Comments: Lambeth: Canadian perspectives

Deller's friend's assessment of the dynamics is reasonable, and the model of the family that Sumner alludes to provides insights.

In some households there is the "authority" figure who is responsible for the family's "reputation". In highly rigid families, there is little room for things that might "disgrace" the family, and members who might dishonor the family are shunned or cast out. In extreme circumstances, members may resort to murdering the "shameful" members, and in that sense Sumner's allusion to other fundamentalist faiths is pertinent. There are faiths who live in societies who either openly endorse or covertly aid and abett the abuse and/or murder of "offensive" souls - e.g. feisty women.

Whilst being shut out of a rigid family might be hurtful or even traumatic, in a diverse society, those individuals can go on to make new lives away from the family that cast them out. In unhealthy societies, shunned members are pursued and abused, even if they try to move away from their family that has rejected them.

There is not a problem with conservatives wanting to be "free" of feisty women, GLBTs or the realities of "other" souls within their communion. There is a problem when they choose to pursue such souls outside of their communion e.g. attempting to lose people their jobs, threatening their lives, lobbying for repression in otherwise liberal circles, slandering their reputations and sabotaging their relationships. Some might call upon 2000 years of precedent, forgetting that Jesus had come to overturn 1000 earlier years of repression and that such conduct comes from core paradigms that Jesus repudiated.

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Thursday, 4 September 2008 at 5:34pm BST

"George Elliott, suffragan bishop of Toronto (York-Simcoe), said, “I don’t think there’s a going back. I think there are ways in which we can perhaps slow down or continue to consider what a moratorium might be. But I don’t think it’s possible to go back. I don’t think it’s fair to go back.” He said that dioceses that have moved ahead “and done [same-sex blessings] faithfully,” have done it in the context of Canadian church polity. “It would be absolutely devastating to even think about moving back to where we were before.”"

Well said, Bishop Elliott. God bless the Anglican Church of Canada!

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 4 September 2008 at 7:15pm BST

Is there anything new in Deller's piece? Interesting that he uses the word's "stepping back from full inclsuion."

If inclusion means "civil rights and accepted in society" then most people in our setting are with him. But it is evident he means same-sex relationships endorsed and equated with Christian marriage, he is living in fantasy land (what is '98.1.10 about?). Has the Anglican communion been there so it can step back from that? Just shows what he wants and wants to assume. More accurately: Historic Christian Moral Teaching - Liberals Stepping Back From Full Commitment.

Of course he must take the inevitable swipe at evangelicals, the equation with Islamic fundamentalism. And we get once more the old canard that evangelicals insist on "treating the scriptures as the centre of faith rather than the living Lord Jesus Christ." To think twice is to recognize this as a false distinction.

The question for evangelicals is precisely, is Jesus acknowledged as Lord? If so it follows we hear him in word and deed. There are many differences between Christians but one thing most see is that we depend on apostolic witness to Jesus Christ for our faith. Yes the call is to know and follow the "living Lord Jesus Christ." How will you know and follow him? You cannot separate Jesus from the witness to him inscribed in scripture. So evangelicals treasure scripture. But hardly the people Deller is sure he knows who mistake the book for Jesus, that is just trotting out the same old false rhetoric - that like old fish already smells.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Thursday, 4 September 2008 at 8:07pm BST

(About 10 Canadian Anglican churches have put themselves under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone.) -
Marites N. Sison.

Herein is one of the emerging problems of the WCG proposition for moratoria on various activities in the Communion. If the Dissidents who have already declared their independence of TEC and the A.C.of Canada have already declared their stance of non-compliance; how possibly can the WCG expect the Canadian Church to accede to what amounts to a one-sided moratorium?

Ben. W. still does not seem to understand that God's Word has become flesh in Jesus Christ, and that means that the words of the Scriptures have to take their proper place in the order of things - as a pointer to the object of our worship, and not the object itself.

Like the Sabbath, the Scriptures were made for man - not the other way round. Now that God';s Word has appeared, it is He whom we worship, not the Book of Instruction. It is Jesus who is the 'Author and Finisher of our Faith'.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 12:23am BST

(what is '98.1.10 about?)

Let me see, there was something about affirming that gay people are loved by God, and that the Church, while taking the Biblical view, should listen to their experience as Christians. That the Church should take them seriously enough to genuinely __l i s t e n__ to them, as had been resolved in previous Lambeth shindigs. OK, it says nothing about what should be done next, but that boat has already sailed.

The real question for Evangelicals of a certain stripe is: when are you going to abide by the WHOLE of your favourite Lambeth resolution?

Posted by kieran crichton at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 1:33am BST

Ben W wrote in his usual bombastic fashion “Historic Christian Moral Teaching – Liberals Stepping Back From Full Commitment.”

How about not falling into the trap of overt American political language “Falling Back From”, but instead say that some refuse to consider the Gnosticisms of Ancient Alexandria “Historic Christian Moral Teaching” rather than “historic” – a sad fact of the history of Academic quasi-intellectualism, going back to the hey-day of Hellenism of the Museiån; the multi institution of Ancient Alexandria (library, gymnasium, “cruising” in one ;=), but having little to do with the Bible (the Gospel of God’s Righteousness in Christ) or even Plato himself – who lived 500 years earlier in different circumstances in a different city on a different continent...

“Historic” it ain’t, but historic, “Christian” even less, “Moral” not at all. Teaching – Feh!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 7:56am BST

BenW: "If... it is evident he means same-sex relationships endorsed and equated with Christian marriage, he is living in fantasy land"

The fantasy land, I am afraid Ben, is the one you are still in, viz England in the moral climate of the 1950s: in countries which have non-discriminatory marriage laws, the reality is, that marriage is the same for straight and gay people.

This is the reality in Canada, as also in S Africa and half a dozen (and increasing) EU countries: it will come soon in the UK too, so it would be better for churchpeople to get used to reality rather than retreat into fantasy.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 8:06am BST

Fr Mark,

I understand you equate "same-sex relationships with marriage," and I am well aware that when autonomy and individual choice become the ultimate value (i.e. when "God is not honoured as God" some things follow, Rom 1:21, 24-32).

I know people can set themselves up as they have done in certain countries and have largely lost their moral bearings. I live in Canada (so much for your presumption!).

The question is who and what defines marriage? Is that something that is given with the very way God has created us? Or is it something we can simply impose at our own will? So in society people may come to define all kinds of things as "marriage," we already have the polygamy champions who equate this with "Christian marriage." As to historic Christian moral teaching, you and I both know this is evasion - "stepping back from full commitment."

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 2:08pm BST

Ron Smith,

Since you have not heard what I have said before ... and before that ... I will be brief and to the point. (Kieran C above needs to speak to you).

I said "The question . . . is precisely, is Jesus acknowledged as Lord? If so it follows we hear him in word and deed." That is real incarnation, not some "plastic" Jesus (molded in the image of our "likes and preferences"), but one who has some real things to say and do and a mission to call people to participate in the kingdom of God (not our little idea).

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 2:57pm BST

Kieran C,

There has been time to listen. How well it has gone you and I can both judge (do you see how that is often little more than a platitude for people here who talk it?).

I think it is not so much a question at this stage of listening (we have been there now for decades), for people in large parts of the communion the question now is when does the time for discernment and action come? The call to listen may become a convenient tactic to co-opt others not part of "the cause." Who is more "absolutist" today than people of "the cause?" Once installed there what place is there for listening and learning?

