Comments: Anglican documentation

As an American member of the Episcopal Church, I wish to offer offer public thanks to Canadian theologians: Walter Deller, Stephen Andrews, Lisa Wang, Stephen Andrews, Paul Jennings, Gary Thorne, Paul Jennings, Jamie Howison, Victoria Matthews, Trudy Lebans, Robert Moore, and Linda Nicholls. Their essays are thought-provoking and helpful. And perhaps, most importantly, the Candaians did their work openly and weren't part of a nameless and covert theological commission like the one being conducted in secrecy by American Bishop Henry Parsley.


Posted by Марко Фризия (Mark Friesland) at Saturday, 20 June 2009 at 1:01am BST

After reading a few of the essays I find myself asking "why is it that only the experience of the early Jewish or Christian communities (the bible) are considered when we try to understand to what and where God is calling us?"
Why are many orthodox (Bob Duncan, former Canon Mary Haggard Hays) willing to throw out 1 Cor. 14:34- but quote Romans when it comes to GLBT community?

Cafeteria Christians (and I gladly admit I'm one unlike many others).

Posted by BobinSWPA at Sunday, 21 June 2009 at 3:33am BST

"why is it that only the experience of the early Jewish or Christian communities (the bible) are considered when we try to understand to what and where God is calling us?"

Because they were much closer to the revelation of the Good News than we are? Because some of them actually looked Jesus in the face and heard the sound of His voice? Because some of them actually KNEW what a Resurrected Body looks like? Because they in all likelihood heard Him say things that did not make it into the written Scriptures 40 odd years later, but which informed the Tradition that we have received, so they probably had a clearer vision of the Tradition than we do 2000 years after the fact? Because, unlike us, they knew what Paul REALLY meant by those two words we translate as 'homosexual'? Because they actually lived the issues Paul was addressing in the Epistles, while we perceive them dimly if at all? Because they lived the Gospel before it was sold to the Empire, and understood that we are NOT here to support one human invented political structure or another? Because that historical position means that they didn't have to sort through 1700 years of compromise to the State, Erastianism, and being the religious pitprop for the social practices of the surrounding society? Because they didn't see the Gospel through the filter of 16th century European politics? For starters.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 22 June 2009 at 4:36pm BST

Yes, Ford, but you yourself are surely going to accord some significance to your own experience as a gay man and to the experience of other gay people? And is it not right to accord some significance to all the research done on the prevalence of homosexuality in all societies and periods and on the scientific issues? In other words: Christians aren't - or shouldn't be - committed to the proposition that divine revelation stopped in the first century.

Posted by john at Tuesday, 23 June 2009 at 5:47am BST

Ford,

"Because some of them actually looked Jesus in the face and heard the sound of His voice?"

Whereas now he's dead and we only have the uninspired written down words of God in a dusty old book?

"Because, unlike us, they knew what Paul REALLY meant by those two words we translate as 'homosexual'?"

Because, unlike us, they also knew that Jesus really didn't want to say anything against slavery? That he didn't mean women to be equal to men?

"Because that historical position means that they didn't have to sort through 1700 years of compromise to the State, Erastianism"

Because they showed absolute unity from the first moment on, showing that they alone understood Jesus perfectly?
Because God never guides compromise?
Because God cannot possibly be active in how we shape our society?

And how is this view different from the evangelical view that God has spoken once and for all, clearly in the bible, that you so frequently dispair of?


Posted by Erika BAker at Tuesday, 23 June 2009 at 7:36am BST

"Whereas now he's dead and we only have the uninspired written down words of God in a dusty old book?"

He's alive. We also have the Spirit, Whose job is likely more difficult 2000 years on, and Whose guidance we must seek carefully and deliberately as a result.


"Because, unlike us, they also knew that Jesus really didn't want to say anything against..."

Why assume that? More likely actually, they heard Him condemn both those attitudes. I don't think they took Divine Dictation for three years. I think they spoke of a lot of things that informed them when they went to preach, and it never occurred to them that we, 1500 years after the fact, would decide we could recreate "What Christianity is Supposed to Be" by reading their incomplete albeit Divinely inspired writings. I think that Divine Inspiration is important, and, if we do possess it now, it's in a different form. They gave us a Tradition to live and a Book to help us understand it.

"they alone understood Jesus perfectly?"

No, but their proximity to it all likely gave them insights we don't have, and, having received the Tradition from them, we have a responsibility to live that Tradition, rather than just assuming that because they were "ancient" or "primitive" they couldn't possibly know as much as us.

"Because God never guides compromise?"

I never said that either. But I better trust an understanding of the Gospel that wasn't based on what king wanted a divorce, or what Pope was afraid of losing political power, or any other late Medieval European process. I suspect that someone who heard Jesus or one of the Apostles speak had a better grasp of the complexities of redemption than John Calvin, for instance.

