Comments: Opinion - 6 August 2016

David's post is really useful and I commend it (I commented there - a bit too long to re-post here). He describes a really interesting way of responding to scripture, and the idea that two divergent views may both be valuable... that different people may respond in different ways to the same text.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 6 August 2016 at 1:19pm BST

The esteemed Roman Catholic scripture scholar, Luke Johnson, has stated that the Bible is definitively opposed to same sex relations, and in this he agrees with many others (NT Wright, Markus Bockmuehl, Oliver O'Donovan, Bernadette Brooten, and the list goes on). He just thinks the Bible is not directly helpful given the emergence of a "new thing."

I have chronicled the changing view of progressives on this issue in numerous publications. The Bishop here falls in the camp of saying 'the Bible says a lot of things' and whatever it may say about ss conduct is trumped by things it says about love, etc.

So we have a real panoply of endorsement of the 'new thing' that is 'really new' or may not be, but it oughtn't to matter. And I suspect this panoply will remain what it is, with progressive NT scholars accepting that the NT is opposed, but finding other avenues of endorsement all the same.

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 6 August 2016 at 1:57pm BST

I welcome +David's writing that it is possible to conclude that the Bible does authorise same sex unions and that the correct approach is to read the Bible as a narrative so that no verse can be understood in isolation but only as part of the whole.

The Bible is also clear that different standards apply to different people according to the level of understanding they have developed. We should accept that; however, there is nothing in the Bible, read either literally or as narrative, that suggests the Church's teaching should embrace such a diversity. In terms of teaching there should be a common position and nobody in orders should teach anything different - although they are free to order their own personal life as they will. In that I think the bishop is mistaken.

On one point I disagree with him very strongly. He equates suitability in Genesis with sexual compatibility. For me that is entirely counter to Scripture. If we do allow same sex marriage then our teaching should be that if someone is straight that they should put that aside and choose the most suitable partner, irrespective of their gender, based on how the partnership can serve and glorify God. Likewise for gay people.

The only way, I believe, the Bible can be read as permitting same sex unions is if we teach "there is nether male nor female" but adoption of that has far ranging implications we should not overlook.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 7 August 2016 at 12:15pm BST

As an evangelical who genuinely wants to engage in a generous way with the issues of human sexuality I read David Gillett's article with some interest. However, I was very disappointed - it comes across as the 'same old' that we've been hearing for years.

In particular I was really disappointed by the way that he conflates uncritically the concept of 'being gay' with that of 'experiencing same sex attraction'. The two are not the same, and there are those who experience same sex attraction but wouldn't dream of calling themselves 'gay'. So is 'experiencing same sex attraction the God-given bit, the self-identifying as 'being gay', what? Also, longitudinal studies show that for many people one's levels of same sex attraction can change over time (in both directions). He compares this with being left or right handed, which as far as I'm aware does not change, or at least in very few cases. The comparison doesn't work.

Regarding the biblical material, I fully agree with David Gillett's viewpoint about the need for a narrative context. It was pleasing, therefore, at the General Synod shared conversations that the conservative biblical scholar was thanked by the others for NOT proof-texting, but seeking to locate the conservative position with an overall Biblical narrative.

But of course that cuts both ways - Genesis 2 is but one passage. Doesn't our doctrine of marriage really start at Genesis 1 - humanity made male and female (the Hebrew words meaning explicitly bodily male and bodily female), in the image of our creator God (who is Trinity), with a general vocation to care for the planet and to increase in number?

Seriously, liberals, if you want to start changing the landscape you're going to have to do some proper theology and engagement with the conservative position, by which I mean not only evangelical Anglican viewpoints but also classic Catholic teaching on (as they see it) the sacrament of marriage. Before Synod we were posted a book written by a leading Cambridge theologian that outlined the liberal position....but again it was the just the same old stuff, arguments we've seen before, with no engagement with the (numerous) criticisms to those viewpoints that come from a conservative direction. If that book is the best that liberals can come up with, at what point am I justified in concluding that liberal theology on this just doesn't stack up, and never will?

Posted by Peter K+ at Sunday, 7 August 2016 at 12:52pm BST

A fantastic piece by Andrew Lightbown. As finances are increasingly centralised, it is inevitable that management will be too. Follow the money remains an apt adage.

Andrew is right to say that centralisation is dangerous. His argument, and an accurate one, is that doing so reduces local responsiveness. He misses a bigger point. Central management of an organisation as large and complex as CofE requires a very capable manager. The thing is, do we wish to choose an Archbishop of Canterbury because of his/her management talent? And, do we want to choose diocesan bishops for their ability as middle managers? With a centralised structure, we will need to. Personally, I don't think managers is what Christ's church needs.

Anyway, a thoroughly enjoyable article from Andrew.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 7 August 2016 at 6:28pm BST

There is little new ground to cover in this debate. One comments on bishop David Gillett's very fine article by re-stating what one has already said i.e. appeals to a biblical ethic, or to a so called revealed morality, or even to what Gillett refers to early in his article as "...a deeper view of the Bible’s authority over our lives..." are all problematic in terms of grappling with contemporary bio-ethical issues in human sexuality. Something more than reading the bible is required. The more that is required is a systematic understanding of transcendent values including values which transcend the text.

However, the name of Luke Timothy Johnson has been dropped @ cseitz. While not in agreement with some of Johnson's methodological starting points, I think it very worthwhile to read what Johnson has actually written, for example, in his article in Commonweal.