If or when the time comes to decide whether polygamy is accepted as marriage what will we do? Listen and understand where people are coming from, but the faith and moral life of the church is not finally determined by the fads and obsessions of culture. The church, if it knows the faith in which it stands, will in accord with its calling affirm historic Christian teaching.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 4:22pm BST

Ben

"The question for evangelicals is precisely, is Jesus acknowledged as Lord? If so it follows we hear him in word and deed."

Yes, but unlike Muslims and the Koran, we do not believe that His Words have been dictated, copied out verbatim by scribes and then translated without error throughout the millennia.

We believe they were written down by fallible people decades after the event, each trying to capture the essence of what this Jesus had preached.

I'm finding it really difficult to understand how anyone can take these accounts as literal truth - when even absolutely major events like the resurrection accounts are different in all the gospels.

And taking a few passages from Leviticus and a couple more from St Paul's letters and then stating that these are, faithfully, the Words of the Lord is nothing but fanciful.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 4:46pm BST

My old school chum Walter isn't living in fantasy-land. He's living in Saskatoon. And in Saskatoon, like the rest of Canada, same sex marriage is established in law and even the current hard right federal government has no desire to revisit the question.

And BTW, Ben, the Word of God is Jesus - who is not confined and limited to the pages of a book. And the witness to Jesus is His Body the Church - which is likewise not limited to the pages of a book.

I am often quite struck by how circumscribed a God some "conservatives" believe in.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 6:15pm BST

"The question for evangelicals is precisely, is Jesus acknowledged as Lord? If.....we depend on apostolic witness to Jesus Christ for our faith. Yes the call is to know and follow the "living Lord Jesus Christ." How will you know and follow him? You cannot separate Jesus from the witness to him inscribed in scripture. So evangelicals treasure scripture."

Ben, this is the crux of the matter. For Evangelicals, there is ONE witness to Christ: the "Apostolic witness" as, I guess, delineated in Scripture. But Scripture is NOT the only witness to the Living God. Scripture is PART of that witness. The restriction of the witness of Christ to Scripture only is, I feel, where Evanglicalism goes astray. So, catholic minded Anglicans treasure Scripture, but we also treasure the Sacrament by which He is incarnate on our Altars every week, and we meet Him there, not in pious memory, but incarnate in the Bread and Wine, and we treasure the implications that has for our engagement with the world. We treasure a tradition that tells us the Spirit leads us into all truth, and She does that in many ways, not merely by telling us how to understand the meanings of individual passages of Scripture. Evangelicals are right, we have very different understandings of authority. The question is, can we live together with those different understandings without denying each other's faith? Till now, frankly, Evangelicals do not seem able to do so. While I do see scorn and reviling of Evangelicals from the Left, I don't think there has been anything from liberals equalling the statements most recently expressed in the Jerusalem Declaration. I have grown up around Evangelicals who consistently denied that I am a Christian. They were not Anglicans. I am dismayed to find that now, the Evangelicals telling me I am not a Christian ARE Anglican. We don't even speak the same language. For instance, what does it mean to acknowledge Jesus as Lord? Seriously. I have no idea what you are asking. An example: for me, the question "Are you saved?" is a very hard one to answer, requires great nuance, and frankly, there's something wrong with either 'yes' or 'no'. I suspect for you it's easy. But, I'd like to ask every Evangelical here: what's the most important act of Christian worship?

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 6:42pm BST

Hi Ben W,
I just ran across a pithy notion from Tobias Haller's blog, so here is part of my two cents:

Quote.
Thought for 09.01.08
We should no more expect the Scripture to provide a reasoned explanation for human psychosexuality than we should expect it to provide us with an accurate value for Pi.

Tobias Haller BSG
Unquote.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 8:12pm BST

Ben W: well, please don't presume about me either: I don't live in the UK, but in another EU country which has same sex marriage, and it is entirely uncontroversial. Same sex couples live out their marriages just the same as straight ones. It is really derogatory to suggest there is a qualitative difference - there plainly isn't.

"Stepping back from full commitment" is surely what you could accuse people of if they are denied the right to opt for marriage, isn't it? You can hardly tell people they can't marry and then blame them for being less than fully committed!

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 5 September 2008 at 9:00pm BST

Ford,

We may not in the end agree but it would be progress at least if some misunderstandings and distorions could be cleared away.

You say, this is the crux of the matter, "For Evangelicals, there is ONE witness to Christ..." And you go on to say, "The restriction of the witness of Christ to Scripture only is, I feel, where Evanglicalism goes astray." We do see this differently but this as you state it - at the very least - is blatant misunderstanding, I have referred constantly to "historic Christian teaching;" I think it is critical that we hear and receive scripture in the context of the church (and the history of the early church in particular is of decisive importance for interpretation of the faith); I receive the communion weekly as the place to commune with the the Lord; and I believe the Spirit is still at work to guide and sustain God's people!

There is no "restriction of the witness of Christ to Scripture only." That is fantasy. The question is can we function in any of these areas of faith and life APART from the apostolic witness? It says already of the first Christians that "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching." (Acts 2:42). So our worship, our moral teaching, our witness to Christ stands in continuity with Jesus Christ. That indeed is the test of faithful teaching. It says directly the Spirit "will remind you of everything I have said ... will testify about me ... will take what is mine and make it known to you." (John 14,15,16). Why insist on separating what the Lord has made one?

Ben W

Posted by Ben w at Saturday, 6 September 2008 at 3:53am BST

Erika,

There is an array of assumptions in this response: about how and when the gospels came to be written, about "a few texts in Leviticus and Paul" (the rock is Jesus' affirmation of marriage between "male and female as at the beginning").

You are quite ready to affirm error at any point - is this just a matter of preferrence ("well I don,t like it, must be error"). If it is all that uncertain why claim to be a Christian? What can you affirm? If the Gospels provided what you seem to expect, one worked out account of things I would not accept it, that would be a group con job!

We do affirm that the gospel witness is based on "eyewitness testimony" (Luke 1:1-4; John 1:14; 1Cor 15:1-11). That is not simply the witness of the NT that is also the historic faith of the church.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Saturday, 6 September 2008 at 4:23am BST

drdanfee,

See my post to Erika above and the questions there.

We affirm that scripture is valid in what it affirms (of course not in what it does not speak of!).If you are looking for scientific details on this scripture was not given to provide that, just as it was not written to give us the details of the geology of the earthquake fault in California. If you want to take your path you could say about any sexual issue, scripture is not relevant whether it is polyamory, adultery or incest etc., and and so negate the meaning and the evade the teaching of scripture. Can you just "make up the faith" as you go? The question is do we affirm the historic faith of the church?

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Saturday, 6 September 2008 at 4:34am BST

Dear Ford Elms, you have again hit the nail squarely on the head. You, too, Malcolm+. What a pity, Malcolm, that your ex school chum didn't listen a little more attentively to basic points of logic in class. Was he always so circuitous in his arguments as on this site? If so, it's no wonder very few of us can get around to any sort of understanding of what he's getting at.

I think, Ford, that your statement about the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is often not understood by some of our Evangelical friends. It does seem that, to most of them, the lectern and the pulpit are more imoportant than the place of the altar in their practice of worship.

If only they could take to heart the prayer of a simple Asian priest who, after receiving the Sacrament of Christ, would sing these words:
"God is with me now; God is with me now; Closer than breathing, closer than hands and feet; God is with me now, God is with me now."

