wrong on my earlier post. I wanted to try and show you in a separate post (this one!) that a taboo can be more than one thing.
Let's pretend that my community establishes the following taboos for young children when playing outside:
(a) touching dog poo-poo
(b) crossing the road without looking
(c) befriending strangers
The fact that all three are taboos does not mean that I or anyone else considers them as equal in all respects. The first is a taboo to do with health, the second with safety, as is the third. The taboos may or may not attract a penalty. It would be perfectly possible to group such taboos according to different categories.
If we ever moved from London (where we now live) to a remote island without cars, we might well drop the second taboo and this without being in any way inconsistent. Upon returning to London, we would quickly re-establish the taboo!
The coming of Christ has affected some parts of Old Testament Scripture differently from others. This is not intrinsically inconsistent. In other words, people who seek to discern God's will as revealed in Scripture may be inconsistent in continuing to uphold one taboo, while dropping another but the fact that two taboos happen to be reflected on the same page of Scripture is neither here nor there in this respect. This is why pointing out that there was a taboo against eating shellfish just as much as there was one against engaging in homosexual practice is not yet an argument, especially not when no attempt has been made to explain why even within the conceptual world of Leviticus the two are not treated equally and why one is re-inforced in the NT but not the other.
Thomas ; you need, from my perspective, to entirely change the way you look at and approach the Bible.You no doubt think the same about my approach. This is why there is no real basis for discussion.
But all of them are equally culture-bound - and equally outdated and daft.
Thomas Renz - I am interested by what you say.
Could you please develop this with reference to usury, taking on board the point that (1) usury is strongly condemned in the Bible, not just in Leviticus, but in many more passages than can be found to condemn any sort of homosexual act (leaving aside the argument, which is separate, that no Bible passage treats of lifelong monogamous faithful relationships) (2) usury is not explicitly condemned or condoned by Jesus (unless the parable of the talents be taken as condonation and Luke 6:34-35 is taken as condemnation) (3) abhorrence of usury continued for one thousand five hundred years after the birth of Jesus, and so was not seen as merely culturally or locally binding (4) the unacceptability was regularly and authoritatively affirmed by the Church with one voice e.g. at the Council of Carthage http://www.ccel.org//fathers/NPNF2-14/6sardica/afcan5.htm in AD 345, and see also the summary at http://www.askthepriest.org/askthepriest/2005/10/never_a_borrowe.html
I looked up every reference in context on the site mentioned above by 'badman', 'Ask the Priest', and now venture these comments.
1. If 'usury' is defined as taking ANY interest on a loan (as opposed to excessive interest - and I am not certain that the OT always excludes this view), it is evident first of all that the OT does NOT condemn charging interest, but only on loans made to fellow Israelites. This is explicitly clear from Deuteronomy 23.20 (not cited by 'Ask the Priest).
2. Why the distinction? Because Israel is conceived as a family of 'brothers' with the duty of familial care. Considering the verses cited by 'Ask the Priest', we note the following:
Ex 22.25: 'do not charge interest to the poor among my people'
Lev 25.35-36: 'If one of your countrymen becomes POOR..., do not take interest'
Deut 23.19: 'Do not charge your brother interest'
Ps 15.5: usury equated with bribery
Prov 28.8: a warning against exploitation of the poor and materialism
Ezekiel 18.8, 13; 22.12: the contexts make it clear the prophet is condemning economic exploitation of one's neighbors, along with violence and sexual immorality.
'Ask the Priest' also mentions Isa 24.2; Jer 5.7, 10; 15.10; Matt 6.19-21, none of which makes any reference to charging interest. 'Ask the Priest' FAILS to mention Matt 25.26-27, where Jesus (the master in the parable) does not condemn receiving interest from a bank (how could he, since the OT law already permitted this?).
The difference seems to me between using money to take advantage of one's brother in desperate need (and thus further pauperizing him and damaging Israelite society) or using it as a fungible to enable economic activity (which still must be subject to ethical control). Close attention to context shows that the OT is concerned to condemn the former. The use of 'usury' in the present discussion may not be a 'shellfish', but is probably a red herring.
Further to my comments, 'badman' may be interested in the following dissertation by a Roman Catholic priest which goes much, much further than the very brief piece by 'Ask the priest' in discussing whether the Church did in fact change its teaching on usury or just defined it more exactly over time in response to the changing world:
As I'm not a Roman Catholic, I am not committed to the idea of an indefectible church that made no mistakes in its teaching or always understood the Bible correctly. However, it's worth pointing out that debates over just price and just title occupied the brightest minds of Christendom for a long time. If I loan my property (including my money) to another, I am deprived of the use of that money for that period (and I incur the risk of losing it in the event of a default). The just price or interest was seen as compensation for the loss or risk incurred. This is the same question of what is the fair price to ask for any good and so connects to the question of 'exorbitant' ('usurious') interest.
But, as I said above, the OT's focus is almost wholly upon the question of the exploitation of the poor, and there was plenty of opportunity to do that in an ancient, chiefly agricultural society.
Thomas Renz! Yea, how ever did you manage to mix Swedish Göran with Danish Søren ;=)
Now, seriously, I said I was interested in t h e reasoning, not necessarily in reasoning. That would depend on there being any ;=) That’s what I want you (or Dave) to establish.
The place of Leviticus to my knowledge is always the 3rd, whether the Bible is taken at 22 or 77 scriptures. Other scriptures may turn up at different points in the different canonical Bibles post 1550, but not this one. It’s always the 3rd.
But there are indeed different concepts of “Scripture”. The 22 scriptures Hebrew Septuagint contra the wide Christian Septuagint for instance.
The relative importance accorded different scriptures in different Christian traditions is self evident.
The letters of Paul against the 4 Gospels, the Gospel of Matthew against that of Mark, John against the “synoptics”, the Alexandrian letters against the Paulinian, the witness of the Old testament against the New.
The 10 Commandments or the Teaching of the Elders, Ezraic Ethnic cleansing against “love thy neighbour”, the Prophets against the Apostles.
Canonicals, deutero canonicals, pseudo epigrapha. “Apocrypha”.
Whichever concept one adheres to, no “question” can, to my mind, be “an attack” on “the very concept of scripture”, since there isn’t one concept, but several differing.
So we agree that the book of Leviticus seems to contain 1st Temple Taboos (if at all). But then you say that its “status” has been decided “on other grounds”. But this doesn’t seem to me to be consistent with any of the available concepts of “sola scriptura”, nor “to read scripture with scripture”. What can determine the “status” of a scripture if not its own merits or lack thereof?
Surely not extra-Biblical influence?
It’s clear that Dr Johannes Calvinus and others have misused the Parisian Versio vulgata intentional mistranslation of Lev 18.22 (itself based on the damaged Hebrew text) to link Leviticus with the New testament, speculating that the juxtaposition of ársen and koitais in Lev 20.13 prompted Saint Paul to coin arsenokoîtai in 1 Cor 6.9.
But that’s not tenable, nor can the mere fact that two words stand together in one place in one context, determine their meaning in a different place in a different context several hundred years later, unless, of course, one turns it all into a third extra-Biblical one; abstinence and mandatory celibacy… which is exactly what has been done ;=)
The Greek of Lev 18.22 speaking not of “sex” or “moral” but of the Bed, as does the damaged Hebrew if one supplies the missing “im”.
Now, the “shellfish question” was not mine, but raised by Dave. I do notice that both of you take exception to the juxtaposition of taboos on fish – shells or no – and taboos that you construe as “moral” (but not to the juxtaposition of Lev 18.22 and 1 Cor 6.9), but I still haven’t heard the reasoning leading to this (if p.), so I repeat:
Why is the “shellfish argument” an ad hominem attack except for shellfish?
There seems to be a slight misapprehension as to the nature of Taboos. Your 3 examples of modern day community by-laws for children (a) touching dog poo-poo, (b) crossing the road without looking, (c) befriending strangers, are not Taboos. I sincerely hope you don’t intend them as ceremonial (cultic purity), civil and “moral” “law” respectively ;=)
Taboos are related to the concept of “mana” powerful, and are material, irrational and specific but not abstract, “rational” and general, as are the 16th century social laws for Geneva and other cities of the plain.
No one in Antiquity ever dreamt of “explaining” the taboos of the Arval priest of the Capitol with triquines or heavy traffic in the road ;=) They were there since times immemorial. That was enough.
Taboos are to do with kind, matter, places, persons and animals. They are also - sadly for some - not generally applicable, but very specific: “in the bed” as in the Lev 18.22, mentioned above.
Kaì metà ársenos ou koimethese koiten gynaikós; and with man don’t put yourself in the bed of wife; v'et zakar lo tishkav mishk'vey (pl.) ishah; toevah hi (f.) in Hebrew.
Toheva hee, Bdélugma gàr estín; Uncleanness is therein. In the bed.
Something’s amiss with the place; the bed, not as far as the wording goes with the persons in it ;=)
Now, the trouble is that these 1st Temple Taboos (if be) have lost their original context, being put in the Ezraic frame-work of Lev 18; the Return from Exile, worded as the imagined Conquest of yore; to make them into social disciplining, ethnical cleansing even (Ezra 10). And in Lev 20 they become Ezraic Social law (Who is not with us, is against us); social engineering.
The question remains: How can 1st Temple cultic Taboos (if at all) in Ezraic adaptation be "Scripture" valid for the Christian Church?
How can interpreting Taboos as something they are not and cannot be (civil, ceremonial, moral) be "application" of scripture?
Is this not subordinating the sacred text to extra-Biblical considerations and to later concepts (homosexuality), and as such not merely inconsistent, but as whimsical as it is gratuitous?
Peter Bergman, thank you for your posts.
I think that usury is a much better topic for us to use to explore our understanding of scripture and tradition than human sexuality is. Usury is a difficult and interesting case from the point of view of both scripture and tradition, both appearing at odds with the current consensus. It also (because of the consensus) does not arouse the same passions as human sexuality, and it avoids the very unedifying and (in my opinion) entirely unChristian judgment of the motes in others' eyes rather than the beams in our own. Usury is a question which applies to all, and so all may debate it in a spirit of Christian love. Human sexuality, however, and, particularly, homosexuality, is too often debated by those who speak from the comfortable position of condemning in others desires and aspirations to which they are themselves simply not subject, which is against the gospel.
The distinction which you draw - "whether the Church did in fact change its teaching on usury or just defined it more exactly over time in response to the changing world" - is very much in tune with the efforts, as I understand them, of liberal theologians to apply the ever true, ever new, teaching of scripture and gift of tradition to a changing world, that quality which has made Christianity arguably the most successful religion of all time, certainly in the west. I note, also, that you are "not committed to the idea of an indefectible church that made no mistakes in its teaching or always understood the Bible correctly" which I see as displaying Christian humility which does you credit. I believe in absolute divine truth but I believe also in human fallenness and error, and, whilst living in hope and in faith as to the former, live also in a consciousness of human weakness and the limits of our ability to know truth sufficiently to condemn others - that is for God. We search for truth, but must live in love.