"Many of us who stand for the full recognition of gay and lesbian persons within the Christian communion find ourselves in a position similar to that of the early abolitionists—and of the early advocates for women’s full and equal roles in church and society. We are fully aware of the weight of scriptural evidence pointing away from our position, yet place our trust in the power of the living God to reveal as powerfully through personal experience and testimony as through written texts. To justify this trust, we invoke the basic Pauline principle that the Spirit gives life but the letter kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). And if the letter of Scripture cannot find room for the activity of the living God in the transformation of human lives, then trust and obedience must be paid to the living God rather than to the words of Scripture."

The entire article may be found here.

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/homosexuality-church-1

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 7 August 2016 at 6:30pm BST

Bishop Gillett's post testifies to emergence from the peculiar bubble of "the Bible settles it" that dominated Christian thinking for a time, and even then was very selectively applied. Of course, Anglicans should be in the forefront on this, as they have long (and officially) recognized a hierarchy of values within the texts of the Bible (dividing 'moral' from ceremonial' for instance). Orienting ones moral compass on the commandment to love of God and of neighbor as oneself accords with two NT proponents of that hierarchy of values.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Sunday, 7 August 2016 at 6:51pm BST

Yes, Christopher, 'the Bible' might appear to 'be against' S/S relationships; but what abut Jesus? What does He say, do you think? Could you be making an idol of 'words in a Book', forgetting the fact that 'The Word became flesh and dwelt among us'?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 7 August 2016 at 11:10pm BST

Sorry, I thought the point fairly obvious. It was that Luke Johnson joined other NT scholars in concurring that key NT texts do in fact condemn what we would call ss relations.

And that we have a panoply of views now appearing in the name of approving ss relations. That they are different and even contradictory does not matter because the 'cause' calls for whatever remedy is at hand.

The Luke Johnson I was referring to is the subject of my discussion in Figured Out (2001, WJK Press).

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 6:24am BST

Peter K,
at some level, liberal argument will always be "same old", just as conservative arguments are.
I do find the complimentary argument singularly unimpressive, though.
Yes, people are created male and female (leaving aside that this is in itself a crude generalism, considering all we know about gender these days).
And yes, it takes a man and a woman to have a baby.
But that's as far as it goes.

Gay and lesbian people remain male and female, straight people do not all procreate.

If you really want to make this the one huge defining difference you have to find one thing, one single thing will do, that is present in all straight marriages and that is not present in a single gay relationship.
Because once you say "we allow straight marriage of people who are not capable of having children or not willing to have them" you cannot in the same breath say "we cannot allow gay marriage because it is not directed at procreation". That may be an argument possible in Roman Catholicism but it is not an Anglican one.

There is, of course, plenty of liberal theology that addresses your other points.
May I suggest you start with Bishop Alan's reading list: http://bishopalan.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/resources-for-your-very-own-pilling.html

And for your specific biblical points I would also recommend Tobias Haller's "Reasonable and Holy".

Because, seriously, traditionals, it doesn't do to ignore all the theology that engages with every single one of your points, time and time again, from different angles, and keep insisting that it doesn't measure up without explaining why.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 6:55am BST

Kate Can I ask you to clarify two things in your post:
You say 'The Bible is also clear that different standards apply to different people according to the level of understanding they have developed'. Can you give an example of where you find this in the Bible?
and
Are you saying that sexual compatibility is only possible between a man and a woman?

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 7:38am BST

Peter K+, I agree very much. Liberals are presenting arguments in language they understand and using liberal memos. To convince evangelicals and anglo-catholics, the argument clearly needs to be taken to them in language they understand and that means properly structured theology.

As to "be fruitful", should someone who is unmarried or divorced follow the instruction? Should a man married to an infertile or post-menopausal woman set her aside? Obviously not. So the instruction to be fruitful has to be read with the caveat "if circumstances permit". It doesn't instruct us to change adverse circumstances such as by divorcing a barren partner. Equally, if two partners are both male, it doesn't instruct them to break apart their Union. So for me, that instruction, read within the greater narrative, doesn't speak against stable same marriage at all. Indeed, since a stable same-sex marriage creates conditions in which children can be adopted and raised, unlike you I actually read the "be fruitful" instruction as saying that we should endorse stable same sex relationships by marring the couple so that the necessary security "to be fruitful" (through adoption) is put in place.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 8:01am BST

Ron--a false trail. Though popular amongst Valentinians (the spirit gives higher knowledge than scriptural testimony of prophets and apostles).

My point was that liberal NT scholars accept that scripture is opposed to ss relations. They don't reach this judgment based upon a crude "Jesus v scripture."

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 8:16am BST

David, one obvious passage is 1 Corinthians 8, but the Bible (particularly the OT) has many examples. For instance doesn't Moses give instructions for having more than one wife? People were allowed to keep slaves because the understanding that slavery is abhorrent hadn't yet developed. And so on.

As to your other point, I am just saying that for a Christian - whether that Christian is straight or gay - sexual compatibility should be irrelevant to the question of "suitability" of a partner Peter raised. Indeed, I think a straight man actually sins if he says "If I marry it will only be a woman, not a man", just as much as if a gay man only considers other men as partners, and rejects women. We should NOT be considering same sex marriage because some men are sexually attracted to men (and some women to women). We should be teaching that there is no male or female in Christ and EVERY Christian should ignore their personal sexual orientation and sexual compatibility when choosing a partner so that gay Christians might marry either a man or a woman but equally straight Christians might also marry either a man or a woman. We need entirely to remove gender, sexual orientation and sexual compatibility from our understanding of marriage.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 8:47am BST

Kate,
"To convince evangelicals and anglo-catholics, the argument clearly needs to be taken to them in language they understand and that means properly structured theology."