The words of Jesus were: "Do this to remember me"
The Greek word 'amnamnesis' implies an eternal presencing of Christ, incarnate, crucified, resurrected and glorified. How close can one get?
It is in this understanding of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that we can be fed in heart mind, and spirit - as well as body - by the Word of God made flesh. Jesus provided us intentionally with this precious means of access to himself - which is worth a thousand words from the Book - which is the guide and not the prize.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 6 September 2008 at 6:01am BST

"God is with me now; God is with me now; Closer than breathing, closer than hands and feet; God is with me now, God is with me now."

As Mohammed said; "Closer even than my artery"

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 6 September 2008 at 8:41am BST

Ben
"What can you affirm?"

I refer you to the TA archives where I and others here have answered this question for you, on average once every fortnight.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 6 September 2008 at 9:54am BST

"If or when the time comes to decide whether polygamy is accepted as marriage what will we do?"

Ben, what did you do when the 1988 Lambeth conference allowed polygamy under specific circumstances in Africa? How was that not a case of special pleading based on cultural issues? It was certainly a result of listening with an open mind, and was never shouted down as "stepping back from full commitment" to the ideal of Christian marriage.

Really, you people seem to have memories like a sieve for your history. I guess that makes moral crusading a little easier.

Posted by kieran crichton at Saturday, 6 September 2008 at 2:34pm BST

Kieran C,

You refer to the earlier situation dealing with polygamy, certainly operate with concern for people and their circumstances (and I am speaking of any situation).

At the same time it was never a stepping back from full commitment to historic Christian teaching, no campaign to change the law to simply legalize polygamy, no equating of polygamy with Christian marriage and calling for God's blessing on it as such.

My phrase about stepping back as you will recall, if fairness matters to you, was actually Deller's which I thought was presumptive. My take off on his words was an effort to keep things true and clear (no attempt to shout anybody down?!). Now have I got that right? By all means let's keep the history straight.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Sunday, 7 September 2008 at 2:37am BST

The Jesus of scriptures did not seem overly worried about marital status. He had no problem beginning his public ministry with a Samaritan woman who was living in her non-marital and fifth relationship.

He had no problem calling on people to walk away from their families in order to follow him.

He didn't bust a gut to take his own wife and raise his own family.

He did have a thing about accepting people and allowing them to partake of the gospel and healing, through faith and not legalism and not their circumstances nor by their deeds alone.

Some seem to think that the point of Christianity was to become "the new Jews". The problem is they thought that was to become the very things about Judaism that Jesus was trying to heal. Touting back to 2000 years of scriptural authority, based on 1000 years of precedence before that merely confirms that they have failed to understand the core paradigms that Jesus stood for and for whom souls at all levels of Creation co-operated to make manifest that desire for universal and inclusive peace.

Matthew 25:41-43 refusing to clothe or provide for the least of souls is a fundamenatal transgression against why Jesus was ordained to be responsible for ALL occupants of this planet.

Posted by Cheryl Va. at Sunday, 7 September 2008 at 10:52am BST

"I have referred constantly to "historic Christian teaching"

Ben, "historic Christian teaching" includes things like the idea that the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist actually BECOME, in some sense, the Body and Blood of Christ. It also contains baptismal regeneration, veneration of images, invocation of saints, particularly the Mother of God, and on and on. All these things come out of a particular understanding of the Incarnation or of the victory of Christ on the Cross. Yet, to varying degrees, they are rejected by the different types of Evangelicalism. My point, as always, is not whether or not Evangelicals are correct in rejecting thesse things, though my personal belief is that they are. My point is that, if one practices this style of Christianity, one cannot claim to be "orthodox" nor defending the "faith once and for all delivered to the saints" nor "defending historic Christian teaching". I have no idea what you personally believe about these things, but, in general, Evangelicals reject them, thus the claim of some sort of adherence to tradition on their part is false. Their beliefs may still be true, but that isn't the point. Also, please, what does it mean to "affirm that Jesus is Lord"? What does it mean to "affirm" anything? I recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday, does that mean anything to you? For me, it is a statement of my faith, I'm not sure though if it counts as an affirmation of anything in your sense. I'm not being my usual sarcastic self here, I truly don't understad what you mean or why you consider it important.

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 7 September 2008 at 1:03pm BST

Ford,

We can think of one another from within a very narrow base. And there is a range of thought and emphasis within these churches (so we cannot take a few things we heard from some small group or other and pin that on everybody).

"Evangelical" in Europe came to prominence with those churches "renewed in the gospel" after the Reformation (i.e. centered in the gospel vs some other centre such as tradition etc).

I use it to refer to faith and life defined from or in continuity with the gospel. There were sometimes extremes and blindspots on both sides. On many of the matters you mention people have been finding their way to a better balance. Have you heard of the accord reached after years of work, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together"? There has been renewal of thought and teaching on both sides, Catholics are careful to understand the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ notin some literalist way, and evangelicals emphasize that we do meet and receive Christ in the communion in a real way. That goes for all the points you mention.

I certainly accept the Nicene creed, as would most evangelicals. Now that would not be true in a clear way for quite few as we see regularly on this list! (It would not be accepted in accord with historic Christian teaching but only with a lot of "redefinition" as we get for example in J S Spong or +Ingham).

Jesus as Lord (cf Rom 10:9-13), confessing Christ as Lord in accord with the witness of the gospel. If he is Lord then the culture or society is not, whether it is on the issues of war, ecology, abortion etc. Enough.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Sunday, 7 September 2008 at 9:26pm BST

"Catholics are careful to understand the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ not in some literalist way, and evangelicals emphasize that we do meet and receive Christ in the communion in a real way. That goes for all the points you mention." - Ben W

I'm not at all sure that you really understand exactly what you are claiming here, Ben W, about the Catholic understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. You seem to be saying that we are agnostic of the existential reality of what Jesus hiomself promised in the Scriptures

"I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him" - (Gospel of John, chapter 6:53-56).

If, indeed you choose to describe belief in these words of Jesus from the Gospel as something other than 'literalist', then so be it. These are the recorded words of the Word-made-flesh, and not merely 'words in as book' - from other people. The point here is that these words of Jesus have been taken at their face value, and within the context of the traditional liturgy of the Church (inspired by the Holy Spirit) thery have 'come alive' to believers in Jesus; as The Way, the Truth, and The Life of his Gospel.

To receive Christ in the Eucharist - believing in his 'real Presence' therein - is to know him as Lord and Saviour. This is why the liturgy is so important to Catholics; action speaks louder than words.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 1:43am BST

Ben
"If he is Lord then the culture or society is not, whether it is on the issues of war, ecology, abortion etc. Enough."

Isn't the problem that Jesus did not actually say anything about ecology and abortion?
Isn't the problem that we often don't know what he would have said, but have to find a way of discernment, using his teachings and his actions as guides?
And isn't that, precisely, why we sometimes come to different conclusions?

War is an even more interesting point, because it is forbidden, fullstop. And yet, right wing Christians all over the world support war. And during the second world war, truly committed Christians like Bonhoeffer even entered the fray themselves, for very very good reasons.

To say Jesus is Lord does not allow us to sit back and look for easy answers in the bible.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 8:00am BST

Ben W: "If he is Lord then the culture or society is not, whether it is on the issues of war, ecology, abortion etc. Enough."

Great, so you will be aware then, Ben, that the most counter-cultural people you're ever likely to come across in your average C of E church are its gay members?