I am still studying the usury texts in the Bible and in the tradition of the church and prefer to reflect on them before jumping in with a more specific response to the points in your posts, but I think there is a little more in them than your necessarily brief comments can perhaps encompass. In particular, I do not on first reading see that it is "evident" that scripture (let alone tradition) does not condemn charging interest and I am not convinced that it is "clear" that charging for the use of money (which is what usury is, and what interest is) is explicitly approved in the numerous passages referred to, read fairly as a whole, so long as it is only done outside the tribe. However, there is plenty of food for thought, which is welcome.
Dear Göran, Thomas did address the shrimp issue; maybe you missed the relevance: " Leviticus does not distinguish formally between impurity and sin and from this point of view the question is legitimate. But it is actually a question that has been discussed ever since Peter's vision...[you may remember in Acts] The Thirty-Nine articles neatly sum up tradition: "Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral." More detailed discussion in the rest of Thomas's post (see above - about no 5 in this session).
Regarding the Christian Scriptures; The early church choose writings for the canon of NT Scripture because they were believed to be the most authentic and authoritative; written, dictated, composed etc by people close to Christ and His apostles. I don't find that they are opposed to each other, or to the OT Jewish Scriptures!
We believe that Christ was God and that God the Holy Spirit lives in Christians. God has spoken His Word through Christ, His Apostles and other Christians, inspired people to write psalms, given people wisdom, indwelt Christian writers, and given visions. The New Testament records some of these. I'm not trying to suggest that the Bible doesn't have a dual nature [being at the same time both human and Divine] and I acknowledge that that dual nature demands of us the task of interpretation. God chose to speak His Word through human words in history, so every book in the Bible also has historical particularity. But that does not render the whole of the Bible inaccessible, incomprehensible or meaningless.
My objective and, I would suggest that of all true Christians, is to follow Christ. My objective in reading the New Testament is to learn how to do that... from the most authentic sources. When a subject is presented in a different form nowadays [particulars] my work is to review what was meant "then" and what that might mean "now" - but change does not completely negate meaning as you seem to argue when it suits your case !
"the problem often lies not in understanding the text but in obeying it"
The discussion came across the stats page for my blog, the aforementioned "Ask The Priest," so I thought I'd add my two cents.
The "tangential" verses on Usury (Isa 24.2; Jer 5.7, 10; 15.10; Matt 6.19-21) are indeed vague, but I didn't make the claim that I thought they related. I was reporting the verses that the Early Church Fathers, according to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, were interested in. If you don't think they relate, you're welcome to take it up with Chrystostom when you see him. ;-)
I think the interesting part of the discussion above is where Peter states "The difference seems to me between using money to take advantage of one's brother in desperate need (and thus further pauperizing him and damaging Israelite society) or using it as a fungible to enable economic activity (which still must be subject to ethical control)."
I would agree with this. I don't think the Biblical prohibitions on Usury are absolute in our kind of economy. I also agree that people SHOULD get fair return on lent money.
The point is not to argue that we need to return to a pre-lending society, but that for the majority of Christian History, almost all theologians, councils and popes (including the Anglican divines) condemned ANY lending at interest. This changed without any real theological work, and caused A LOT of uproar at the time.
An opinion that starts "The difference seems to me" infers that our cultural situation (eg modern market economy as opposed to subsistence agrarianism) makes a difference in how we read the verses. This is a "contextual" interpretation.
Many of the claims from the ultra-conservative side rest on an argument of "Bible interpretations don't change" or "It can't be done if an ecumenical council hasn't agreed on it." It's always strange to me to see how many people argue a "traditional" interpretation on the issue of homosexuality, but switch to a "contextual" interpretation if you press them on Women's Ordination, divorce or usury.
Note that having a "contextual" view of scripture does not mean that you have to agree with either a "liberal" or "conservative" interpretation. You can get to either place.
I simply think we need to be honest - no one reads scripture outside of their cultural situation. People with a "traditional" interpretation are reading into the tradition what they want to hear as much as those reading from a standpoint of social justice.
If we could agree to drop the shield of "I stand in the tradition and you don't" and "I stand for social justice and you don't", we might actually have a real conversation.
I am grateful to 'badman' and David for their comments. I will venture a brief reply.
1. I try to think and act from the classical Anglican/Episcopalian position. That means I seek to submit to Scripture as God's Word written (Art. XX). I also honor the voice of tradition, while recognizing that Councils 'have erred, even in things pertaining unto God' (Art. XXI). David states 'that for the majority of Christian History, almost all theologians, councils and popes (including the Anglican divines) condemned ANY lending at interest. This changed without any real theological work, and caused A LOT of uproar at the time.' I am not sure that this is entirely true. The issue was CHRISTIANS lending to CHRISTIANS. As any reader of Shakespeare knows, it was Jews who oiled the wheels of Christian commerce. In other words, the pre-Reformation Church applied (one understanding of) Deut 23:19 to itself (the supersessionist Israel) and v. 20 to the Jews (remember that 'Summa Contra Gentiles' was written against the JEWS!).
2. Scripture does not treat charging interest as ipso facto wrong, otherwise there would be a blanket prohibition in all circumstances. If it is permissible in dealings with outsiders ('Gentiles'), it cannot be inherently sinful. I have argued that the prohibition rather is directed against exploitation of the poor and damaging the solidarity of the Israelite theocracy. This has to be contrasted with the unanimous testimony of Scripture with regard to homosexual acts.
3. David writes: 'It's always strange to me to see how many people argue a "traditional" interpretation on the issue of homosexuality, but switch to a "contextual" interpretation if you press them on Women's Ordination, divorce or usury.' I am inclined to agree. The easy acceptance of divorce in the Western Church on grounds other than those specified in the NT (unrepentant unfaithfulness or desertion) is a great scandal. Similarly I am coming to rethink my views on women's ordination. I am increasingly unsure that this was a right move or leading of the Holy Spirit.
No dear David, Thomas Renz did not answer my question any more than you did. I still wonder why you get so angry at the poor innocent question of the relevance of the “shellfish argument”. Answering that the Leviticus does not distinguish between Taboos is no answer, since that is precisely what you and your tradition do on this.
Witness Thomas’s 3 modern by-laws for children...
The "shellfish" is ad hominem, the "two men in a bed" is the shibolet for not being trown out (cf Nigeria).
The trouble seems rather to be, that the shellfish one is a real taboo, that is irrational. So it’s both incomprehensible and does not sum up.
Fish with scales are OK, fish without – along with those with shells – are not. But some fish have very few scales, next to none – should they count among the first or the second? And what about whales? Are they fish? Or something else...
People that go for theses things invariably end up in absurdities. It was declared in the Middle Ages, that for Lent and other fasts, the Beaver and the Capybara were OK, for they live in water…
Say no more.
But the real trouble here lies not in the “shellfish argument”, but that your manipulation of the “two men in a bed” taboo, is a manipulation.
Which is proved by the fact that you think it sums up.
That it is reasonable and rational ;=)
What you do now, is to follow a manipulation of a Taboo, pretending that this manipulation is “moral”.
It’s not even built on sand. And the real, unadaltered Taboo on fish exposes it.
The question remains: How can 1st Temple cultic Taboos (if be) in Ezraic adaptation be "Scripture" valid for the Christian Church?
How can interpreting Taboos as something they are not and cannot be (civil, ceremonial, moral) be "application" of scripture?
The true answer seems to be, that the real problem lies not in understanding the text, but in obeying the Pastor.
"We search for truth, but must live in love."
What this discussion of Usury tells me, poor sodder, who knows next nothing on usury, having been to Business school ;=) is that the Church for a trifle of a thousand years propagated a unanimous condemnation on Usury, the loudly claimed Biblical base of which was bogus.
Now, this is of some relevance to the present troubles in the Anglican Communion (if be)!
Peter: much of the material in the Bible is based on cultural mores of that time. Which need constant revision. I think until we abandon the view that the Bible is anything other than a human production written by pre-moderns, inspired by their faith to do so, we will never get anywhere. That means abandoning the belief that the Bible is 'revealed religious truth' which cannot be superseded.
Forget prawns - let the so called "liberals" tell everyone why their century or more of "inclusive" teaching leaves them with shrinking congregations but there is strength and growth in "evangelical" churches despite their supposedly unsophisticated belief in the bible. There are not congregations of thousands coming to hear people say "believe whatever you like as long as you are kind." There are individual congregations of thousands, even in England, and lots of strong and growing mid-size congregations coming every week to hear bible teachers who believe what the bible teaches and who pass it on faithfully - even in Anglican churches!
I really don't see why we spend so much time listening to people who have presided over decades of decline and who are parasites, dependent on historical funds and shamelessly taking "parish" money given largely by the "evangelical" churches, because their own work has produced nothing but decline - the "liberals" clearly do not know the right way to go unless extinction for the CofE is the aim.
Liberals talking about prawns is just silly and sad. it is no surprise at all that their churches are empty.
Göran - I was obviously unclear in what I said about “an attack” on “the very concept of Scripture”. I did not mean to imply that you don't understand the idea that religious communities designate certain writings as Scripture nor that you are unaware of the fact that different Christian churches circumscribe the canon of Scripture differently. "Scripture" obviously exists as a historical-cultural concept whether or not we find it a useful theological category ourselves.
What I meant with “the very concept of Scripture” is the idea that there is a body of literature which mediates God's self-revelation, which is normative for the speech, thought, and practice of the church as the instrument through which divine authority is present and operative in the church. Or something like that.
I think Merseymike understood this perfectly which is why he says I need to change the way I think about the Bible and of course he is right in suggesting that I would say the same about him...
This concept of Scripture is actually pretty much the same for different churches, even when they draw the boundaries of the canon of Scripture differently. As far as antiquity is concerned, the "Septuagint" reflects a somewhat different overall reading of the canon but I think it is now generally considered doubtful that the Old Greek reflects a different (Alexandrian) canon. But even if there were two different Jewish delimitations of the canon, it is not obvious how this affects “the very concept of Scripture”.
The fact that you keep talking about 1st Temple taboos in a way which suggests that this is all there is to the statements and prohibitions in Leviticus and that such "taboos" have no relevance for us moderns suggests to me that you do not want to operate with the category "Scripture". The shellfish question seems designed to stress the taboo-character of some of the material in Leviticus and thereby (!) to declare these texts irrelevant to the Christian life. In this sense I fail to see how the question is a serious contribution to the issue of contemporary application of Scripture.