Quite apart from the fact that this theology exists and that the main challenge seems to be to get people to read it and engage with it rather than to pretend it isn't there, I think we have to be clear that there is no single killer argument that will make everyone sit up and say "Ah, now I get it, of course!"

Everyone will be persuaded by a different approach. And, to some extent, liberals have done their job.
The debate has now shifted firmly to within the evangelical group. And that's how it should be. Evangelicals are much better at engaging with evangelical theology than those who don't really relate to that way of expressing faith.

In the final analysis, Anglo-Catholics are more likely to be persuaded by other Anglo-Catholics who share, at a very deep level, their understanding of their faith and who genuinely speak the same faith language and comprehend the difficulties Anglo-Catholics have with gay relationships better than those who don't share those difficulties in the first place. Theology is best when it comes from a deep understanding and from the heart.

For the same reason, evangelicals are more likely to be persuaded by other evangelicals.

And this is something that is now happening at an ever increasing pace.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 8:59am BST

Erika & Kate, thank you for your comments. just to pick up on one or two points:

The Hebrew words used for male and female very much mean 'bodily male' and 'bodily female' - they're the same ones used about the animals in the Noah's ark story, who were expected to get down to business and repopulate the world! I see this bodily dimension as being very helpful and indeed in understanding gender identity, since without it we quickly descend into clichés - 'men are brave, courageous, whereas women are caring, sensitive' etc. Can we properly define male and female without referring to our bodies? I don't think so.

Kate, yes I see this as being a 'general vocation'. I think I'd add that Genesis 1 & 2 it also provides a helpful theological foundation for responding pastorally when people's life and relationships don't fit the 'married with kids' norm. It provides a basis for care and possible lament for people who are single and don't want to be, or infertile and don't want to be, or lonely in their marriages, etc. Gen 1 also shows us how care for God's creation is really fundamental to humanity's vocation - an instruction that evangelicals certainly can be guilty of overlooking.

I'm not convinced by your extending the argument to existing same sex unions, however. Firstly the male and female seems to be intrinsic to humanity's being made in the image of God, per Gen 1:27. God is 3 different Persons in one, and it seems to me that marriage is an icon of this in 2 dimensions, requiring distinct male and female identities forming one flesh.

Secondly, and speaking as someone who is 'half-adopted' myself - my birth father died when I was young, and I have a stepfather - I'd strongly resist saying that adoption is the same as being born into a family. Indeed I think it's potentially very emotionally damaging for everyone if we try and shoe-horn them together. Our biological identities and family stories are more deeply rooted than that. When I look in the mirror I see physical traits of both my birth father and birth mother. I have quite a different view of my late birth father and his family than my step-father - indeed I would never dream of calling my step-father 'dad' - for me it would feel wrong. My stepfather is wonderfully understanding about that and has never tried to force me to call him 'dad', even though it has probably been very painful at times for him to accept that. We see in many articles in the news about adopted people who revisit their family identities in later life - often a very painful but healing process. So, no, adopting children is not the same as creating them - indeed I know that when social services talk to potential adoptive parents they are looking for sensitivity to the differences, and often willingness to stay in some form of contact with birth families, even if it is just exchanging Christmas cards. All adopted children (and the families they come from, who we can often forget) have at least some sad aspect to their life story, and adoptive parents need to understand this and help children come to terms with this as their life and awareness progresses. Adoptive parents also need to come to terms with any sadness they've experienced themselves that's brought them to thinking about adoption - perhaps grieving properly if they can't or won't be having birth children themselves.

I hope you can tell that I hold adoption in very high regard, and certainly see 'fruitfulness' in one respect as part of that - but to me it's of a somewhat different type than we see in Genesis 1. To me, like the other situations I've mentioned above, a traditional doctrine of marriage provides the strongest pastoral foundation for us to understand adoption, and to work through its particular joys and challenges.

Posted by Peter K+ at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 12:10pm BST

Erika, just to add - yes I really does think that it matters that men and women are needed to make a baby. Whatever our 'spiritual taxonomy' may be, all of us are physical beings, the biological product of a man and a woman, however complex our stories have been since that point.

Posted by Peter K+ at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 12:54pm BST

Peter,

thank you, I hope you will take the time to read some of the books I recommended, especially Tobias Haller, and then come back here and engage with their arguments.

Regarding your point that men and women are needed to make a baby... yes.
But the question is whether having babies is something best done within marriage or whether it is an absolute requirement.

The church does not refuse to marry people who are knowingly not capable of having children. And it marries people who have no intention of having children. And it marries asexual people who will not even have sexual intercourse.

So either that is also "spiritual taxonomy" that should not be allowed, or having children isn't quite as important as you claim.

It cannot be right that it's perfectly ok for straight people not to have children, but that it's so serious for gay people that they cannot marry.
Especially when you take into account that both gay and straight adopt, foster and have biological children from previous relationships. Our families aren't hypothetical, they're real.