Posted by Fr Mark at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 8:23am BST

"Now that would not be true in a clear way for quite few as we see regularly on this list!"

Ben, I have internet contact with very left wing Christians. What has struck me about them, honestly, is how Credal and Incarnational their faith is. I have learned a great deal from them, actually, backed up with quotes from Scripture and the Fathers. That's part of the reason I take such offence at denials of their faith.

"If he is Lord then the culture or society is not, whether it is on the issues of war, ecology, abortion etc. Enough."

Absolutely. I do not understand how you seemingly cannot accept that this is precisely the position of those you call "liberal". For me, we "affirm" it in our worship and prayer and in the way we live our lives. So, what form would such an affirmation take, and how do you see that "liberals" don't do this?

"That goes for all the points you mention"

There are Evangelical parishes who venerate icons, pray for the dead, invoke the saints, practice devotion to the Mother of God, and venerate the Sacramental Elements? The Dean of the cathedral in Sydney would vehemently disagree with you, I think. If "a better balance" was necessary, and it is a process, that would suggest that some Evangelicals are coming to an understanding of how far they are from "traditional Christianity", what else could be "out of balance"? Ben, I cannot make definite statements about correctness of faith. Who can? All I am saying is that if Evangelicals want to defend what they consider to be right, they do themselves a disservice appealing to a tradition they do not follow. There are other ways to defend the position than to lay claim to something that is manifestly untrue.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 1:13pm BST

"it is on the issues of war, ecology, abortion etc."

War:
the prevailing culture: war is acceptable, probably evil, but can be done in a just fashion, though we won't push to hard on what is defined as just, and there are sanctions only against certain groups who carry it out unjustly. American Evangelicals especially see specific actions of Jesus as condoning violence.
"liberals": war is evil and cannot be made good.

Ecology: the prevailing culture: nature must serve the needs of humans and must take second place to economic factors. Global warming is at best a poorly understood natural phenomenon, most likely a "liberal" lie.
"liberals": we are called to be stewards of Creation, and we are doing a poor job of it. Sadly, there is way too much acceptance of the lies of the animal rights industry, all the same.

abortion: prevailing society: two views: the traditional power brokers assert that abortion is wrong. Some add that those who practice it are fit targets for violence to "stop the slaughter" This has been changing, and more elements of the prevailing society accept the second view, that it is a woman's right, and nothing to be concerned about,
"liberals": abortion is a necessary evil, one that has not been rigidly agreed on over the centuries by the Church. It is regrettable, but a better approach is to make abortion unnecessary through social projects that try to address the roots of the problem rather than stigmatizing those who seek it out. However one feels, no woman should have to die for an abortion.

So, who's countercultural?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 1:50pm BST

Ron Smith,

First, you say, "I'm not at all sure that you really understand exactly what you are claiming here ..." about the eucharist because you assume about me what you have have already thought without listening to what I have said again and again. Catholics themselves have come to see that in certain respects the eucharist became encrusted with false and sometimes "magical" ideas.

And I said or assume exactly nothing about you being "agnostic" about the presence of Jesus in the eucharist. We all know Jesus uses many metaphors to speak of himself and his mission - water, bread, way, shepherd etc. (all the words of the "Word made flesh"). "Not literal" does not mean "not real." If you want to be literalist about it you will hear Jesus say "I am the door for the sheep" and understand him to be a door swinging on hinges!

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 2:11pm BST

Erika,

You and I agree, on some of these matters we depend on reference points that are not explicit or direct ("thou shalt or thou shalt not etc").

That would be true of ecology or abortion as such, but when we reflect on what we do have and what is said about creation or about life as God's gift we have a basis for direction. We take seriously what we are given and discern on the basis of that. We are given explicit word about the meaning of marriage and faithfulness, as we are about many other things.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 2:28pm BST

Ben W wrote: “"Evangelical" in Europe came to prominence with those churches "renewed in the gospel" after the Reformation (i.e. centred in the gospel vs. some other centre such as tradition etc).”

Oh, no. "Evangelical" in Europe was primarily a theological get-away and a political lie, the Radicals of Neo Humanism wanting to present themselves as Gospel-based, instead of Law-based… This was the (political) use whereby they claimed the (considerable) advantages of being catholic according to the 1555 Treaty of Augsburg, that is adherents of the 1530 Confessio augustana (which being a compromise formula remained silent on all the sticky points ;=)

They weren’t. Instead they cited the more radical-leaning 1540 Augustana variata a s if it was the 1530 Augustana...

There is also an East-leaning Augustana variatissima of 1548 ;=)

So, “Evangelic” was not a question of Gospel vs. Roman, but of Catholic tradition vs. Calvinist innovation. In the minds of the Lutherans both Rome and Geneva were equally Schismatic and Sectarian in their respective ecclesiologies.

Incidentally, Dr Calvin †1563 did not, as the Calvinists do post 1564, agree with the Zwinglians (the real absence, as Ford calls it ;=) Instead he agreed with Dr Phillipp Melanchthon (and obviously with Ben W above) that the Presence is found in the shared commonality of the Rite.

20th century “Evangelical” is a different matter altogether. So is Spong.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 3:04pm BST

Ford,

To be fair, I think we would all have to acknowledge there has been much "selective" hearing among Christians on all sides of some of these issues. And I have never said that all liberals deny all of the basics of the faith! But open your eyes to what is right before you, I was talking about what we get on this list itself regularly.

So it is true Christians across the board have in the past miserably failed at times to heed Christ as Lord. But when one says for instance the right has simply supported the recent war this is either flagrant ignorance or deliberate slander (e.g. there has been no more outspoken critic of easy resort to war or of the recent war than Ronald Sider in the US or N T Wright in Britain, and they do not just speak for themselves).

On ecology, again you polarize and end by painting liberals white. Only in fantasy. On abortion, evangelicals have not always been well nuanced but they have stood for what is basic here (who on either side says the mother's life must be sacrificed if it comes to that? Once more resort to misrepresentation to evade the truth). After many millions of abortions we know that for liberals there has generally been ready justificatioon of abortion (even of a child about to be born without danger to the mother!) because there was one absolute for them - derived from the culture - of 'individual rights" or "choice" (we might not resort to this in basic moral right or wrong in some other areas, but this became the liberal "icon" for which millions of lives might be sacrificed - otherwise they would now be with us as sharers in life). Important matters involved here.

Ben W


Posted by Ben W at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 3:16pm BST

Ben
"We take seriously what we are given and discern on the basis of that.”

I agree. But we still have to understand that we "discern", i.e. we are using our own brains to try to understand the meaning of what it written.

And that implies the possibility that we come to different conclusions, based on the different bible stories or verses we focus on, or based on different weightings we give different verses.

And so it can be crystal clear for some Christians that war is never allowed, whereas it can be just as crystal clear for others that it can sometimes be allowed.

I hope we will soon get to the point where we can say the same about what we mean by "marriage" and who it might and might not include.

The strange thing is how naturally we split people into liberal/conservative-evangelical groups based on their views on one single issue. And it's true that every new debate pushes those who see things in a different light are first automatically into the liberal camp because, by definition, conservatives are hesitant about change.

The most fascinating conversation I have had recently was with a gay activist who says he wishes the debate could be settled soon, because by inclination and tenets of belief he belongs firmly in the conservative camp. The only thing that stops him from settling there is that the conservatives class him as a liberal (and liberals claim him for their side) because they judge him by nothing other than his sexuality and his campaign to be fully accepted into the church.