I guess the debate you (and certainly Merseymike) would like to have is not about the application of Scripture but about the assumption that in the Bible we hear God speak. In this debate, the shrimps come in handy. Your God is not interested in whether or not people eat shrimps, never has been, never will be. Hence Leviticus cannot claim to be divine revelation. Argument closed. Merseymike's "God" presumably isn't interested in anything much at all because he/she/it is not a person. Hence the very idea that Leviticus might be divine revelation is ludicrous.
In sum, you keep talking about "interpreting Taboos" while I keep talking about "interpreting Scripture". These are two very different things, even if we happen to think of the same texts.
(By the way, I am not actually persuaded that by your definition of taboo all "abomination" statements reflect taboos. Idolatry is an abomination in Deuteronomy but the prohibition of idolatry is hardly "irrational" in the sense that no Israelite would have been able to provide any reasons for it.)
We lack an agreed starting point, procedure or even goal. So there seems to me little value in trying to discuss any of the issues raised here in detail. But I thought a few things worth mentioning with regard to usury.
(1) I myself don't know the history well enough to judge whether the unanimous condemnation of usury during the first millenium of the church was indeed a universal prohibition of all lending with interest. What I do know is that when one studies such historical questions in detail, things often turn out to be rather more complex than thought initially.
(2) What is beyond doubt is that Jews engaged in lending of interest during the Middle ages and Christians availed themselves of the opportunities thus created - a clear case of a niche market. Now, was this because the church felt bound by the prohibitions in Leviticus, while the synagogue did not? This seems rather unlikely. On the face of it, both communities understood the prohibition as being restricted to members of one's own community, as someone outlined above.
(3) There is a conceptual difference between saying "lending to business people at 15% is not usury as condemned in Scripture" and saying "there is no place in our modern world for this old taboo about lending with interest". One problem in some Anglican debates appears to be that people are saying something along the lines of the former, while thinking something along the lines of the latter. But even this does not mean that the two are functionally equivalent.
Dave wrote: "Dear Göran, Thomas did address the shrimp issue; maybe you missed the relevance: " Leviticus does not distinguish..."
Göran wrote: "No dear David, Thomas Renz did not answer my question any more than you did."
Dear Göran, this isn't an arguement... you're just contradicting me !
I still haven't heard what's wrong with the "shellfish argument".
Why one Taboo is an ad hominem attack and the other a shibolet.
Being raised in an anti-nazi family in what was a rather nazified city, I have lived fairly close to the Synagog, so "shellfish" is a real question for me in a way it does not seem to be for some here present.
I can only conclude that there is no explanation to this sorting and picking among taboos.
A note on Usury: in the wake of the Crusades when Byzantine anti-semitism reached Western Europe, trades and commerce were closed to Jews in several European countries.
Consequently a convocation of Rabbis had to change the received Teaching, accepting usury, because few or no alternatives remained.
I think Thomas Renz is correct in saying that the presuppositions reflected here about Scripture, revelation and even God are so radically opposed to each other that there can be no real meeting of minds between those who think that in Scripture we have the self-revelation of God and those who, in the best 19th century style, consider it to be nothing other than the doubtful religious ideas of an ancient people. It should go without saying that the Church has always sided with the former view, and that because it was the very teaching of her Lord. It would be superficially easier to cut the Gordian knots of Scripture by declaring its difficulties 'myths', 'taboos' and 'errors' but this is not an option open to those who align themselves with Jesus' own understanding of the nature of Scripture. People are of course perfectly at liberty to say that Jesus was wrong about this (as they have said, at least since Reimarus's day, that he was wrong about other things, e.g. his messianic identity, the reality of hell, or the end of the world). If so, they should take courage in both hands and, following Andrew Furlong, the erstwhile Dean of Trim in Ireland, 'move beyond Jesus'. Isn't this the path that the former Scottish bishop, Richard Holloway, has taken in repudiating Jesus' claim to be the Son of God? These men are to be applauded for being consistent in their logic.
As for me, as one who seeks to be a classical Anglican (and following the teaching of the Anglican Chris Seitz, Professor of OT at St Andrew's, Scotland) I have to reckon with the Bible of two Testaments, each of which witnesses in its own way to Jesus Christ and the life of faith in him.
Thus, while I don't understand the full significance of the OT kosher laws (and who does? not even Maimonides claiimed to!), I feel confident in asserting these things: 1. literal adherence to those laws is no longer required of Christians, by the express teaching of Christ (Mark 7.19 etc); 2. yet in some way these laws continue to witness to God's will (cf. Mary Douglas's interesting anthropological speculations about purity in Leviticus)and the NT itself finds a tropological significance in them; 3. 'taboo', as a concept from the Polynesian world of animism, is unlikely to be of much use here.
I've learned a lot about the history of usury from all this... thanks to the insights of all of you who have much higher academic credentials than I do.
Interestingly, usury turns out to be a highly complex, nuanced issue. And all of you agree that the Bible's texts about it need to be weighed, measured, and debated. And that its prohibition, whatever its limits, is now understood *not* to be mandated by scripture.
It would seem to me, then, that a similarly nuanced reading might be called for regarding same-gender sexual relationships, no?
I do find it disturbing that a legal argument could be made that Christians should not charge interest of other Christians, while they are free to do so with those outside their own community. While a limited argument might be put forth for that reading, I find that quite a surprising conclusion. It seems to permit certain exploitative relationships based on membership in one community over another, and that seems to me incompatible with a Christian understanding of human relationships.
I'd also note that usury (which we all practice in modern capitalism) gets considered thoughtfully (and gets a green light), while same-sex relationships (practiced only by a few) are dismissed by some out of hand. That just doesn't seem right.
To Nersen on Numbers.
The second half of the 17th century was a high tide of child bearing in Europe. 20 or so children to a family was not uncommon in well to do theologically radical families (no contraception). Child mortality remained high (40%, mostly before the age of 3) or was even higher than usual in pre-modern societies.
With industrialism, from about 1800 women no longer had a child each year, and in the second half of the century numbers dropped considerably. So did child mortality.
What did not change was the (great) proportion of unmarried to married grown-ups. In the 20th century the number of children to a family dropped to 2 or 3 or 1,5.
Now very few died as infants and about half married as grown ups.
Today these demographic changes are at hand in other parts of the world. Todays pre-modern societies are entering the European 19th century.
As always, there are sub-cultures within the big picture, as you can read here:
Nersen writes of "bible teachers who believe what the bible teaches and who pass it on faithfully"
You need to be more specific about your disagreements with the people you insult in your post.
What do you say the bible teaches about (1) committed, lifelong, monogamous same-sex relationships? (2) usury (I see you send your e mail from Morgan Stanley)? (3) divorce and remarriage? And can you briefly say where in the Bible you find your incontrovertible teaching on these issues or give us other references?
Although your language is intemperate, you do seem to believe in reaching out to others, and so you will perhaps not think it "silly and sad" that you should articulate and, yes, perhaps even examine and justify your views to others who are interested to hear them.
Interesting and well written as this thread is (especially on the secondary subject) and also ashtoningly civil and nuanced (maybe there is a future for the Anglican Communion, after all), I think a small reminder is called for.
What I asked was how the reasoning behind the dissmissal of the "shellfish argument" looked like, and this not least because of the distaste apparent in Dave's fist posting.
What I got was various kinds of evasion, including attacks on Merseymike's theology ;=)
I have not discussed "presuppositions .. about Scripture, revelation and even God", beyond pointing out that there are s e v e r a l concepts of "scripture", not one.
Christopher - I am sure you don't mean to classify all charging of interest as an expression of an exploitative relationship and yet give it the green light!?
In the ancient world, most people who needed a loan needed it rather badly to make ends meet; they would naturally turn to their communities to help them. The injunction in Scripture to help the poor is reinforced by the prohibition of imposing interest on loans to members of one's own community. It's not a matter of racial prejudice because the same law would no doubt have applied to "resident aliens" (see Numbers 15 for the principle of equality). The permission to charge interest applies to non-resident foreigners, i.e. merchants. Merchants would naturally be free to decide whether it was worth their while to take out a loan or not depending on the interest rate charged. Then as now poor people have no such choice, hence the need to protect against loan sharks - then and now.
For one attempt to consider Scripture rather than dismiss it on such matters, see http://www.jubilee-centre.org/online_documents/BanonInterest.htm.
Dear Göran, you seem to be making a brave attempt to ignore or dismiss the several contributrions on the issue of shrimps in the OT.
Just after Peter B wrote "literal adherence to those laws is no longer required of Christians, by the express teaching of Christ (Mark 7.19 etc)" you still assert "What I asked was how the reasoning behind the dissmissal of the 'shellfish argument' looked like.....What I got was various kinds of evasion"
Thomas had previously mentioned that: "The Thirty-Nine articles neatly sum up tradition: "Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral."
Above you have what Jesus said*, and you have how the church interpretes that into the general case**. If that is insufficient for you to understand, please would you pose a direct question about these?
* ps see also Romans 14:1-12 and Col 2:16
** Interpreting Matt 5:17-20 ?
Göran - you have reminded us of the fact that the canon of Scripture is delimited differently in different traditions and I have put it to you that this does not constitute different concepts of Scripture, not when we are talking about "the very nature of Scripture", the basic idea so to speak. Admittedly, I did not take the time to question your equation of "putting different weight on different parts of Scripture" with "putting one part against another" but I'd feel churlish if I kept saying "this does not follow".
I alluded to Peter's vision and Peter Bergman has given you Mark 7.19 (and the discussion about usury has shown that some of us do not in fact feel free to ignore the pertinent injunctions in Scripture).
I am not entirely sure what it is that you don't get but then I admit that I sometimes find it hard to follow your train of thought. The following comment really stumped me: "Being raised in an anti-nazi family in what was a rather nazified city, I have lived fairly close to the Synagog, so "shellfish" is a real question for me in a way it does not seem to be for some here present." I can deduce how an anti-Nazi family might decide to live fairly close to the synagogue (and I have nothing but respect for such a move!) but don't comprehend how living fairly close to the synagogue might turn the shellfish question into a real issue for a Christian and this while continuing to see the prohibition as an irrational taboo!
For some of us appeal to Mark 7.19 is not "subordinating the sacred text to extra-Biblical considerations" and merely to point out that the threefold division of the law is not an emic perspective does not prove it invalid as an etic perspective to conceptualise what is going on in Scripture taken as a whole. Now, before you retort that I am merely appealing to the threefold division of the law again, let me repeat that I am not advocating this as the solution to everything but merely saying that if you could show some understanding of the most widespread, traditional way of dealing with such issues, I would find it easier to take your question seriously. One of the things that nicely illustrates the chasm between us is that you apparently think such questions can be seriously dealt with in a paragraph or two, while I believe they need a fuller discussion which is beyond this thread. I've pointed you to a booklet, if you're interested to see the reasoning. If the Good Book Company is not your cup of tea, why not check out Aquinas and tells us where his argument unravels?