And a theology that ignores the lived reality of straight childless people and of gay people with children is not fit for purpose and probably more rooted in our habitual, uncritical way of understanding things rather than in a genuine reflection about the nature of marriage.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 2:08pm BST

@cseitz, " I thought the point fairly obvious. It was that Luke Johnson joined other NT scholars in concurring that key NT texts do in fact condemn what we would call ss relations."

Interesting to compare Luke Timothy Johnson's full position to your stripping down of his argument to his starting point re texts, and where he takes that v. where you would take it.
As he develops his position, and despite his starting point, Johnson does a really good job of demonstrating that we cannot live by text alone on this one.

Pace both you and Johnson the notion that
" ...key NT texts do in fact condemn what we would call ss relations." is where the debate turns. Such a statement is an unacceptable fiat. NT texts do not in fact address "what we mean" by same sex relationships, not in terms of the "what" and not in terms of what is "meant".

The challenge is to bridge the horizon of various scripture writers with our horizon--something that biblical exegesis by itself lacks the competence to do.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 2:32pm BST

"Also, longitudinal studies show that for many people one's levels of same sex attraction can change over time (in both directions)"
Peter K

Could you provide the references to the *original* research please? I see this sort of thing quoted a lot by conservatives and yet the research is never referenced. I am aware of only one good quality study which showed some possible fluidity in women's sexual orientations over time. The author of this research is categorically clear that her studies do not in any way support a conservative christian view of human sexuality. Bearing in mind that science tends to come to conclusions looking at whole datasets not isolated studies, I'd be eager to evaluate these studies.


And then...

"He compares this with being left or right handed, which as far as I'm aware does not change, or at least in very few cases. The comparison doesn't work."

I think on the contrary, the comparison works very well. One's handedness may not change once settled (many children are initially ambidextrous), but at no point in life does a person choose whether they are left or right handed, just as at no point in their life does a person choose their sexual orientation.

And remember sexual attraction, sexual behaviour and sexual orientation are not the same thing.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 3:08pm BST

Three comments in response to Peter K+.

Genesis 1:27 and 5:2 speak of "male and female" as nouns, not adjectives, best translated "a male and a female." Referring this to classes of people instead of two individuals leads to much unproductive theological reflection about the nature of the image of God, and a defective anthropology that understands humanity dualistically. For final authority, Jesus' reading of the passage holds it to be about a pair: the "two" who become one. (Mark 10:8; as in Matthew, Jesus picks up the LXX of Genesis with "the two" -- an emphasis not needed in Hebrew). Jesus (and Qumran's Damascus Document) read this as support for exclusive and permanently faithful monogamy. (I've written more on this at http://blog.tobiashaller.net/2016/05/the-importance-of-being-articles.html )

I am reluctant to apply marriage to the Trinity, because it leads to the notion that the Persons of the Trinity are parts that make up a whole, trending towards a functional modalism (as near as I can tell). The traditional understanding of the imago Dei is that it resides in each person, not their conjugal union; and primarily in the mind and human nature they possess individually -- not in their biological difference. This is reaffirmed in the Chalcedonian Definition that holds the human nature (ousia) of Jesus derives entirely from a woman -- maleness and femaleness are accident not essence. Galatians does away with both as there are no accidents "in Christ."

Finally, I would ask you to consider a traditional response to the "fruitfulness" argument: that it applies to the human species as a whole, but not necessarily to each individual. This was the traditional defense for celibacy, counter the traditional Jewish emphasis on procreativity. It can also be an argument for same-sex marriage, in that procreation need not be seen as essential to marriage (as in fact it isn't). If one wishes to hold it to be so, there are strands of support in the tradition, advising sexual abstinence for women past menopause (and for their husbands, perforce!), but most of these aesetical principles were abandoned in the first few centuries of the Christian era.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 4:16pm BST

Kate thanks - but I don't find in 1 Cor 8 anything about 'different standards apply to different people according to the level of understanding they have developed'. It is about an early Christian community divided over how to cope with the issue of eating meat previously offered to idols.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 5:17pm BST

"biblical exegesis by itself lacks the competence to do" is biblical interpretation, in the life of the church, through the ages, and in relation to natural law a la Aquinas.

The alternative is:

"Thus says M. Gillis" -- about which there was never much doubt!

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 7:21pm BST

I would be grateful if Dr Seitz would kindly expand his elliptical comment posted at 7.21 BST. As it stands, it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Monday, 8 August 2016 at 11:10pm BST

@cseitz, "...in relation to natural law a la Aquinas." And yet it is interesting to see modern Roman Catholic theologians in various disciplines, as they move away from natural law, or least acknowledge its current limitations, struggle with the dynamic tension between resourcement in juxtaposition to aggiornamento. One can sense the frustration in, just for example, Luke Timothy Johnson's article, whose position you introduced into this thread.

" 'Thus says M. Gillis' -- about which there was never much doubt!" ( : Well I did say there was not much new ground to cover at present, and I have been making the same argument for some time, so from that point of view there ought not to be any doubt about my opinion. And of course opinion is exactly what one gets on blog sites, thus says Gillis, or thus says Seitz, and so forth.

In my opinion church policy, whether social or pastoral or moral, that is grounded in an effort to see the unwavering will of God dictated or revealed and binding for all time in passages that are culturally conditioned or pragmatically over focused or theoretically naive simply does not and cannot inform the current state of the question. The end product is almost certainly at risk of being fairly critiqued in our time as a form of religious regression.

We can do better. We owe it to both contemporary culture and the intellectual heritage of the Christian faith to do better in responding thoughtfully to new insights that scripture writers simply could not have had access to.