Once a contentious issue is settled and we accept that different points of view are possible, it’s surprising how many supposed liberals find their slots in all other shades of the Christian faith.
Which is why, as you point out to Ford, a large number of prominent conservatives have loudly opposed the Iraq war.

As regards abortion, I wonder whether you aren’t confusing liberals in society in general, and liberal Christians? I do not know a single liberal Christian who treats abortion as casually as you appear to believe.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 5:24pm BST

"the right has simply supported the recent war this is either flagrant ignorance or deliberate slander "

Indeed. I never said they ALL did. But, conservative Evangelical Churches in the US did hold recruiting drives in their sanctuary spaces, and the millennialist ideas of people like John Haggee HAVE been a big part of Bush's foreign policy. Major right wing Evangelical figures in the US HAVE been in support of it.

"On ecology, again you polarize and end by painting liberals white."

Partially guilty, but I do not support liberal positions on the environment in the not infrequent times they base their ideas on the falsehood put out by the animal rights industry. They certainly aren't "white" in those instances. Furthermore, I know there are Evangelicals for whom this is an issue. But, who in modern Western Christianity is casting doubt on global warming and painting it as a liberal lie, as an example?

"(who) on either side says the mother's life must be sacrificed if it comes to that?"

No-one outright, but banning abortion will lead us back to the days when women died from backroom abortions. Is that even an issue for the Right?

"we know that for liberals there has generally been ready justificatioon of abortion....one absolute for them - derived from the culture - of 'individual rights" or "choice" "

I know of no "liberal" Christians for whom this is true. This is a generalization on your part. Furthermore, why must you attribute the reasons of those Christians you call "liberal" to an absolute "derived from culture"? Can you see no other reason why liberals might support abortion other than seeking to comply with the surrounding culture?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 6:32pm BST

And, Ben, I'm sorry to keep harping on this, but what form would you see an "affirmation of Jesus as Lord" taking? How do you see liberals NOT doing this? To me, most liberal actions are based on the premise that Jesus gave us two great commandments: love God, love your neighbour. You may not agree with their methods, but do you not see the actions of the Left as an attempt to obey that second commandment, however misguided you might believe that attempt to be? That's what I was getting at in my response to your comments on abortion: you seem unable, or unwilling, to understand the actions of the left as anything other than a capitulation to society, when I see it as an attempt, and I might agree with you at least partially as to the misguidedness of that attempt, to follow the Gospel. This is why I keep going on at the whole "orthodox", "reasserters" vs "revisionist" persecution myth. It is simply not the case that liberals are abandoning the Gospel in search of the world's approval, yet it seems conservatives cannot acknowledge that.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 6:38pm BST

Ben W wrote: “… who on either side says the mother's life must be sacrificed if it comes to that?”

I, for one, distinctly remember seeing a film on French State Television in March 1973 on precisely that theme: “The mother's life must be sacrificed if it comes to that.” But maybe that also was an evasion from culture?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 7:07pm BST

Erika,

I know people are in various places and we face the challenge of really hearing Christ if we confess him as Lord.

In that light what are we trying to do? Justify the blindspots of the past - whether about war or abortion - or learn from them and return to historic Christian teaching? I see no future and no fithfulness in justifying any position simply by the modernist/reductionist view that says we all see this differently so we will just accept it.

You say some people will focus on one set of texts and some on another. Well where is the set of texts that even indicates that same-sex marriage is another way from God for marriage? There are none. For example, that God intends monogamy in marriage I think is clear (most of us will accept that), but there are references to its practise that some will use to justify polygamy. On the question of same-sex there is no contrary reference - what we have all goes in one direction. It is clearer than the issue of polygamy and as clear as the teaching about adultery.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Monday, 8 September 2008 at 7:22pm BST

"On the question of same-sex there is no contrary reference - what we have all goes in one direction. It is clearer than the issue of polygamy and as clear as the teaching about adultery."

This is true only if we accept that the "traditional" translations that turn Biblical Greek words into the modern term "homosexual" (or its equivalent) are correct. Many of us do not. It is also only true if we accept that these verses--accurately translated or not--are the work of the Spirit or are simply reflections of the culture at the time of the writing (or even at the time of the translation!)....

What you see as clear many of us see as opaque.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 12:09am BST

Ford,

I put it that way about the "right" supporting the war because one person here made just that statement and you were very general in your statement (are evangelicals simply to be equated with "the right"?).

And when you refer to John Haggee, whom does he speak for? He has his own church and his own teaching and very little more. He hardly speaks for evangelicals as such.

About the mother's life in abortion, with good medicine (and we are for that on all sides - and compassion for people in difficult circumstances), it is now actually rare for this to be an issue, so it is little more than melodrama for effect to continue to speak about "banning abortion will lead us back to the days when women died from backroom abortions."

You speak of liberals as those for whom the great commandment to love God and neighbor is important. To the extent that is so great. This however is regularly even unconsciuosly subordinated to their true absolute. What has been and is "absolute" in this culture and for many liberals is "individual rights and choice." We can see it in this and other areas, it is the absolute because nothing must be allowed to get in the way of that, not even if millions of lives have to be sacrificed.

Please do not say now that there are no "liberal Christians" who have supported abortion rights to the full extent (we have had an outcry on the list to defend it when questioned!). Don't you know the present Democrat candidate (whatever good we want to say about him on other counts) in the US as well as the former president - as have leading people in church and society in Canada - adamantly defended it, all the while claiming to be Christian?

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 2:25am BST

Ben W.

One of the basic problems with your theology is that you seem to perceive some sort of robotic response as being the only true reaction to the Gospel. When God created human kind, God gave us the privilege of saying either Yes or No to God's invitation to believe in God (or not). One of our most reasured human faculties is that of a clear mind - with which we are invited to recognise and 'know' God's special place in our lives. To present God as a vengeful manipulator of souls is to do God a great injustice. "What I desire is mercy, and not sacrifice". - Sweet Reason!

I often think that the 'exclusives' in the right wing element of the Church have all too readily assumed the title of 'Evangelical", when the true meaning of that word is characterised by the elements of 'Good News' brought into the world, preeminently, by the Incarnation of Jesus Christ as Son of God, Redeemer of the World.

In his resistance to the implacable exclusivity practised by many of the Scribes and Pharisees of his day, Jesus often demonstrated his desire to overcome the puritanical paradigm of their ministry, in order to replace it with God's requirement of mercy and justice. He 'opened the kingdom of Heaven to all believers'.

The Good News of Jesus Christ ought never to be presented as bad news - to anyone. "The humble shall hear and be glad".

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 7:47am BST

Ben

" see no future and no fithfulness in justifying any position simply by the modernist/reductionist view that says we all see this differently so we will just accept it."

Well, if you will insist on denigrating anyone's motives but your own, you will remain in the deeply entrenched prejudiced corner you've painted yourself in.
It does not make you right, though, just prejudiced.

"Well where is the set of texts that even indicates that same-sex marriage is another way from God for marriage? There are none"

For the umpteenth time I refer you to the writings of Tobias Haller on http://jintoku.blogspot.com/ (the sex articles).

Remaining in wilfull ignorance does not firm up your position.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 7:54am BST

Ben W wrote: “For example, that God intends monogamy in marriage I think is clear (most of us will accept that), but there are references to its practise that some will use to justify polygamy. On the question of same-sex there is no contrary reference – what we have all goes in one direction. It is clearer than the issue of polygamy and as clear as the teaching about adultery.”