PS: My own reference to Merseymike's theology was meant to reflect his (merely apparent?) denial that "a view of God as a 'person' with 'views' and 'will' has any semblance of reality" earlier in the thread. Is this what you refer to as an attack on his theology? If so, maybe I should be relieved to see that you classify such an attribution of a non-personal view of God to someone as an attack!
PPS: You imply that some of us find the shellfish question embarrassing because it's such an obviously irrational taboo. Actually, I myself don't find the dietary laws "irrational" but then I have read more Mary Douglas than William Robertson-Smith.
And finally: if you can point me to further information on the convocation of rabbis you mentioned earlier, I'd love to find out more.
Again, I think Thomas Renz has correctly discerned the intent and working of the Mosaic law. Lev 25.35-37 expressly states that there must be no profiteering from the poor, including the resident alien in Israel's midst, while Exod 22.21 states there must be no oppression of aliens, which must mean those living among the Israelites. The collocation of that verse with the immediately following vv. 22-27 (the defense of widows, orphans, poor; prohibition on charging interest on loans to the poor) strongly suggests that resident aliens would be included in the 'no interest' law.
It remains an exciting and fruitful exercise to consider how the economic and social specifics of OT law may still be mined as a guide for Christian living (the Reformers' famous 'Third Use of the Law') without falling into what I consider the wooden errors of theocratic 'theonomism'. The Jubilee 2000 movement is an example of the former approach that many Christians wanted to follow.
No, I confess I may have been imprecise. Charging interest is not per se exploitative. Your explanation of internal loan sharking vs. fair business with foreign merchants does seem a fair distinction. At least it describes just and unjust business relationships. Does the Bible describe it in these terms? And did the medieval Church make the distinction, I wonder.
I hope you didn't feel I was dissing scripture; I simply wanted to point out that on usury, we're all nuance, while on other ethical issues, nuance goes by the board. I'm on the side of nuance.
I'll be interested to read the link you posted. Thank you for pointing me to it.
Christopher, I hope the article proves useful. I have not read it in a while myself. The distinction between resident and non-resident aliens is made explicitly in the Biblical text. Other parts of the argument are logical deductions. If you're not resident, you're not likely to borrow a few seeds which you'll pay back once you've harvested (having talked so much about interest and usury it is worthwhile to remind ourselves that until the late Persian period, this would not have involved "money" as we know it). If you're travelling and asking someone to borrow you something, you're not scraping for a living but investing in a venture. I'd be surprised if this wasn't the kind of exegesis which guided the church in its change of policy but I cannot say I know. In any case, I find talk about a "complete turn-around" misleading here - Christ brought a "complete turn-around" with regard to the dietary laws but at its best, even if not always in practice, the church does not condone usury (exorbitant interest) any more today than in the past - well, the Roman Catholic Church doesn't (see paragraphs 2401ff of its catechism); it may be harder to establish the doctrinal position of the Church of England on usury.
I am not convinced that this is a matter of us being all nuance on some issues but not others. On the one hand, Bishop Anthony did not seem to me very nuanced on usury. On the other hand, documents like Some Issues in Human Sexuality (Church House Publishing 2003) offer pointers to a nuanced discussion. Of course, issues of sexuality often get people more emotional than other issues but whether or not there is nuanced discussion is less to do with the issues than with the people involved.
But you do dear Dave. That’s why I am asking. How is it that you dismiss one taboo (shellfish) yet make another into a shibboleth?
Peter B wrote "literal adherence to those laws is no longer required of Christians, by the express teaching of Christ (Mark 7.19 etc)". Yet you do require literal adherence to (some of) those laws, dear Dave.
You read Matt 5.17-20 a g a i n s t Mark 7, pretending it’s an endorsement of (some of) the laws of men, instead of a remark upon the 10 Commandments, yet to be fulfilled, because after several thousand years they are still not adhered to (Thou shalt not kill ;=)
You dismiss one taboo, making another a shibboleth. Which is why I asked for the reasoning behind this inconsistency.
Dr Hooker: "Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral."
“The Law given from God by Moses … do not bind Christian men”
“no Christian . whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral”.
It seems to me, that the 10 Commandments are called moral, dear Dave, not the laws of men ;=)
That s o m e impose this division into civil, ceremonial and “moral” law – all 12th century concepts – on a BC scripture is no answer, no explanation to the turning of Ezraic (Persian inspired) social policy into Commandments for the Church.
Nor are the laws of men “the tradition”, as you pretend. We reject them, the German Lutheran churches reject them, Paul rejected them, Jesus rejected them (Thomas Renz does not seem too keen on them either ;=)
It’s there for all to see in the Gospels and in the (authentic) letters of Paul, that Jesus and the boys and Paul opposed the cultic and ethnic laws of Ezraism.
The current Swedish edition of the Books of Concord (1944) doesn’t list either of your anachronistic categories “civil”, “ceremonial” or “moral”, on the contrary: the XV Article of the Confessio augustana On the religious customs of the Church ends:
“… being therefore un-useful and contrary to the Gospel.”
You gave Romans 14.1-12: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not, and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Who art thou thath judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
One man esteemeth one day above another, another esteem every day alike.
Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regarded not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.
He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
The use of the masculine here is, as ever, i n c l u s i v e; women and men.
And Paul’s words are reiterated and enhanced (by Marcion?) in Col 2.16: Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of any Holyday, or of the New Moon, or of the Sabbath days.
Yea, why should we let you?
Yet you break all of this, dear Dave, constantly. The only constancy, perhaps, to be found in the inconsistent interpretations that you identify with, and claim to be, Scripture, Tradition and Reason.
Not to mention, that the present bruha in the Anglican Communion is about enforcing obedience from Christian sisters and brothers to this late narrow sectarian interpretation, against Christian Freedom.
Which is why I asked: Why is the "shellfish" argument an ad hominem attack (except for shellfish ;=)?
How can a 12th century academic (celibatarian) manipulation of an Ezraic adaptation of 1st Temple cultic Taboos be "Scripture" valid for the Christian Church?
How can calling Taboos anachronistic names be "application" of scripture?
Why is one Taboo discarded (doubtful disputations, at nought) and another made into a shibboleth?
Thomas Renz wrote: “Göran – you have reminded us of the fact that the canon of Scripture is delimited differently in different traditions and I have put it to you that this does not constitute different concepts of Scripture, not when we are talking about "the very nature of Scripture", the basic idea so to speak.”
There is not o n e basic idea. Not even “so to speak”. Dr Martin Luther says “what drives Christ” is scripture, expressly excluding James “a straw epistle”. The 1580 Book of Concord (which does not pronounce on “canon”!) excludes the laws of men; Law is not to be preached! and treats “ceremonies” as adiafora. The ChofS 1593 Confessio fídei says “the writs of the holy Prophets, the holy Evangelists and the holy Apostles, which is a denial of the integrist phrase “the Prophets and the Apostles” (= OT minus “apocrypha” plus NT and especially the NT pseudo-epigraphs) of Calvinism.
These are different views, perceptions, and concepts of “scripture”; as they are different concepts of “canonical”, not one. Certainly not 20th century “fundamentalist” integrism.
J.D.G. Dunn’s Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, has a lot to say about this in the 1st and 2nd centuries. And it was written in 1997 before the present troubles began.
The reason I mentioned this (different Bibles, not one) was to warn you, that the theology of your particular tradition is not as generally hailed as you seem to think.
That different theologies within different traditions (not only of the cut-and-paste variety) put different weight on different scriptures, is (as I pointed out in so many words) self-evident. Some put the (late) Letters against the Gospels, the Carolingian Lectionary puts the gospel of Matthew against the 3 others, some (as dear Dave) put Matt 5.17-23 against Mark 7.1-12.
No Dogmatism uses more than perhaps 6-10 pages of the Bible (and most of that is proving by changing). In fact very few historic or contemporary issues are found in the Bible at all.
Thomas Renz wrote: “the discussion about usury has shown that some of us do not in fact feel free to ignore the pertinent injunctions in Scripture”
I have not questioned that. All do. What I question is the Method, the reasoning behind – that is How do y o u (= your particular tradition) decide which verses to be mandated and which to be ignored?
Thomas Renz wrote: “I am not entirely sure what it is that you don't get but then I admit that I sometimes find it hard to follow your train of thought.”
Not paying attention? Honestly, every time one talks about something one is told what one believes, what one does not believe, which books one has read, & c.
There seems to be a precise and unified set of Gnosticistic allegories taught in anti-modern circles on all Continents, as to “the others” (often called “liberals”); what they believe (especially what they do n o t believe ;=), why, what they do, what they read and so on.
Hence the grouping with Merseymike… and the speculating what I “apparently” think.
Thomas Renz wrote: “don't comprehend how living fairly close to the synagogue might turn the shellfish question into a real issue for a Christian”
I said a real question, not an issue. That is one to be answered, not evaded. It’s for real. I do think that Leviticus is “scripture”, only not in your sense ;=)
And I do think it has a world to teach us, not least about the mixing of certain strands in Religion with the Coercive Power of the State (Ezraism, USA, Iran, Nigeria).
Thomas Renz wrote: ”and this while continuing to see the prohibition as an irrational taboo!”
I said “irrational”, that is based on other things than “reason”. Still based, but on other things.
You are the ones dismissing this taboo, remember?
Thomas Renz wrote: “For some of us appeal to Mark 7.19 is not "subordinating the sacred text to extra-Biblical considerations"
I wasn’t talking of Mark 7, but of your cut-and-past of Ezraic Taboos: “shellfish” contra “two men in a bed”. The one discarded, the other mandated.
Thomas Renz wrote: “merely to point out that the threefold division of the law is not an emic perspective does not prove it invalid as an etic perspective to conceptualise what is going on in Scripture taken as a whole.”
Well I am a minimalist in these things. But no, not necessarily. The lack of reasoning does, though. It is perfectly admissible to use tools of any age or discipline to get to grips with a text – as long as one is absolutely clear that this is what one is about! And does so with caution.
But the lack of reasoning here suggests, that far from realizing that you (= your specific tradition) are using 12th century tools here, you in fact identify your theology and its tools with the sacred Text. That is not permissible.
Scripture should be read with scripture – and some attention.
Thomas Renz wrote: “if you could show some understanding of the most widespread, traditional way of dealing with such issues, I would find it easier to take your question seriously.”
My way or the Highway ;=) I have already indicated in my previous posts that your somewhat arbitrary “way of dealing with such issues” may be not quite as “widespread” and “traditional” that you think.