One perhaps cannot help but disappoint Paul or Aquinas on specific content on some subjects; but one may still pay homage to their creativity and rigorous method by working on new problems within a new horizon i.e. the array of values brought into focus by problems such as climate change, unbridled market capitalism, scientifically grounded pessimism, and the continuum of the human sexual response.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 1:21am BST

Further proof that we cannot share a denomination with those who are inextricably opposed to same-sex relationships and refuse to accept any but the literal reading (as long as it doesn't inconvenience *them*, of course).

Give it up. Why let them continue trying to do damage to us? It's ridiculous and certainly nothing that in any way remotely resembles charity, discipline or love. This insistence that only one denomination all together can possibly serve as the Church Universal is human pride, and deserving of rebuke. Let them go, these who need certainties no one - including God - ever offered.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 6:03am BST

Andrew Lightbown. Thank you for your critique. I share many of your concerns. I would be very interested to hear what you would include in a strategy you regard as the right forward to the challenges we are facing. When I listen to Linda Woodhead I share her concerns too but feel I am missing positive persuasive alternatives. I want to be doing more than moaning from the sidelines at this point.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 7:35am BST

MarkBrunson. Who are 'we' and 'they' in your post? And in what way your approach here is any more charitable than 'theirs' is not immediately apparent to this reader.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 9:36am BST

"the literal reading"

Of course all reading is literal reading...the transformation of the term "literal" to the realm of historical reference is a strange species of modernity.

What blogs reveal is the way the tribes of modernity now just talk past one another.

I am probably regarded as the premier exponent of extended sense and figural exegesis in my field. The "literal sense" for Aquinas, e.g., was not a historical sense as we mean it, but the divine sense across time in its widest reach.

But we are trapped in the categories of historical reference and 'facticity'--look at the odd comments about Noah's Ark or mountains in the NT--released from any larger theological framework of understanding.

Well, there it is! Such is the neuralgia of comprehensibility and biblical interpretation in our age.

Posted by cseitz at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 10:32am BST

In Christ, there is neither male nor female.

Surely the Imago Dei resides in every single person regardless of their marital status. Our human participation in the divine does not depend on being joined to another human being, whether gay or straight.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 11:36am BST

"In my opinion church policy, whether social or pastoral or moral, that is grounded in an effort to see the unwavering will of God dictated or revealed and binding for all time in passages that are culturally conditioned or pragmatically over focused or theoretically naive simply does not and cannot inform the current state of the question." - Rod Gillis

Now on this I agree with Christopher Seitz. Christianity is not a moral code, but the worship of a God. Our role is to discern His will as best we can and follow it even if personally we find it hard to understand or disagree with it. Generally there's little tension between Christian theology and contemporary morality and thinking - but there is some. When there is a clash, our response should be to follow the most restrictive path of Scripture as we understand it, or contemporary morality if stricter.

The issue comes in areas like sexuality and abortion where that least common denominator approach places an undue burden upon some believers. In those circumstances we should still follow Scripture - and we know that Christ does ask us to carry terrible burdens at times - but we should also invest a lot of effort into ensuring that we have not misunderstood Scripture so that we do not needlessly and wrongly suggest that our brothers and sisters should carry unfair burdens.

I asked a couple of weeks ago and it seems there is no freely available theology supporting a change in teaching on same sex relationships. I don't count books - these days theology should be published on the Web. If it isn't, then we should pay it little heed because it hides from widespread critique. Also, before we change teaching we should not expect people to have to buy a book. If we want them to change, we have to make the justification freely available.

I live with a woman. I socialise in LGBT circles. I believe in same sex marriage. But still, But I still say that there is an urgent need for the publication on the Web of robust theology to support a change in teaching and can understand why some evangelicals and others are not YET convinced of a Scriptural basis for a change in teaching.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 12:06pm BST

Kate, a difficulty lies in what is meant by "a scriptural basis" for change.

All Christians are aware of the Bible, but there are many and disparate ways in which they read and use and interpret the Bible.

And often the differences in dogma stem from that.

At one end you have people who read the entire bible literally as fact.

At another (but not the only) end, there are those like myself who believe that the Bible is fallible, and that although it reports encounters with God, these are human and limited reports, by people - like ourselves - trying to make sense. People like myself are likely to afford great significance to the exercise of human conscience, not necessarily bound by 'what the Bible teaches' except in terms, perhaps, of fundamental imperatives... to love God, love our neighbour, love one another.

If I do not share the same concept of "scriptural basis" with your posited evangelical opponent of change, how can I offer 'their' scriptural basis which you seem to require?

My theology simply does not use or interpret scripture by the same ground rules. I'm not arguing for a change in one specific issue (man-man sex) but change of the whole way of regarding and treating the Bible.

And that is something that will be rejected at the first hurdle by many evangelical believers. They won't even want to listen to what follows from my supposed false premiss.

The solution to these gulfs can only be love. Acceptance of difference. And respect for conscientious diversity of opinion. The issue is how we handle difference well, how we seek grace to love one another, and keep serving God, and our neighbours, and keep praying for one another's flourishing even though we disagree.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 1:14pm BST

Kate, I sometimes think you are seeking a 'magic theology' that will convince everyone on scriptural grounds that gay sex is right. However, I believe that people need to be convinced on conscientious grounds... the exercise of human conscience... beyond anything specific the Bible teaches on human sexuality (which may be heteronormative or culturally indoctrinated by the social and religious establishments of the time).