Ben W, there is nothing in the Biblical texts addressing “same-sex” as a Concept or abstract Institution, if not the stories of David and Jonathan in Sam and the one about the Roman Centurion and his pais, his slave “boy” in Luke and Matt... Nothing.

The Concept is Modern to late modern, the subject is not addressed in the Bible. Please understand this!

Leviticus 18:22 addresses the Bed. The gloss in Romans 1:26-27 addresses HETERO-sex.

The oft-quoted “clobber” verses from Paul’s more-or-less authentic letters address d i f f e r e n t matters, not the late modern Concept of “sex”, not even that of “hetero”-sex ;=)

Please understand the concept of S i l e n c e. It is important in the Bible.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 9:55am BST

"You speak of liberals as those for whom the great commandment to love God and neighbor is important. To the extent that is so great. This however is regularly even unconsciuosly subordinated to their true absolute. What has been and is "absolute" in this culture and for many liberals is "individual rights and choice." We can see it in this and other areas, it is the absolute because nothing must be allowed to get in the way of that, not even if millions of lives have to be sacrificed."

Can you not accept that--for us--to love our neighbors as ourselves is to grant them those individual rights and choices...the same rights and choices we believe that, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, were endowed on them by their Creator?

"Please do not say now that there are no "liberal Christians" who have supported abortion rights to the full extent (we have had an outcry on the list to defend it when questioned!). Don't you know the present Democrat candidate (whatever good we want to say about him on other counts) in the US as well as the former president - as have leading people in church and society in Canada - adamantly defended it, all the while claiming to be Christian?"

Yes--because to be Christian is NOT (in a secular society) to insist that everybody else abide by OUR rules. Abortion is not a choice for you? Good. But does that mean that society, through governmental action, should make it unavailable to everybody else? I do not believe that to be so--I do not enforce my beliefs on others, just as I do not want them to enforce their beliefs on me.

BTW, Barack Obama's stance on abortion is that it should be "safe, legal, and rare."

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 11:17am BST

"He hardly speaks for evangelicals as such."

He and a large group of American Evangelicals would disagree with you. And what about Pat Buchanan, the late Dr. Falwell, and numerous others? Hagee et al DO breakfast with the President every week.

"with good medicine...it is now actually rare"

No, with free access to abortion this is rare. If abortion were illegal, a woman would not present to a physician till the peritonitis had developed, out of fear of the law. No amount of modern medicine will change that fact. She wouldn't get one in a hospital after all.

"their true absolute"

Here you are generalizing like I do. You are also denying people's faith. Can't you consider that those you call "liberals" are trying to follow the Gospel however misguided you believe they are? We both do this, Ben.

"Please do not say now that there are no "liberal Christians" who have supported abortion rights to the full extent"

Yes, there are, and there are conservatives who have advocated stoning gay people, jailing us, and on and on. Generalizing to all "liberals" what some say is the same as generalizing about all Evangelicals based on what some say. But, let's get back to the original topics:
1) since Evangelicalism specifically rejects whole swaths of what was Christian Tradition for 1500 years, many points of which come from a particular understandiong of the Incarnation, redemption, and the nature of the Christian community, they cannot claim to be defending "historic Christian teaching", regardless of the correctness of their position. If they called it "historic Protestant tradition" I'd have far less trouble with it.

2)What is an "affirmation that Jesus Christ is Lord" in a concrete sense, and how do you see "liberals" not doing that? Again, why can you not see those with whom you disagree as attempting to follow the Gospel just like you do, regardless of what you think of their beliefs?

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 1:12pm BST

Ron Smith,

You speak of the gift of a clear mind in your piece, well what is the point of this rhetoric from you without engagement of the the actual questions at issue?

As one person said here recently, just trotting out some rhetorical lines is not yet to deal with the matters in question. You say, "When God created human kind, God gave us the privilege of saying either Yes or No to God's invitation to believe in God (or not)." Yes . . . and how does that meet anything I've said? Or the call of Jesus to mercy and justice ... does that counter hearing God faithfully? (Jesus actually says, Matt 7:21-23,24-27).

I think serious engagement of scripture is the first stage of using the gift of the mind well, and certainly saying yes or no to God (that is not simply imposed in us). What IS almost "robotic" (your word), as I indicated in my earlier pieces, is to be so stuck in our culture that we can not think and act with real freedom in a renewed way (to genuflect at the "alter" of abortion on which millions of lives have now been sacrificed and call it good or call that "freedom!"

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 1:44pm BST

Ford,

On most points we have been over this and you already know the answer, I would like not to descend with you into mere rhetoric.

If we get to the crux, you say we both generalize (and we do need to be aware of stating matters fairly). So let's see ... I said many "liberal Christians" have made choice their absolute. Is that the case or not? Abortion has become the general practise in society (evidence enough that it has wide general support). You say there are, "conservatives who have advocated stoning gay people." Now when did that last happen anywhere and certainly within our western socities? Is it the practise across society anywhere? Have 1, 10, 20, 40 million been sacrificed? Now who is really generalizing?

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 2:04pm BST

Pat,

You ask whether I cannot accept that "to love our neighbors as ourselves is to grant them those individual rights and choices ..." You know it's not really about that.

Rights and choices in what context? We may have become very confused but we still know there are some lines, in our consumer society if someone steals our property, certainly if he attacks or destroys the life of another we think that is not the true meaning or use of "choice" (though we evade this and rationalze it when it comes to the child in the womb that cannot speak for itself - is that your "love of neighbor?").

It is a question of basic moral truth and right. In ancient society infanticide was prevalent (one more mouth to feed, can't provide for it or it's a girl, expose it and let it die); people had the "right to make those choices." But Christians did not follow that themselves and often took these babies in and cared for them - by word and action spoke for a better way, to the point that most of society agreed and infanticide was no longer the accepted practise.

So two things: 1)Do we still know how to stand for basic moral right in this society? 2)Do we know how to be Christian and give witness to it without thinking then "we must simply impose it on them" (the others)?

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 2:46pm BST

Erika,

You have missed what I said before ... You have me "denigrating" all others' motives.

Hardly, I think you have your own "absolutes" and as you said earlier, "what more do I need to hear." (you are sincerely attached to T Haller and convinced by his teaching. Does not mean he or you are right).

I see Haller has some valid points and there I simply agree. As in Marxist thought, there are many valid criticisms, does not mean as a whole it is right (for millions once it was the "future of the world"). Already Ireneaus (c 170 AD) saw that people can say many right and good things and be wrong; as he put it, the same stones that might make up a human face can be manipulated and used to make a dog's head. Elements of truth but the whole is a great rationalization (e.g. as in Marxism).

If you want to read two of the actual foremost scholars on this in the Bible and in the original Biblical languages read Wenham and Nolland at Fulcrum. A couple of paragraphs: "The opening chapters of the Bible are most important for setting out its theological and ethical assumptions... Genesis 1 tells us that God created man in two sexes, and told them, ‘be fruitful and multiply’. The procreation of children demands two sexes, not one. Genesis 2 tells how God made Eve out of Adam’s rib. Why did he not solve the problem of Adam’s loneliness by creating another Adam or two, or several Eves? The answer is plain: God’s design for mankind is heterosexual monogamy, not polygamy or homosexuality. It is striking how Jesus appeals to these two passages in Genesis 1 and 2 in affirming his doctrine of marriage ( Matthew 19: 4-6)...