As to the convocation of Rabbis, I’m afraid I have no more information. It was something mentioned in passing during the first year (1993) “a convocation of Rabbis changes the Law”.
Göran - may I point out to you that "taboo" is not an emic concept either but your attempt to group certain parts of Scripture together and keep them separate from others (the Ten Commandments?). I have not taken you to task for this, even though your use of the designation "taboo" does not appear to me very well defined. But you have certainly given me no reason to think that your conceptualisation of certain "laws" as "taboos" is more illuminating than the threefold division of the law. So I could reverse the question: how can designating certain parts of Scripture with the anachronistic term "taboo" be "application" of Scripture?
If you want to find the threefold division of the law in the Book of Concord, try article IV of the defence of the Confessio Augustana (article xv of the actual Confession has got nothing to do with Leviticus). I've no idea what the Swedish says but an English translation might say something like "in this discussion, by Law we designate the Ten Commandments, wherever they are read in the Scriptures. Of the ceremonies and judicial laws of Moses we say nothing at present."
Homosexual activity is traditionally considered to fall in the category of "moral law" related to the prohibition of adultery. Most of the time you talk as if you find the whole concept of different Levitical "laws" functioning differently in the Christian life ludicrous. Your last post, however, makes it sound as if you actually accept some sort of distinction between laws which are binding on the Christian and laws which are to be set aside and so maybe what you want to argue is that the laws prohibiting homosexual activity should fall in the ceremonial/taboo category rather than the category of "moral" laws. But, as I have admitted before, I do not always follow your train of thought.
In an earlier post I indicated that the rather loaded anthropological concept of 'taboo', drawn from Polynesian animism, is probably not at all useful for undestanding the OT proscriptions. It is better in the first instance to compare and contrast ancient Israel with her ANE neighbors if we are seeking illumination from the (ever changing, rather imprecise and never ideology-free) 'social sciences'. And it is noteworthy that while ancient Israel had in many ways a common culture with its Semitic neighbors, its prescription of homosexuality contrasted sharply with the rather easy acceptance of this among the Canaanites. This has been documented by Professor Gordon Wenham, a noted commentator on Genesis and Leviticus. Professor Wenham has also written an excellent little book 'Story as Torah' (T. & T. Clark) on understanding the narrative ethics of the OT, particularly its depictions of sex and violence which often puzzle or offend the modern reader.
Now, to answer Goran Koch-Swahne's question to Thomas Renz: 'How do y o u (= your particular tradition) decide which verses [are]to be mandated and which [are]to be ignored?'
Professor Renz will no doubt have his own answer to this. For myself, in seeking to be a classical Anglican, I would suggest the following: we seek not to ignore ANY verses of the OT but rather to interpret them rightly in the light of the NT's witness to Christ. In Paul's view, the Law was a 'paidagogos' to lead us to Christ; some things were transitory and provisional ('shadow and substance', as the Letter to the Hebrews terms it); other things were of permanent validity; all othem have been transformed in the light of his coming, his death and resurrection. Laws regarding food, festivals, clothing and circumcision served a definite purpose for the Israelites until the coming of Christ: they were, in contemporary parlance, 'boundary markers' for the Chosen People that served to remind them of their distinctiveness ('am qadosh leYHWH) from the goyim and to keep them from assimilation or syncretistic worship. In many cases the immediate historical context of the Mosaic Law is no longer clear to us, but that does not mean that is 'irrational' or arbitrary. The symbols and language we use today will doubtless seem very obscure to the distant future but they are usually clear - and rational - enough to us.
Already the NT shows many of these social markers being left behind, not because they were contrary to God's will (quite the opposite!) but because they had served their historical purpose. Even so, the NT still sees tropological or spiritual significance in these laws ('circumcison of the heart'; 'unleavened bread of sincerity and truth'; 'enter into God's sabbaton'). But as for homosexuality, it is clear that the NT authors did not consider this something as passing or provisional; and because the NT itself makes this distinction, so too does the classical Anglican.
Of course, if you think the 'Mosaic' Law was really the creation of Ezra the scribe in the fifth century BCE then you may not take it very seriously, and almost certainly not as 'Scripture'. But I can't follow that view for the simple fact that Jesus himself believed this law to be divinely given to Moses (cf. John 5.47-50). My obedience to Christ means I have to follow what HE says about the Scriptures, not what Wellhausen/Torrey/Deist/Becking/Ahlstrom and other (anti-supernaturalist) materialists and historical reductionists believe about these texts. In other words, I have to develop a hermeneutic of faith, not rejection - which is how most 'liberal' theology works today in 'exposing' and rejecting those parts of both the OT and NT it considers false and not 'liberating'. Indeed, this is exactly and explicitly how Professor Walter Wink operates his hermeneutic.
All right, then. What's wrong with the "shellfish argument"? (1) It assumes that the prohibition (taboo) against eating shellfish is in all respects equal to the prohibition (taboo) against homosexual activity. You, Göran, have given us not a single argument which would establish this assumption and yet demand that we accept it. (2) It assumes that there are Christians who argue solely from the book of Leviticus, randomly dropping one prohibition (taboo) found therein, while insisting on the adherence to another. I have never met such a person and find it hard to believe they exist. No "reasserters" I know make a case without taking the New Testament into account, e.g. "thus he declared all foods clean" and "from now on do not sin again" (or Romans 1.27 and 14.20 or the discussion in 1 Corinthians 6).
Göran, you may disagree with the reading of the NT put forward by "reasserters" - that's not the point - but your assumption that we simply pick and choose from Leviticus is gratuitous.
In sum, the question proceeds from unproven, and in my view wrong, assumptions. The way you ask the question comes across to me as petulant because, having beeen reminded of the fact that Christians have been thinking about these matters for some time, you refuse to specify how the threefold division of the law fails conceptually and because you keep insisting on using the category "taboo" without explaining how this helps our understanding the text.
For what it's worth. My own view is that the threefold division is problematic because it is often used as if to categorise laws by their content, when what is required is a conceptualisation of the function of the law. Hence the famous problem about how to categorise the Sabbath commandment. Once we drop the idea that there are three neatly separated categories of law and instead accept that laws have different functions, the Sabbath law problem disappears. Of course, the tradition of the different "uses" of the law is not far off from my own view. But this just by the way.
Göran - I have seen your late morning post only after having written mine. Please accept my apologies, if I have attributed to you beliefs you do not hold and correct me where I was wrong. I am trying to understand you and I am not finding it easy. (E.g., I had a hard time trying to figure out what "integrist" and "integrism", which I had to look up, have to do with Calvinism. I think I can now guess where you are coming from here but I am by no means confident. I think you overstate the difference between Lutheranism and Calvinism and your analogy with the Catholicism versus Integrism debate seems bold, to say the least. But maybe the first few links that came up when I googled for "integrism" misled me.)
First paragraph: Stating that a Taboo is a Taboo is not ”application”, anymore than your imposition of extra-Biblical categories on a Biblical text is so.
To my mind the trouble is that you b e n d the Text to your late 2d Millennium theology and to your concept of “scripture” by way of the imposition of 3 scholastic categories in order to i d e n t i f y your late theology with a BC Text.
Doing violence to a sacred text is not “application”. It’s forgery.
Second paragraph: Precisely – this is the most they make of it. So why do your particular tradition find these taboos so interesting?
Third paragraph: The distinction I make is between the 10 Commandments and the laws of men.
The tradition of the Church being that the former are valid for the Church (Matt 5), the latter not (Mark 7).
I have asked about the method, about your picking and choosing of Levitical taboos; how you decide which to discard (shellfish) and which to apply (two men in a bed). You keep evading my questions.
I have tried to tell you that there are d i f f e r e n t traditions, d i f f e r e n t concepts of “scripture” and d i f f e r e n t theologies, you keep talking of your late and particular theology, as if it was the only one ever.
I can only conclude that there is no explanation to this sorting and picking among taboos. I suggest we let this drop, for this isn’t leading anywhere.
Göran - maybe it helps if I sum up the two most basic parts of your argument which I fail to understand.
(1) You have written "The question remains: How can 1st Temple cultic Taboos (if at all) in Ezraic adaptation be 'Scripture' valid for the Christian Church?" I took that as a rhetorical question to meaning to assert "of course 1st Temple cultic Taboos in Ezraic adaptation cannot be 'Scripture' valid for the Christian Church." This sounds to me like saying that the book of Leviticus should not be part of Christian Scripture and in this sense, to return to my original claim, you are either challenging the very concept of Scripture or the part of Leviticus within it. But you seemed unhappy with that claim. What have I misunderstood?
(2) You seem to be unhappy about the threefold division of the law but you do write appreciatively of the Ten Commandments and seem to affirm their continuing validity and this not only in an excessively narrow sense because you seem to agree that the prohibition of usury (defined as excessive interest) is still relevant. Yet is not understanding the Ten Commandments as the summary of the parts / aspects of the law which are still binding upon Christians precisely the procedure of traditional Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed (and, I suspect, Orthodox) theology? The prohibition of usury is considered binding because it explains and elaborates the commandment against theft. The prohibition of homosexual activity is considered binding because it explains and elaborates the commandment against adultery. The prohibition of the consumption of shellfish is not considered binding because, well, it does not explain or elaborate any of the Ten Commandments. I guess that you disagree with the link between the prohibition of homosexual activity and the commandment against adultery. But we have not argued this either way because the question "what about shellfish?" seemed to challenge the very principle of appealing to the Ten Commandments as a way of distinguishing between "taboos" which are to be upheld and "taboos" which need not be upheld.
So here they are, two basic things I don't really understand about where you are coming from.
Dear Göran, Both Christ and St Paul made a distinction between a Christian's obligations towards the OT moral laws and towards OT cultural and ceremonial laws (as per my previous references).
This is because Christ initiated a *new* Covenant between God and people. The most fundamental change being the replacement of animal sacrifices for sin with His own sacrifice of Himself. However, since morality is based in the Judeo-Christian tradition on the character of God, essential morality can't change between the two Covenants - though the *application* of morality was actually made much more absolute in Christ's teachings - He certainly did not say that everything is "ok" now. What He did was counterbalance absolute moral demands by offering His Grace, not liberal "tolerance", as the antidote for sin. Hence He said:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Of course it can change - if one recognises the limitations of the bible and of Christian orthodoxy.
I will venture one last comment before letting this matter drop.
1. We must not use the loaded and question-begging Polynesian term 'taboo'. These are quite simply *prohibitions within the Mosaic Law, which is also full of corresponding positive commands. They are about being a holy people.