I take the view that the entire Bible is subordinate to the primary imperative and command to love. Everything else has to be read (or dismissed) in that context. THAT is my scriptural basis, which in turn is only one of various bases I refer to when I want to act conscientiously.

What, exactly, do you mean by "scriptural basis"? How am I supposed to convince you - and, I suppose, 'win' the argument - if I don't even believe in that basis?

I feel that in your call for theological justification, you seem to be requiring a particular view of scripture, as authoritative, which some liberal Christians couldn't even start to adopt, because they start from a different premiss.

I don't need to 'prove' the Bible endorses gay sex, because actually I don't think it does. What little it says is critical. However, that's fine by me because I thnk the Bible is wrong on that score.

How do I argue that with an evangelical with a high view of biblical authority?

Instead of trying to dominate their views, I prefer to just love. There is space in our Church for both views, and grace enough to love one another, and maybe that love is the beginning of being 'right', and in that sense maybe we can all be right, along our diverse faith journeys which we can share together with affection and kindness.

This was Bishop David's point.

It may not be about 'winning the argument' but about 'opening our hearts to love'. Maybe theory is less imperative than action - active involvement in community, love of those with different views to our own, because we are commanded to love one another.

Too often theological theory and debates can be a kind of prevarication, because it's less costly than what we too often put off: the opening up of our lives to the love of God in actual costly interaction. Without which, what we are left with is disonnant noise.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 1:26pm BST

@ Kate, "...our response should be to follow the most restrictive path of Scripture as we understand it, or contemporary morality if stricter." Why would one advocate such an approach as they the best way of discerning the ought?

"... it seems there is no freely available theology supporting a change in teaching on same sex relationships." Actually, while open to critique, the recent Canadian document, This Holy Estate, certainly meets the test of the challenge you throw out.

http://www.anglican.ca/wp-content/uploads/Marriage_Canon_REPORT_15Sept22.pdf

However, there is a better way forward in terms of a values based ethic. One thinks of transcendent values. Values ( transcendent, non-transcendent, positive, negative, convivial, alienating) permeate scripture, are diffused in scriptural narratives, are embedded in the outlook of scriptural writers; but the same values are also found in our contemporary horizon(s) in theological discourse, in pastoral policies and pragmatic pastoral responses. Values are found in the wider modern horizon, in the voices from a variety of religious faiths, and in the voices of those who profess no religious faith.

However,one finds in scripture what the scripture writers meant by some types of sexual interaction; but one looks in vain to find, on a propositional basis, what we mean by same sex relationships. One may as well be looking for a wave equation in the parables of Jesus.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 1:55pm BST

We do seem to be talking past each other, but I don't believe it boils doen to a surmised "literal" or "figural" reading on either side. The canonical problem, looking at the corpus as a whole, concerns what conclusion we draw as to "the divine sense across time in its widest reach" -- it is fair to say that different readers will find different threads that they can rightly say meet that criterion. It is also fair to say that one cannot quite ignore the details (in which I think both devils and angels dwell) and that the overarching wave of concept must at some point collapse into the particularity of concrete situations.

For some the image of marriage that runs through Scripture from beginning to end is fixed in its formal structure as male/female, and thus ever shall be. For others, the theme seems instead to focus on the virtue enacted rather than the actors: self-giving charity and fidelity: a theme that can be played on different instruments. So it is fair to ask what overall pattern is discerned, and what is significant in it, and how it is applied to actual life.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 3:17pm BST

Thanks for your thoughts, Tobias. I will read your blog with interest.

However I don't see how one can keep Genesis 1 away from at least being on conversational terms with the Trinity and our doctrine of marriage. Agreed, it's not a developed doctrine at this point, but given the teaching of the wider church about the sacrament of marriage, its prominence in the creation accounts, and that the church's teaching is that marriage is 'a gift of God in creation' it's pretty well impossible to ignore. I'd agree that if we try to 'map upwards' as it were, and create our Trinitarian doctrine from Genesis 1 we'll come a cropper, but I'm thinking we need to map downwards more than we upwards. I think there's enough space in the text to allow flexibility and openness - but, call me a heretic, we can't simply ignore how the author juxtaposes the imageo dei and our male/ female nature, or dismiss as an accident. Time to revisit Chalcedon?

I had a bad experience with the Fruitfulness side of things - I'm possibly a bit scarred. The speaker at GS who argued for covenant relationships, Robert Song, was helpfully explicit that his starting point was that the chief purpose of sex in the OT was physical fruitfulness as a sign of God's blessing. Then he took us on a journey to explain that in the NT it was spiritual fruitfulness, and that same-sex covenant relationships fit into that scheme. Helpfully clear....but I don't buy it. The OT also has numerous examples of physical 'fruitfulness' that are outside God's blessing, and finally one has to account for the Song of songs, which doesn't have a baby in sight! Also, the great name of God in the OT is 'I AM', not 'I bear fruit', so if like me you believe marriage has important Trinitarian resonances I'm going to the idea of fruitfulness as the key to it all. So the fruitfulness argument I've heard hasn't got off the launchpad - can you convince me there are some that will fly?

Posted by Peter K+ at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 3:39pm BST

Peter K, I'm not sure I understand you fully, and a comment thread may not be the best place to try to explain or understand.

But I think it is helpful to distinguish between fruits of the body and fruits of the spirit.