The same is true of the New Testament situation. . . Nowhere does Jesus himself explicitly condemn homosexual acts: but silence does not imply approval. Five times Jesus refers to Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of the most wicked cities in the Old Testament. This suggests that homosexual behaviour was not an issue among first-century Jews. All brought up on the Old Testament knew it was wrong. To quote the most thorough exegetical study of the biblical material: ‘the idea that Jesus was, or might have been, personally affirming of homosexual conduct is revisionist history at its worst.’(Gagnon p. 228)."

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 4:48pm BST

"So two things: 1)Do we still know how to stand for basic moral right in this society? 2)Do we know how to be Christian and give witness to it without thinking then "we must simply impose it on them" (the others)?"

1) I think it depends on how you define "basic moral right". You take yours from a literal reading of many passages in the Bible...including some I think do not bear up under a literal reading (especially as traditionally translated). I take mine from the two Great Commandments.

2) I witness to it by a) not doing participating in abortions myself and b) arguing for its being used only when absolutely necessary. But I will not "witness to it" by promoting an absolute ban on the practice, any more than I would promote, say, an absolute ban on animal sacrifice. (In some religions--including a couple practiced in the US--animal sacrifice is as important a ritual as the Eucharist is in ours.) I don't believe in animal sacrifice, I think it's cruel and unnecessary...but if I were raised in Santeria or some American Indian cultures, I'd undoubtedly have a different belief.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 4:58pm BST

"1)Do we still know how to stand for basic moral right in this society?"

We do, Ben, we do.
But you appear to think that every moral choice is simply black and white, that there is one single moral right. There isn't.
Most moral issues are various shades of grey and we have to carefully weigh the alternatives in each individual case before we can arrive at a valid moral decision.

I'm beginning to think that this is the real difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives identify a moral wrong and then make a rule for it that applies to all people in all circumstances. Some almost appear terrified that giving people any kind of choice will automatically create havoc, because they don't really trust anyone else to make moral choices and they cannot accept any choice other than their own as moral.
Conservatives are more interested in the law than in compassion for individuals.

Liberals appear wishy washy and volatile because we tend to look at each individual case before arriving at a viewpoint. The danger is that pity and compassion can get the better of us and we tolerate well beyond the tolerable. And we often make choices where right or wrong can only be determined in hindsight, so there is a greater risk of getting it visibly wrong.

Both approaches have their value, both balance each other out, maybe both need to be continuously defended so that no extreme will win.

Because, make no mistake, extreme conservatism is just as damaging to society as extreme liberalism. Letting people do unchecked what they want to do, even when they show no sign of having a sense of personal responsibility, is as damaging as deciding once and for all how everyone in society has to live and enforcing that rigidly without understanding and compassion.

Taken to their extremes, both approaches result in people who no longer care about the suffering they’re inflicting. A liberal approach to individuals, a respect for their moral choices, combined with a strong sense of personal responsibility and values is actually the best way of living.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 5:04pm BST

"Now when did that last happen anywhere and certainly within our western socities?"

Ahmonson (sp?) within the last ten years, if I am not mistaken as to timing. He is one of the major funders of GAFCON. It is the practice in some non-Christian societies, and Christians in those societies, especially conservative Anglicans in the current debate, seem to be supportive of it. They at least haven't opposed it, unless you agree with robroy, that 5 years in jail is "a good compromise".

"Abortion has become the general practise in society (evidence enough that it has wide general support)."

But Western society isn't Christian in practice, the American constitution is quite specific on that point, actually. So whether or not secular society accepts abortion says nothing about "liberal" Christians.

In response to your questions to Pat, I would argue that so-called "liberals" feel they ARE standing for moral right. Some would even say that it is conservatives who fail to do this by supporting old oppressive social practices. I am concerned that you don't know how to witness to your faith without imposing your beliefs on others. And you still haven't clarified how you can call things like the claim there is no change in the Eucharistic elements, denial of baptismal regeneration, etc. "traditional Christian teaching". As I said, I wouldn't argue with calling it "traditional Protestant teaching". Nor have you answered why you cannot accept that "liberals", for all your disagreements with their beliefs, are trying to follow the Gospel as best they can.

"to be so stuck in our culture that we can not think and act with real freedom in a renewed way"

Most "liberals" would argue that this precisely describes conservatives.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 5:57pm BST

"Five times Jesus refers to Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of the most wicked cities in the Old Testament. "

And their sin was not homosexuality but inhospitality. They treated guests as sexual prey, without regard to gender or orientation.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 6:34pm BST

"You have me "denigrating" all others' motives."

What word would you use to describe these statements:

"the faith and moral life of the church is not finally determined by the fads and obsessions of culture."

"autonomy and individual choice become the ultimate value (i.e. when "God is not honoured as God")"
"That is real incarnation, not some "plastic" Jesus (molded in the image of our "likes and preferences)"

"Can you just "make up the faith" as you go?"

"Denigration", overt or implied seems to me to fit.


"Five times Jesus refers to Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of the most wicked cities in the Old Testament."

What does this have to do with it? The sin of Sodom wasn't sexual, unless you consider offering one's own daughters to be raped as sin, which I do.

And are you implying that Canada has lost her moral compass? I agree, and I believe it comes straight from the Conservative hostility to the 60s idea of the Just Society. The Conservatives who try to look so righteous and moral have attacked just about every moral improvement made in this country during the 60s and 70s.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 6:52pm BST

Ben
"you are sincerely attached to T Haller and convinced by his teaching. Does not mean he or you are right)."

I never said it does!
But you said there were no texts available at all to support a pro-gay view, and that is simply not true.

You really are not getting what I'm trying to say.
I have NO problem with you believing conservative theologians.

What I have a problem with is a blanket dismissal of all liberal thought and the presumption that it is automatically based on weak morals and a simple desire to pursue our own will, following cultural trends and opposing God.

It's that which really really irritates me, because it makes conversation impossible.

You would be rightly upset if I insisted that those were your motives, however much you protested that they aren't.

I choose to believe that you have honorable motives, although I believe you are sadly misguided in most of what you believe.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 7:27pm BST

Erika:

Are you actually dealing with morality here or your likes and dislikes? We can have abortions by the millions, sometimes crushing the head of the baby jsut before birth; or we can have people who speak up for the life of the child and cherish it. That is all the same, all moral. What kind of "morality" is that? Sounds more like the old "each person doing what is right in his own eyes." Why do we teach any morality at all or have any laws, just "trust people to make their choices?"

Ford: On much of this you are merely proceeding once more from assumption, you do know what I have said about eucharist (you assume something else anyway), you do not know what I believe about baptism etc.(You assume anyway what you do not know). If you want insist on old literalist "magical" forms now long since corrected in Catholic theology itself go ahead, but I am not going there with you.

When I refer to abortion you fudge the point by saying,"Well our society is not Christian." You know well enough that it is liberal Christians who worked for this?! Right here you have Pat saying, "We must support the right to abortion without restriction" (what a nice out - but not too often). How many is forty million? And what if this was a 1 week or 1 year old child down the street or your own? Do you want to keep on saying, "Well we must speak up for the right of people to choose (the true absolute)?" As I said, "that is not the real issue."

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 7:45pm BST

Ben
"Are you actually dealing with morality here or your likes and dislikes? We can have abortions by the millions, sometimes crushing the head of the baby jsut before birth; or we can have people who speak up for the life of the child and cherish it. That is all the same, all moral. What kind of "morality" is that? Sounds more like the old "each person doing what is right in his own eyes." Why do we teach any morality at all or have any laws, just "trust people to make their choices?"