2. If I read him correctly, Goran Koch-Swahne appears to equate Mark 7.1-12 with the Levitical law: 'The distinction I make is between the 10 Commandments and the laws of men. The tradition of the Church being that the former are valid for the Church (Matt 5), the latter not (Mark 7).' But note that Mark 7.1-12 refers not to the Levitical law but the Pharisees' supplementary 'tradition of the elders'. Jesus makes this very distinction in Mark 7.9-10.
3. The Mosaic Law and the Ten Commandments are NOT two separate things. Rather the Law is a very extensive amplification of what the Ten Commandments actually mean in the context of the land that Israel is about to occupy, as a broadly egalitarian, mainly agricultural theocracy. Thus the kosher food laws (believe it or not!) are not a mysterious 'taboo' but most probably a practical way of spelling out what it means to have no other god than Yahweh. And the laws against homosexual conduct are a reflex of the sixth commandment.
4. Finally (!) - the law governing usury (where all this began!) is itself a reflex of the command 'Love your neighbor as yourself' (Lev. 19.18).
Enough! Good day to all.
Thomas Renz, you have made it clear a number of times that in your view the prohibition of homosexual activity is binding because it is an aspect of the commandment against adultery.
How sure are you that committed, lifelong, monogamous same sex relationships are properly characterised as adulterous?
I’m sorry, but to my mind you’re merely rationalizing your my-way-or-else theology. Not least its claim to “rationality”.
Laurentius Petri Nericius, Archbishop of Upsala from 1534 to 1574 had a few things to say on the “blind reason” of Calvinist. I side with him.
I have asked you how you arrive at your, to my mind improbable and contradictory, conclusions (“shellfish” contra “two men in a bed”), because I don’t think your particular theology holds water. Nor do I find that you start with the Biblical text, instead you impose your later abstract categories on what is material; sexualizing and individualizing what is cultic, collective and social.
All for the purpose of 2nd Millennium and 20th century social disciplining. Mixing State and Religion.
Since you identify your late and particular brand of theology with the holy scriptures of the Bible, you think that I (and others) discard the Bible, when I question your theology. Not quite the same thing.
Nor am I impressed by your German fellas, no matter what names you call them ;=)
Question (1) “I took that as a rhetorical question“ ;=)
Why don’t you ask first? You unilaterally decide what I am saying, just as you unilaterally decide what the Bible says.
“the very concept of Scripture or the part of Leviticus within it”.
I have indicated repeatedly that there are several concepts of “scripture”, not the only very yours.
Question (2) Haven’t said a word about “usury” being right or wrong. On the contrary when you all fell into this trap, I tried to bring to your attention that the Church for a thousand years c l a i m e d there was an a b s o l u t e condemnation of usury in the Bible, when there wasn’t.
I e v e n said this was relevant to today’s troubles in the Anglican Communion ;=)
Surely, the 10 Commandments predate the laws of the Elders? Anyhow, I have never heard anyone claim they are a “summary” of “the parts / aspects” of the laws of men.
I did try to tell you that we do not “do” the laws of men. They are not “binding”. We reject the laws of the Elders for the Christian Church as did Jesus – and Paul.
That much of the Bible is a commentary upon the 10 Commandments (take the Sermon on the Mount or the so called “catalogues of sins/virtues” such as 1 Cor 6.9-11 and 1 Tim 1:10 – all in the order of the 10 Commandments, but far from complete) means precisely that the Commandments come first and the comments after.
The point being, that there are many different views and angles and comments possible. Every exposition is an exposition.
You should do well to reflect upon the fact that some Commandments only occur in the NT in the negative: the Sabbath was made for men not men for the Sabbath, and some not at all.
“The prohibition of usury is considered binding because it explains and elaborates the commandment against theft. The prohibition of homosexual activity is considered binding because it explains and elaborates the commandment against adultery. The prohibition of the consumption of shellfish is not considered binding because, well, it does not explain or elaborate any of the Ten Commandments.”
Fascinating idea. But no, never heard anything of the sort after kindergarten ;=)
You should be aware, though, that the “commandment about theft” (which is the 7th for us and for the German Lutheran churches) is considered to be about property, but about stealing human beings for the slave trade (Joseph in the well).
“homosexual activity” “explains and elaborates” the command against “adultery”???
Well… surely not unless a l l are bisexual ;=) You need to take that further out in the country.
“But we have not argued this either way because the question "what about shellfish?" seemed to challenge the very principle”.
Yes, you do tend to start with the “principle”. Your late 2nd Millennium principles. And then you claim them to be both Bible and Tradition.
Not to mention blind “Reason” ;=)
“So here they are, two basic things I don't really understand about where you are coming from.”
I come from a Calvinist city, where I learnt early on, that it’s all about power and coercion. It’s called “obedience” to the Bible, but it is obedience to the Pastor.
And don’t ask questions, because they won’t know the answer. That is were I am coming from.
But you don’t need to know that to answer my question about your treatment of “shellfish” contra “two men in a bed”.
Nor to consider the useful case of the condemnation of “usury”.
You know what I have told you about the “Judeo-Christian” moral tradition from old Alex. It’s neither. It’s Indo-European anti-cosmic Philosophy. Demiurge, Vale of Tears.
Can’t be brought any nearer to “Judeo-Christian” than poor old philosophical Philo of Alexandria, who certainly was neither Jew (biology apart) nor Greek – but even less Christian.
And you know what I have told you about the NIV ;=)
And you know what I have told you about the fulfilment of the Law; the 10 Commandments are not adhered to. Not now, not then – only in the future.
Badman - this is a good question well worth discussing another time, another place although, in spite of what Göran thinks, I am not actually particularly interested in homosexuality. I am more interested, indeed saddened, about what this debate tells us about the attitude of many within the Anglican Communion to Scripture, tradition, and reason. (Before anyone asks, I have read a little Hooker and know that the three-legged stool stuff is bogus. The classical Anglican view found in Hooker is that the normative authority through which the church hears God's voice is Scripture which we need to read in the light of tradition and intelligently. Reason, or experience for that matter, are no independent sources of authority. Neither is tradition. They are means to help us understand Scripture well. We are not Roman Catholics, so no need to prove that councils may err. End of excursus.)
My own college has produced a book which seeks to put the debate about homosexuality into a broader biblical-theological context. (I have not contributed to it, by the way.) It comes under the title Holiness and Sexuality and was edited by D. G. Peterson.
Peter Bergman is entirely right when he implies that the Ten Commandments are thoroughly integrated into the Torah. You'd be hard pushed to find a commentator to disagree with that. Göran is entitled to his distinction between the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Torah but he is deluded if he thinks that this is what's going on in the Lutheran tradition. (I grew up as a Lutheran and I own a copy of the Book of Concord.)
For all those interested in usury: I have just discovered that the Grove Ethics booklet 110, which was published in 1998, is devoted to the topic. (Maybe somewhat ironically, the preceeding booklet is by Andrew Goddard.) The Bishop of Bangor may think that the church no longer has any practical use for the Scriptural prohibitions against usury (and may wish for the prohibitions against homosexuality to go the same way), I am not sure how to take his comments, but there are clearly still those who think differently. I'd include myself among them.
Göran - I did not pick up your "exegesis" of Leviticus 18:22 but for the sake of clarification I now feel I must say that while I think your "abomination is in the bed" interpretation is risible. I do not think "homosexuals are an abomination" is the alternative. Leviticus does not call "homosexuals", however defined, an abomination. It refers to the act itself (the feminine singular pronoun being used in Hebrew to refer to complete statements).
Yes, I too would like to understand how the argument that a prohibition of all same-sex activity is derived from the sixth commandment. I have never engaged in any sexual activity with anyone other than my now-spouse, so how is our relationship adulterous?
Sorry, "prohibitions against homosexuality" should read "prohibitions against homosexual activity". Of course this does not address the question what "counts as" "homosexual activity". I just wanted to clarify that, in my reading, Leviticus 18.22 and similar passages do not prohibit homosexual feelings / orientation.
And having read my post again, I suspect Göran is going to read "I grew up as a Lutheran and I own a copy of the Book of Concord" as my way of saying "I am right on this". It is not meant that way. I am Anglican and entered this thread with a reference to the 39 Articles. To let you know that "I grew up as a Lutheran and I own a copy of the Book of Concord" is meant as a way of saying "I am not talking as an ignorant outsider about the Lutheran tradition." O well, I ought to give everyone a break.
Actually, Göran. It does help knowing where you come from. You feel victimized (if that is the best way to put it) by "Calvinists" and for whatever reason I remind you of these "Calvinists". This explains one or two things about your responses.
Unfortunately, it does not help me to understand what you make of the prohibitions against usury. I had said earlier "some of us do not in fact feel free to ignore the pertinent injunctions in Scripture" because I know that I myself and others do not want to ignore them but the Bishop sounded to me like he was saying "the lesson we learn from usury laws is that the church for a long time may think something a binding law and one day wake up and realise it safe to ignore them" and you sounded to me like saying something similar. But maybe you're not.
Apologies, Göran, for misunderstanding "How can 1st Temple cultic Taboos (if at all) in Ezraic adaptation be "Scripture" valid for the Christian Church?" as a rhetorical question. So the question you have asked three times in this thread is a non-rhetorical question? You want "1st Temple cultic Taboos (if at all) in Ezraic adaptation" to be "Scripture" valid for the Christian Church but you genuinely don't know how and this is why you are asking the question? Apologies, again. I had not asked you to clarify because it had not occurred to me that your questions could be read this way.
So "the ‘commandment about theft’ (which is the 7th for us and for the German Lutheran churches) is considered to be about property, but about stealing human beings for the slave trade"? Considered by whom? By the Swedish and German Lutheran churches? What you mean is presumably "has been considered by some scholars to have been originally a prohibition against stealing human beings" which raises three basic questions: (a) what does "originally" refer to? Prior to the incorporation of the Ten Commandments into the Pentateuch or at the time the Pentateuch was initially compiled or in its final redactional stages? Or when? (b) are these scholars right? (c) if this is so, should we limit the Christian application of the commandment to kidnapping? But of course that would be another thread.
Given that there was no knowledge of 'orientation', what Leviticus does or does not say is of the ultimate irrelevance.
The sooner Christianity can break itself free from the slavish worship of the Bible, the better. I feel like burning the bloody thing sometimes, all the harm it does.
There is yet an other parallel to the “shellfish”, “usury”, “two men in a bed” misuse of Levitical taboos to support later Church/State teaching: the 7 Forbidden Degrees of Emperor Louis “the pious” (the neo-platonist ;=), imposed on a Provincial Council in Paris in the year of grace 829.
The exogamy taboos of Leviticus 18.6ff were claimed as support for this teaching, traces of which are still to be found in the laws of several European countries.
The “incest” of Emperor Louis was also “spiritual”, meaning that in-laws, god-parents and god-children were made “blood” relatives. As was the priest and the baptised child.