I also think it is helpful to disentangle Genesis 1 -- which packs a great deal into a small space. The denseness of the image of God verse can obscure the fact that it contains three clauses, and I prefer to see them as linked but affirming different things. I am also at pains to preserve the tradition concerning the image of God, which does not apply it to the couple jointly, but to each individual singularly.

It is also helpful to note that "fruitfulness" (and the biological dimorphism of male and female in bodily terms) is not confined to the human couple, but is first found in the birds and fish. My argument has been that if bodily form and reproduction was intended as the chief exponent of the divine image, God would have confined it to those who bear that image. By a process of elimination, that which expresses the divine image in humanity must be something unique to humans. This cannot be biological dimorphism or reproduction.

The true divine image lies in the capacity to love; creatively with the Father, sacrificially as the Son, and eternally in the Spirit. Same-sex couples are capable of these things.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 5:37pm BST

Peter K,
could I ask you to explain why the fruitfulness argument is so important, yet it does not apply to straight people when they cannot or do not want to have children, and why it does not apply to gay people when they have their own children or adopt and foster?

Many years ago my ex-husband married a woman who had a 15-year old daughter. They did not want any more children.
I married my wife and together we brought up my then primary school aged children. We did not want any more children.

By what theological reasoning is my ex-husband's second marriage a marriage the church accepts and even blesses, yet mine isn't?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 6:09pm BST

"However, there is a better way forward in terms of a values based ethic. One thinks of transcendent values. Values ( transcendent, non-transcendent, positive, negative, convivial, alienating) permeate scripture, are diffused in scriptural narratives, are embedded in the outlook of scriptural writers; but the same values are also found in our contemporary horizon(s) in theological discourse, in pastoral policies and pragmatic pastoral responses. Values are found in the wider modern horizon, in the voices from a variety of religious faiths, and in the voices of those who profess no religious faith."

Rod, a fabulous paragraph. Thank you.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 6:39pm BST

If any are interested I wrote the entry on 'Trinity in the Old Testament' for the volume produced by Oxford U Press.

'In beginning' (an unusual form in Hebrew) was taken by John 1 and by all the Fathers as less temporal and more agency in intention: 'in arche' and 'bereshith' was 'in he who is beginning before any created being' or in Philo 'in the torah of God through which he did all his planning to come'.

Proverbs 8 is likely the most quoted text in all Trinitarian discussion, and it also focuses on Genesis 1 and divine agency and extension.

It is impossible to ignore the significance of Genesis 1 for the history of interpretation, which took Colossians 1 and John 1 as participating properly in Christian understandings of divine agency as there stated.

You are certainly correct Peter K+ about the significance of Genesis 1 and its rehearsal in Colossians 1, Ephesians and Matthew and the mystery of Christ and marriage.

Posted by Christopher Seitz at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 6:57pm BST

Although we already have the royal 'we' in the UK, and the word for God, plural in Hebrew, seems similarly to intend a singular meaning... I find something felicitous about the third word, 'Elohim', being a plural form... given that God is three persons yet one God.

Just out of interest (addressing Peter or Christopher - or anyone else who can enlighten) where are the insinuations of Trinity in Genesis 1 and 2. I can see the Ruach brooding over the waters, but I don't see Jesus - except by backwards working from John 1 (which is kind of cheating). Just curious to understand. Nor do I see the "Trinitarian resonances in marriage" as Peter puts it, except the two becoming one, which points towards union and sharing love (which is of course a fundamental fruitfulness, regardless of any children arising). Is that what you meant?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 10:00pm BST

Susannah; I find most helpful, in your problem of finding Jesus at work in Creation, this possible understanding of the relevant passage on Creation in Genesis -

Christ, The Word, spoken by The Father, was borne on the breath of The Spirit, in a way that brought Creation into being!

Simplistic? Maybe, but adequate for our human capacity to analyse a great mystery.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 1:05am BST

David Runcorn,

If it seems uncharitable, perhaps it is a reflection of what conservatives do to liberals.

My charitability, however, lay in having no desire to force conservatives to stay in a situation in which they feel they endanger their souls, nor glbti's in a situation in which we feel endangered by those who *should* be our brothers.

The differences are too fundamental to allow a mere live-and-let-live approach in a single ecclesial structure. It is mere human pride and vanity, in any case, to assume that the Church Universal must have all the same practices and be under one denomination.

I advocate total separation, until the wounds dealt on each side have healed - a generation, at least, with neither communication nor mutual recognition - and then, *perhaps*, a fresh start can be made again. Anything else appears irrational and rather selfish.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 5:16am BST

Once again, Kate, there has *been* robust theology.

That it does not meet your preconceptions does not, in any way, make it less robust.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 6:48am BST

Which is kind of cheating...

Here is the mindset with which the modern historicist is burdened. Did God create without divine personal agency?

Progressively and not retrospectively.

A personal God--without the panoply of gods of polytheism --relates through his Logos and by the Spirit, that Logos in time coming out of figural and sacramental presence to be born of a woman.

See my OUP entry. Also Matthew Bates' The Birth of the Trinity (OUP 2015).

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 7:05am BST

Christopher,

I was being a little light-hearted and mischievous (in fun) when I said "which is kind of cheating". I like to tease a bit provocatively sometimes.

For the record, I do indeed see the Trinitarian God at work in the recorded accounts of OT writers. And if God is God, then that's not really retrospectively imposed, since God operates in eternity and knows 'the end' from 'the beginning' (though the writers themselves did not).