And you don’t call that denigrating my motives?

Actually, it is not my likes and dislikes.
Actually, I did not say that I support the idea of crushing babies heads just before birth (does anyone do that??).
You then ask me what kind of morality that is, accusing me of supporting what I never supported.

Is this really how you wish our conversation to continue?
Are you really not capable of taking me seriously?
Are you really not able to engage constructively?

It’s one thing to oppose what someone else is saying. It’s quite another to invent what she might be saying and then attacking her for that.
One could almost call it false witness.

For the record: I dislike abortion, but I fully support it on medical grounds, if the baby would be severely (and I mean severely) disabled, if the mother’s life was as risk and after rape. I don’t approve of late abortions unless they are absolutely necessary because an extreme disability is discovered only late or because the mother’s life is at risk.

You may not approve of my demarcation lines, that’s fine. But you cannot accuse me of deliberately making immoral choices based on personal likes and dislikes.

And, yes, we make laws. Framework laws. Within those we trust people to make their own decisions. That, incidentally, is almost a conservative statement, because it’s liberals who are usually accused of social engineering and conservatives who stand for personal freedom and responsibility. I happen to think that in this case, the conservative instincts are right.


Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 8:54pm BST

Ford,

I think in context, and in light of things said, I raised pointed questions or made pointed remarks. I do not speak in hate of anyone, put anyone down or call them names. In the case of Erika, I said in effect that I thought she was sincere and acting from what she believed. If you want to call that denigration you can. I do not.

On Sodom, the wider issue is hospitality, but as part of that we get the action of the men of Sodom toward "the men" who have come to visit (Gen 19:5). The hospitality is seen precisely in how they responded to these visitors! They demand, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them" (to know here - the same term regularly used when a man and woman have sexual relations). That is the key event here, from it the other terrible events unfold. Lot to avoid this dreadful violation of the visitors - "I beg you ... do not act so wickedly" v 7 - looks for a way out.

So you want say, "The sin of Sodom wasn't sexual...?" Read it for yourself! What happened to Lot's daughters was evil piled on this evil (whether Lot thought that they would restrain themselves because the daughters were part of and so with some support in this community is not clear - he himself was threatened v 9b, clearly a desparate act). We can say the sin was sexual from first to last but hardly "not sexual"!

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 8:56pm BST

Please don't put words in my mouth. When did I ever say or write "We must support the right to abortion without restriction." First of all, that is not even the law in the least restrictive parts of the US--after the first trimester, there are lots of restrictions under the terms of Roe v. Wade; after the second, even more. By the time of full-term, only the life and health of the mother trumps the baby's survival. And, despite what the right wing says, there are very few third-trimester abortions.

Some facts (source is Wikipedia article on abortion, all data is linked to authoritative documents): In 2003, from data collected in those areas of the United States that sufficiently reported gestational age, it was found that 88.2% of abortions were conducted at or prior to 12 weeks, 10.4% from 13 to 20 weeks, and 1.4% at or after 21 weeks....Similarly, in England and Wales in 2006, 89% of terminations occurred at or under 12 weeks, 9% between 13 to 19 weeks, and 1.5% at or over 20 weeks.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 9:14pm BST

Ben, my "assumptions" are not specifically about you! I said earlier I do not know what you personally believe about these things. But Evangelicals in general cannot lay claim to a tradition of Christianity that is more than 500 years old, and that's being generous. Are you seriously trying to say that the Roman Church now views the Eucharistic Mystery to be some sort of abstract Presence of Jesus? Or that they have ceased invoking the saints or venerating Mary? And how are these tings "magical"? And stick to the questions:

1) how do you justify calling the radical innovations of the Reformation, and the way these innovations have developed in modern Evangelical thought, "traditional Christian teaching"? Another question on this topic is: Why would you want to? I am NOT asking how you can justify the truth of what you personally believe. As you say, I don't know what you believe about a lot of things. But the radical change of the Reformation, which Evangelicals consider a good thing, was far more innovative than anything being proposed now, and what came out of those innovations looks in many places very different from the Tradition we received. Traditional Protestantism? Sure. Traditional Christianity? Obviously not.

2) why can you not assume that so-called "liberals" are trying to follow the Gospel just like yourself, regardless of how misguided you believe them to be? That is one of the real issues, actually. It is this attitude that informs much of the rhetoric and reviling of the Right.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 9:30pm BST

We seem to have strayed a long way from the topic of this article. Please ensure any further comments are related to the original text. Thanks.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 10:04pm BST

Erika,

I think this will be my last post to you on this, when I try to get to the point you take it personally and it becomes difficult. (To denigrate - "To attack the character or reputation of; to speak ill of,to blacken, to defame." The dictionary meaning, please tell me when I have done that.).

You are the one who said these issues are "various shades of grey," made a matter of "choice" so that people can be completely different on a matter but still "it is moral" (see your post 3 from the last above). To get to this point, I referred to those who simply support abortion without restriction, and then to those who speak up for the child to be born and cherish the life of people involved. How can we speak of these as equally "moral?" It could be about what happened at 9/11, one person says this was immoral another says they had reason to do it. Is this a matter of "choice" that must be supported and each position equally "moral?"

My question is about what makes something moral. If all this is just a matter of "choice" we have lost the ground for what makes something moral and this becomes a matter of what we like or don't like. And I was not saying this is how you are. These are my questions to clarify the issue.

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Tuesday, 9 September 2008 at 11:31pm BST

Ben W wrote: “The hospitality is seen precisely in how they responded to these visitors! They demand, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them" (to know here – the same term regularly used when a man and woman have sexual relations).”

Dear Ben W,

This is all wrong, but very often claimed. And this claim is a late modern “Homo”-sexualization. Post 1955. It is absent from all elder translations. Late modern fixation with sex, anti Modern Social Politics.

To keep this discussion in a proper place as Simon asked, I give a full answer to Ben W about the root gnå-, sungenåmetha autoís, gnåmen autoís and its sexualizations on my Blog

http://gkochswahne.blogspot.com

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 10 September 2008 at 9:28am BST

Pat,

To bring it back to the central concern of this thread, Deller touched on the matter of authority or the basis of what is moral when he posed the old - what I tried to show - false alternative of "either Christ or scripture."

True from the beginning: the church knows and serves Jesus Christ not apart from but in the light of "the apostolic witness." Sumner therefore is more to the point with his question, "Will the centre hold?" As I said above, "If all is simply a matter of "choice" we have lost the ground for what makes something moral and this becomes a matter of what we like or don't like."

What is more, then what point is there in talking to each other about the basis on which we might think together and stand together? There is no "centre" to hold us together.

In other words is there a real moral basis for thinking about the meaning of marriage and sexuality or about abortion? (The Wikipedia piece you cite does indicate in the US abortion has been in some states restricted - after much patient work and clear witness from many evangelicals and others - in Canada the same Wikipedia makes clear that abortion remains generally wide open and unrestricted!).

The aim in Christian confession has been to hear, understand and follow the way of Christ but that cannot come apart from the witness to Christ. Is it still possible to affirm that there are some clear lines of teaching in scripture or in historic Christian teaching? Or will we simply walk apart?

Ben W

Posted by Ben W at Wednesday, 10 September 2008 at 4:01pm BST