Naturally, these monstrous 7 Degrees were not “applied” at face value ;=) for this would have meant the dissolution of practically a l l marriages in 9th century Europe – endogamy being the rule in all pre-modern societies – but they still presented a powerful political tool in the hand of the Emperor and, after 1073, also the Gregorian Popes.
In 1215 Lateran IV changed the Forbidden Degrees to 4 (or 5 depending on how one counts them), this number being confirmed by the 1571 Swedish Church Order (Swedish Canons).
In Sweden the ruse of a “spiritual” consanguinity was used for the first time in 1305, to dissolve the 1st marriage of Prince Valdemar, Duke of Finland. His father-in-law happened to be his godfather (and, of course, a distant cousin).
After 1680 Absoultism retained the Forbidden Degrees and as late as in the 1950ies, Swedish step-siblings had to “go to the King” to obtain a dispensation for their “spiritual” consanguinity.
So, again a piece of Social politics stretching over a millennium, for which was claimed Biblical support without there being any.
I am not as keen as some on the Ten Commandments as a summary of the Law. I have merely pointed out that this is how (much) traditional (Western) theology has interpreted them. One could refer to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church or the Westminster Standards but in view of Göran, let us remind ourselves in particular of how Luther has interpreted the Ten Commandments in his Shorter and Longer Catechisms. If you told Luther that one of the Ten Commandments was originally solely concerned with kidnapping and another solely with sexual intercourse with a married woman (a married man being able to have sexual intercourse with a prostitute without committing "adultery" in the technical sense), he no doubt would have asked "so what?". After all, Jesus was no such literalist historical-exegesis-fundamentalist in Matthew 5.
Abigail Ann Young - as indicated above I have no particular stake in deriving a prohibition of all same-sex activity from the sixth commandment myself. But, roughly, the idea is that (a) the Ten Commandments can be read as one of the summaries of God's good and gracious order for our lives and (b) the rest of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, including Leviticus and including the Sermon on the Mount, help us to discern what is truly implied by them. "For it needs must be that whoever knows the Ten Commandments perfectly must know all the Scriptures, so that, in all affairs and cases, he can advise, help, comfort, judge, and decide both spiritual and temporal matters, and is qualified to sit in judgment upon all doctrines, estates, spirits, laws, and whatever else is in the world." (From Luther's Introduction to the Large Catechism)
Of course, for some of us this is a deeply personal issue and it is easy to see red and nothing else. So, just in case there are any ever so slightly paranoid readers out there, let me say to Abigail Ann Young publicly: I don't know you but what you have written about yourself in this thread does not make me think "this woman should be put to death", "this woman should go to prison" or "this woman is not a Christian and should be excommunicated". I am not secretly hoping that you and your partner will be run over by a car or anything of this sort. I don't really think you thought I would but given the references to Nigeria in the thread etc. I thought I better say so.
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Well Dave, interesting point. Let's put it to the test. Does your righteousness surpass that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law so that you may enter the kingdom of Heaven?
Do the Pharisees or anyone else surpass or meet the teachings of the Law so that they can enter the kingdom of Heaven? Does your wife or any of your children or friends?
And what does the Lord say about who surpasses the Law?(I think we know the answer and in this matter St. Paul is indeed instructive.)
It does not do terribly well to quote one sentence or two, which is in opposition to another which then seems to nullify it. We must reconcile, we must make sense of it.
Your interesting distinction between OT moral law and OT ceremonial law is sometimes one without a difference, for the two are often conflations of the other.
NAt any rate, as to the law which the Lord demands of us and which he tells us, not one stroke of which will be removed, what exactly do you take this to mean? That despite not one stroke being removed we have to follow just some? But how can we follow only some if not one stroke is nullified?
And musn't we read your quote, in any event, in light of the Lord's other instruction, which He gave after specifically being asked what is the greatest commandment:
" ‘ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ "
Seems to me as if we are to interpret and apply things with this understanding.
You also said,
"What He did was counterbalance absolute moral demands by offering His Grace"
Yes, even unto death, so clearly His grace is without limit, unlike our understanding of it. There is a big difference.
Thomas, I would refer you to my post above to Dave, about how the Scriptures are to be interpreted in light of the Lord's teaching to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves, a directive which along with others in Leviticus regarding justice and mercy and dignity, were in practice frequently overwhelmed by (slavish) devotion to others, that undermined them.
Let's not get too far afield and try to recreate the wheel with statements like "I guess the debate you (and certainly Merseymike) would like to have is not about the application of Scripture but about the assumption that in the Bible we hear God speak."
I think everyone here agrees that we see God working through us and sometimes despite us in the Bible, as do the Bishop of Bangor and Andrew Goddard. That is not the issue, so let us not turn to that as a sword or shield, because as the Bishop of Bangor underscores, "as with many other issues, there exists a wide range of Scriptural interpretation within the Christian Church'".
It is our understanding of that speaking that is the issue. Why would our understanding be static? It would mean that since the life and resurrection of our Lord we had learned nothing.
The bishop reiterated that "Christians within Churches and between Churches have differed and do differ in good conscience on ethical questions. He must know that the Christian ethical tradition has often been one of change, sometimes through 180°, sometimes even within a few decades."
We are now at one of these times again, and as the Bishop noted, we did a 180 on the issue of contraception. I think we also had some ideas about divorce some time ago that caused some controversy. :0 And divorce is one issue on which the Lord was crystal clear. I daresay divorce causes more damage than two grown people who love each other and wish to commit to one another for life, deciding to publicly proclaim this and to have a blessing. People get a blessing when they travel or celebrate a birthday; but not for a life partnership?? God opposes that??
What apart from any purported biblical pronouncement, do you have against the issue of civil partnerships? What is your objection to one?
At any rate, I thought Goddard's letter peevish, eager to find whatever harping point he could as if he could not wait to insist the Welsh "are walking apart! They are walking apart!!"
I was pleased to see the Bishop remind him and anyone else, that Wales have their own bishops.
“You feel victimized… “ “... but the Bishop sounded to me like he was…” “… and you sounded to me like saying something similar. But maybe you're not” “…because it had not occurred to me…” “What you mean is presumably…”
So it’s what I f e e l now, is it?
But no, you should not apologize “for misunderstanding”. You should instead be worried of your tendency to tell people what they read, what they do, what they believe and what they have for breakfast.
You simply don’t know. Nor does it regard you. But there may be pills that might help.
Merseymike has a point in his first paragraph, but no, I don not consider what we have seen here as "slavish worship of the Bible".
Thomas Renz wrote: "If you told Luther that one of the Ten Commandments was originally solely concerned with kidnapping and another solely with sexual intercourse with a married woman (a married man being able to have sexual intercourse with a prostitute without committing "adultery" in the technical sense), he no doubt would have asked "so what?".
After all, Jesus was no such literalist historical-exegesis-fundamentalist in Matthew 5."
No he wasn't. But that is not the point.
Luther expanded the 10 Commandments, his explanation of the 8th Commmandment being an excellent example of this, as indeed a l l traditions expand and subtract from them.
In Jewish tradition the 10 Commandment beguin in the preceding verse: I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from Egypt, the House of Slavery. All Christian traditions omit that.
Luther also rephrases them, omitting most of the IV (3rd) and so on.
But that is not the point. The point is that you and your tradition claim to be "Bible believing", c l a i m that your later Social policies are "Biblical".
Also, moixeía, modern "adultery", is not about sex at all, exept in 2 out of 30 occurencies in the New testament; the woman in the Temple yard (nowadays generally and falsely in John 8) which is, however, the 10th Commandment, not the VII (6th).
The Roman catechism seems to be the only one remembering this... but we can leave that for an other time ;=)
Thomas Renz quoted Dr Martin Luther's Introduction to the Large Catechism:
"For it needs must be that whoever knows the Ten Commandments perfectly must know all the Scriptures, so that, in all affairs and cases, he can advise, help, comfort, judge, and decide both spiritual and temporal matters, and is qualified to sit in judgment upon all doctrines, estates, spirits, laws, and whatever else is in the world."
Which is, however, the contrary to what is happening today.
A couple of observations on the discussion: (1) Some people seem to find it hard to distinguish between "understanding" something and "agreeing with" something. This is evident in the assumption often made that those "on the other side" cannot really have understood one's own point of view because they disagree with it. It is also evident in the attempt to ascribe views to someone because he is trying to help you understand them.
(2) It is noteworthy that for some whatever supports their own view is a "given" which need not be argued and whatever does not support it is such obvious nonsense that they feel no need to actually state what's wrong with it.
Merseymike provides a good example for the latter in his recent contribution. "They did not know about 'orientation' in those days." I venture to guess that he would also see no need to prove the claim that "there were no permanent, stable homosexual partnerships in those days". I could point you to http://www.robgagnon.net/ for fuller discussion (and after my experience here I understand the exasperated tone Robert Gagnon sometimes adopts) but he's a "traditionalist" and (sadly for Göran) a Presbyterian.
Instead, have a look at Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents, edited by Thomas K. Hubbard and published by University of California Press in April 2003. Hubbard "makes the case that something like our concept of a sexual orientation was recognized at points in antiquity" (from a review by J.L. Butrica). I am not saying you have to agree with his conclusion, nor even that I do, but merely that the editor of the largest corpus of relevant material does not think that homosexual orientation is a modern concept. Now, Greece and Rome is not the original historical context of the book of Leviticus, unless maybe one dates the book very late, but in the absence of evidence either way we cannot simply take it as a "given" that the authors of Leviticus knew nothing about sexual orientation.
Bernadette J. Brooten, Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (University of Chicago Press, 1996) agrees with Hubbard, see her commentary on Romans 1. She too is not a partisan "traditionalist". Judging from the back cover, her work was hailed in such publications as Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review and the Journal of Lesbian Studies.
No less a figure than John Boswell had this to say in his "truly groundbreaking" (Foucault!) book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (1980; pp. 27-28):
"If the difficulties of historical research about intolerance of gay people could be resolved by simply avoiding anachronistic projections of modern myths and stereotypes, the task would be far simpler than it is. Unfortunately, an equally distorting and even more seductive danger for the historian is posed by the tendency to exaggerate the differences between homosexuality in previous societies and modern ones."
Professor Renz, thanks for explanation (and the reassurance)! You're right that I didn't think that's what you were saying. But this particular way of saying that the Ten Commandments are recapitulating the whole Law is a new one to me (my area of concentration is pre-scholastic and early scholastic exegesis so I tend to learn a lot on Thinking Anglicans about Reformation thought) and I could not help asking. I usually try very hard to avoid taking things personally in these discussions but sometimes I just begin to feel worn down -- I apologise for appearing to jump down your throat -- it wasn't intended.