"Because God cannot possibly be active in how we shape our society?"

Of course He can. But how well do we discern His will? I am NOT saying God stopped speaking after the final full stop of Revelation. I AM saying it is incredibly arrogant of us to think that we know so much better than those who went before. We are human, just like they were, what makes us any less fallible?


Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 23 June 2009 at 2:36pm BST

Ford
Maybe we don't know "better" than those before us, but we know "differently"?

We are forever discerning what being a Christian means for the age we live in. We face new challenges, have to accommodate new scientific etc. discoveries, live in differently structured societies.
It is just not possible to apply the letter of anything "they" did without trying to understand the spirit behind their thinking.

Also, you say "Because, unlike us, they knew what Paul REALLY meant by those two words we translate as 'homosexual'?"
But are you now assuming that all translators of the bible through the ages have faithfully preserved that knowledge and that the backward connections we are making now are so obvious?
Or even that Paul knew the absolute and final truth about Jesus for all times? Or that he understood him 100% correctly in his time? There is even an instance in Scripture where he says that Jesus taught one thing but that he teaches another - because he was already applying what he thought Jesus' intentions had been to the new situation he found himself in.

You ought to read Tobias Haller's book Reasonably and Holy for some outstanding biblical exegesis. It's a slim volume, fiendishly complicated purely because the matter isn't as easy as condemning "homosexuality" based on what we think our forefathers "clearly" knew about Jesus.

We are not less fallible than they were, but neither were they less fallible or bound up in their own cultures than we are. Them right, us wrong and selfish is a little too simplistic for me.

BobinSWPA is right, it is absolute nonsense that it should be only the experience of the early Jewish or Christian communities (the bible) are considered when we try to understand to what and where God is calling us?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 24 June 2009 at 6:10am BST

"But are you now assuming that all translators of the bible through the ages have faithfully preserved that knowledge and that the backward connections we are making now are so obvious?"

No. There has been 15-20 centuries between the earliest Christians and us. That's ample time for mistakes to have crept in. That's why the Reformation was necessary, for starters.

"Or even that Paul knew the absolute and final truth about Jesus for all times?"

Of course he didn't. But I am absolutely sure of one thing, he, and the Apostles and Early Church, knew things about Jesus that we long ago forgot. At least the things that these ideas motivated have influenced the Tradition we have received, so their trappings can be found in the Tradition, if nothing else. The fallacy with thinking we can reconstruct Christianity from the Bible is that we don't know the things they didn't write down, but that affected their thinking anyway, and therefor shaped the message they passed on to us. It is not an absolute literal thing here. But if they DID have a message of equality for women in Orders, for instance, we can still find the justification for it in the Tradition, since it came from an attitude that is still there. If we rely on just the Bible, it can be much harder to find that same thing because the idea of female equality was part of the understood meaning of the Tradition not recorded in the User's Manual. That's not a great example, because there IS Scriptural basis for women's ordination, but I hope I made the point. Thing is, it can be devilishly hard 2000 years after the fact to sort these things out, which is why I am very leery of "movements for change" that seem to take a very light view of the ideas of the Early Church.

"Them right, us wrong and selfish is a little too simplistic for me."

Me too. But "them primitive, us enlightened" is a little too arrogant for me. To be honest, I am not all that keen on taking spiritual advice from a society that can't even bring itself to say the word 'die', let alone all the other ways Western society ignores its spiritual side. In some ways, they were more enlightened than us. I read once where an Orthodox bishop wryly commented that in the West, Enlightenment means education, in the East it means Baptism. Something to ponder, for me.

"it is absolute nonsense that it should be only the experience of the early Jewish or Christian"

Yes. I am arguing that it is equally nonsensical to say that their understanding of the Tradition was fit only for their time, can't say anything to us, and that we have to reinvent the wheel for our own day. And, frighteningly like a lot of conservatives, I find that attitude all too easy to perceive in a lot of what liberals say. It's one of the huge issues I have with Spong, for instance. Sorry to drag in the conservative bete noir.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 24 June 2009 at 1:38pm BST

Between baptism and education for choices of enlightenment give us education any day.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 24 June 2009 at 5:11pm BST

"Between baptism and education for choices of enlightenment give us education any day."

The point is that the word has different meanings in the two traditions, and its use in the East does not preclude the idea that someone can have an impressive education and still not be "enlightened" in the sense of having "received the Light", as they say. It's about spiritual intelligence versus book smarts, and the value placed on each. It isn't that the East places no value on book smarts, but that the West places no value on spiritual intelligence. They are two kinds of intelligence, not mutually exclusive. It isn't necessary, indeed, it's probably not very wise, to choose one or the other.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 25 June 2009 at 1:16pm BST
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