The number or posts are now 74. All I have got yet is “mind reading” and the quite novel and somewhat fantastic claim:
“The prohibition of usury is considered binding because it explains and elaborates the commandment against theft. The prohibition of homosexual activity is consid-ered binding because it explains and elaborates the commandment against adultery. The prohibition of the consumption of shellfish is not considered binding because, well, it does not explain or elaborate any of the Ten Commandments.”
The Questions so far:
1) What’s wrong with the “shellfish argument”?
2) Why is one taboo (“shellfish”) an ad hominem attack and an other (“two men in a bed”) a shibboleth?
3) How can 1st Temple cultic Taboos (if at all) be "Scripture" valid for the Christian
4) How can calling Taboos something they are not and cannot be (civil, ceremonial, moral) be "application" of scripture?
5) (added) How do committed, lifelong, monogamous (same sex) relationships fall under the VII (6th) Commandment?
I want you to e x p l a i n and if possible d e f e n d your theology. I want you to show me what it looks like!
But I do not need you to change the subject telling me what I believe in, don’t believe in, read or have for breakfast.
The claim made by Dave in the first post is this:
"... clear New Testament teachings, especially when backed up by similar OT moral teachings and consistent theology!"
Looks increasingly unlikely.
AAY - no worries: you were not jumping down my throat! I was thinking of Göran in particular who is quick to attribute social policies and beliefs to me but insults me when I try to understand him by formulating what I hear him saying.
My guess is that the idea of the Ten Commandments being a summary of God's will for us has two sources: (a) the prominence of the Ten Commandments within the OT itself and, some would say, within the NT, and (b) the need for some structure in catechesis. If so, one would expect a revival or maybe creation of this idea in the Reformation period given (a) the revival and growth of Biblical scholarship and (b) the growing need for catechesis. But I am guessing.
Göran - I don't mind people not having read this or that book. I don't like it much myself when people claim that one cannot possibly understand this or that issue without having read this or that book (although sometimes it is true). But I get irritated with people making wild assertions without having read anything much.
I am not a huge fan of the threefold division of the law myself, as I have indicated before, but it is of course a lot easier to lampoon it when you do not know it sufficiently well to explain its weaknesses.
I do not expect people to have read Mary Douglas or Gordon Wenham or Jacob Milgrom or ... before they ask questions about Leviticus. But your insistent shouting of "taboo" and "irrational" etc. without any hint that you are aware of the literature of the last thirty years or so on this matter is embarassing.
People do not need to know Hebrew to ask questions about the original text of the Old Testament but if you start making strange assertions about the Hebrew text, you got to be prepared to be challenged on them.
You don't need to know the latest scholarship on the Ten Commandments to say what you think a commandment means but, quite apart from its relevance to the discussion at hand, if you're not really on top of the game (and I think I can safely say that you are not if you think the discussion on the meaning of this commandment is closed), why do you presume to lecture others on it? I myself do not know of a single scholar in the last thirty years to hold the view that the commandment is about kidnapping and I know that when Alt put forward the idea originally, he also assumed that the object of the verb went missing, because he knew fully well that gnb means "to steal" and not "to kidnap". But I am not making claims one way or the other about what the commandment "originally" meant.
I think most of us are agreed on the prominence of the Ten Commandments in most Christian traditions as one of God's means of grace to show us what true love looks like and on the fact that the meaning / relevance of the Ten Commandments is usually expounded in Christian Theology in ways that may go well beyond the original (human) intent. If we go down this path, we learn from Jesus that lustful thoughts may be a form of adultery and from Leviticus that charging interest may be a form of stealing.
I still believe that there is a basic concept of Scripture which can be expressed, e.g., in the words of the first point of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, which is useful to quote because of its intended ecumenical function: "The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God." I have conceded that it is possible to use "Scripture" as a historical-cultural concept without any implication that it is "the revealed Word of God" but once you believe that the Bible contains "mere words of men" ("words of the Elders", "Ezraic social policies") mingled alongside "revealed Word of God" (the Ten Commandments?), you have departed from the Lutheran as well as any other Confessions with which I am familiar. I think this is usually called "liberalism" but I don't want to be accused of pretending to know more than I do.
Just to be clear, Göran. I have not reproached you for being "liberal" or whatever. If anything, I reproach you for taking the Lutheran Confessions in vain, so to speak.
"(2) It is noteworthy that for some whatever supports their own view is a "given" which need not be argued and whatever does not support it is such obvious nonsense that they feel no need to actually state what's wrong with it.
Merseymike provides a good example for the latter in his recent contribution. "They did not know about 'orientation' in those days." I venture to guess that he would also see no need to prove the claim that "there were no permanent, stable homosexual partnerships in those days". I could point you to...."
Oh dear, are we now going to posit the ancient lineage of contemporary study and analysis of gay/lesbian/bi orientation in order to account for injunctions against certain behaviors?
If so, let us also quickly posit the ancient lineage of demands for equality, justice and dignity for women, races, and ethnicities before we dismiss those as well.
I cannot take credit for novelty, I am afraid. Martin Luther: "for what else is all the rest of the book from here on but a most ample and clear exposition of the Ten Commandments?" (Lecture on Deuteronomy 6.2).
" (if you think the discussion on the meaning of this commandment is closed)"
Oh dear, despite, to use your own formulation, "the prominence of The 10 Commandents" in both the OT and the NT, we are still talking about what a particular one might mean?
And then you would have us believe that other matters lacking such clear prominence are...what? complete? clear? Not open to interpretation with integrity?
Thomas Renz wrote: “I cannot take credit for novelty, I am afraid. Martin Luther: "for what else is all the rest of the book from here on but a most ample and clear exposition of the Ten Commandments?"
Quite. And I have said so much:
" Surely, the 10 Commandments predate the laws of the Elders? Anyhow, I have never heard anyone claim they are a “summary” of “the parts / aspects” of the laws of men.
I did try to tell you that we do not “do” the laws of men. They are not “binding”. We reject the laws of the Elders for the Christian Church as did Jesus – and Paul.
That much of the Bible is a commentary upon the 10 Commandments (take the Sermon on the Mount or the so called “catalogues of sins/virtues” such as 1 Cor 6.9-11 and 1 Tim 1.10 – all in the order of the 10 Commandments, but far from complete) means precisely that the Commandments come first and the comments after.
The point being, that there are many different views and angles and comments possible. Every exposition is an exposition.
You should do well to reflect upon the fact that some Commandments only occur in the NT in the negative: the Sabbath was made for men not men for the Sabbath, and some not at all. "
Only that what you are doing is precisely this; turning your exposition into Law.
Further: " The distinction I make is between the Ten Commandments and the laws of men. The tradition of the Church being that the former are valid for the Church (Matt 5), the latter not (Mark 7). "
Which is what the Article IV of the Defence of the Confessio Augustana says, even in Thomas Renz’s own translation:
"in this discussion, by Law we designate the Ten Commandments, wherever they are read in the Scriptures.
Of the ceremonies and judicial laws of Moses we say nothing at present."
There you are! And please note, that “Scriptures” come in the plural.
You wrote: "mere words of men" "words of the Elders" "Ezraic social policies"
Why do you put these within quotes? They are not.
You wrote: “I myself do not know of a single scholar in the last thirty years to hold the view that the commandment is about kidnapping and I know that when Alt put forward the idea originally, he also assumed that the object of the verb went missing, because he knew fully well that gnb means "to steal" and not "to kidnap". But I am not making claims one way or the other about what the commandment "originally" meant.”
The discussion is not “kidnap”, but “steal”. There are 2 words for steal; “steal”, that is by stealth, and “rob”, that is by force.
Traditionally we had the same distinction in law between “man slaughter” and “murder”. The one was (by accident) in the open, the other was (perhaps premeditated) by stealth.
The 10 Commandments were written for a pre-modern, very collective, society. Stealth is damaging for the Household, group or clan in pre-modern societies. If the culprit is not known, mere suspicion will make the wronged Clan take revenge upon the first clan at hand. The same considerations are still very much operable with regard to rape in Swedish law.
So, why are you pretending that the word is “kidnap”?
And yes, the Swedish 1981 and 2000 translate steal “människorövare” robbers of men in 1 Tim 1.10 (but not in 1 Cor 6.9 ;=)
I am getting tired of your game, Göran. But once more, one by one, answering for myself:
Question: 1) What’s wrong with the “shellfish argument”?
Answer: For a start, it proceeds from unproven, and indeed in my view mistaken, assumptions. See post 51 for details.
Question: 2) Why is one taboo (“shellfish”) an ad hominem attack and an other (“two men in a bed”) a shibboleth?
Answer: Both “taboo” and “shibboleth” are your terms and have been questioned on various occasions. See the posts on taboo (posts 15, 32, 36, 49, 50) and my disclaimer about having a particular interest in homosexual activity or prohibition thereof. From what I have understood, you have charged me with dismissing the prohibition against eating shellfish and with supposing that Christians are under the law of Leviticus 18.22. I do not accept either charge although I see no reason for assuming that the two statements you juxtapose must function in the same way in the Christian church.
3) How can 1st Temple cultic Taboos (if at all) be "Scripture" valid for the Christian
Answer: If this is not meant as a rhetorical question (and you have taken me to task for having assumed that it was), and if you believe that Leviticus is “Scripture” (as you do, post 48) and given that you’re the one who keeps talking about “1st Temple cultic Taboos”, is that not a question you ought to be asking while looking in the mirror? My own answer was that the book of Leviticus is “Scripture” valid for the Christian Church whether or not there are taboos in it (post 15, see also post 24) and that the question of how precisely these “taboos” are valid for the Christian Church cannot be dealt with in a paragraph or two (post 43).
4) How can calling Taboos something they are not and cannot be (civil, ceremonial, moral) be "application" of scripture?
Answer: Again you assume that the prohibitions / statements in questions are taboos (see on questions 2 and 3), then you further assume that if something is a taboo, it cannot be something else which is a non sequitur (you will remember post 16 as an unhappy attempt to illustrate this).
Question: 5) (added) How do committed, lifelong, monogamous (same sex) relationships fall under the VII (6th) Commandment?
Answer: You probably wrote this before you saw my reply to Abigail Ann Young. So Post 34 does not apply in this case, although it does apply in the other cases.
RMF - You said something very true earlier on about "how the Scriptures are to be interpreted in light of the Lord's teaching to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves". The reverse is also true, I believe. You talked about "justice and mercy and dignity" - now, would that not involve reading more carefully and charitably what I have written?
This conversation may be fascinating, but it is not converging, nor is it addressing the original issues raised by the Bishop of Bangor's letter. So I am calling time and closing comments on this item.
Thank you all for taking part.