Taken as a religious text written by Israelites for their Israelite religion, there is no intended indication of a Trinity. And, again being mischievous, I can see why they might regard the later imposition of a retrospective interpretation of *their* text as a sort of cultural appropriation, akin to theft!

I believe in the Trinity, the household and community of God, in all eternity. I believe the Trinity operated both in creation itself, and in the archetypes and writings of the authors of Genesis 1 and 2. And I think the concept of the logos in John 1, probably supported by classical ideas of logos before it, was and is stunning.

God commands into being that which was not. What I especially love is what that implies for us, and our vocation. That God not only creates us, but continues day by day to call us into being and becoming who God always intended us, uniquely, to be (borrowing hugely here from Rowan Williams' thoughts on vocation).

Having said all that, the scriptures - though inspired by divine encounter and the attempt to make sense of it - in my view retain human fallibility. They didn't have to be always right, when trying to report and interpret divine encounter. That human fallibility of the Bible, in my view, makes it more real, not less real.

What makes our reading of the Bible 'kind of cheating' in the end, may not be the retrospective recognition of the Christian narrative in the OT narrative... but if we disallow any contextual limits whatsoever to the people who wrote the Bible. They were humans like you and like me, trying to make sense of the profound, but fallible and coloured by their own culture and experience.

Of course, you might legitimately counter, that we should not disallow contextual limits to the people today who *read* the Bible!

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 12:07pm BST

Mark
That it doesn't feel robust to those whose minds needs to be changed is what matters, not my mind.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 3:27pm BST

The modern convention is to present a narrative in timeline sequence so it is easy to assume that Genesis 2 follows Genesis 1 in time. I don't read it that way but see Genesis 2 as expanding upon key events within Genesis 1. Thus the Genesis 1 portrayal of male and female describes the position after the Fall, with the Pre-Fall relationship described in Genesis 2 as simply "companionship". I don't see fruitfulness - or marriage - as part of the original divine plan but as a reaction to eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Indeed, the whole concept of sexual attraction of woman for man and vice versa, and of marriage, seems to be a consequence of that fruit with Adam and Eve unashamed of their nakedness until they eat.

Jesus is not described as married. Why is that? I suggest because He taught that, while marriage remains acceptable, it is better to dedicate one's life to God which reinforces the view that marriage based on sex and procreation / fruitfulness was not part of God's original design otherwise Christ would Himself have taught the value of fruitfulness.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 4:08pm BST

For me then, the debate about marriage is a debate about relative imperfection. Is it more imperfect for a man to marry another man than to marry a woman or is it more imperfect when marrying to see men and women as distinct genders rather than seeing simply the image of God in which gender is irrelevant? It is not an irrelevant debate because of the impact on lives but nonetheless for me it remains a debate about relative imperfection when most Christians should aspire instead not to be married in the Biblical sense.

Susannah keeps reminding us that we are commanded to love one another. There is nothing in the Gospels however which suggests we should love one person more than others, and much to suggest such focus is not highly desirable.

My personal sense is that in removing fruitfulness via procreation from marriage we are taking a step towards God's original intent for man. I can see that if one sees fruitfulness as part of the original intent that one would reach the opposite conclusion.

Can I say what a delight it is that we are discussing Genesis. The Bible ends with Eden restored. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the thousands of verses inbetween are about what happened after the events in Eden and what needs to happen to restore that perfection. That is the narrative. That is the Scripture which some would put aside to rely upon personal conscience which is surely just a modern term for "fruit of the tree of knowledge".

How can we hope to restore Eden if we continue to insist upon the value of the fruit of the tree of knowledge (ie our consciences and modern values) rather than relying upon the Word of God?

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 4:39pm BST

Incidentally, one counter to the idea from Genesis that marriage is between one man and one woman is to look at the other end of the Bible and to marriage within Revelation 19. By then, marriage has become purely a relationship between the Lamb as a proxy for Jesus / God / the Spirit (but apparently genderless) and a bride which is generally accepted as a symbol for the church, and again genderless. There's also no suggestion of fruitfulness from the marriage in a sexual sense.

Genesis is a difficult book to understand but Revelation is many times harder. There are countless interpretations of the symbolism and meaning of Revelation and there is little consensus of any conclusions or insights we can draw from Revelation.

Peter, I think it is, has been commenting on the Trinitarian symbolism of marriage in Genesis. But is it that way round? Is marriage in Revelation used symbolically to refer back to the marriage of a man and a woman or could it be (and I think it is) that marriage in Genesis is symbolic of the greater, actual marriage described in Revelation? At the least, marriage in Revelation which is manifestly more than the type of marriage described in Genesis is a clear challenge to conservative literalists who say that the Bible describes marriage as being between one man and one woman because that is not the only example of marriage in the Bible and the example in Revelation is transcendent of such a narrow view of marriage.

(It is only because we have been discussing Genesis so much that I turned to Revelation to see how the concept of marriage changes from the beginning to the End Times.)

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 5:16pm BST

"...a retrospective interpretation of *their* text as a sort of cultural appropriation" -- not in the least. Read any of the works of Daniel Boyarin, a Jewish scholar of the NT. He insists that 'logos' theology is Jewish in character.

The Bates book would help you into a different frame of reference, including Jewish scholarship.

Christians tend to forget that Jews know about as much about the TANAK as Christians do about the OT. They approach God through the tannaite second witness, not least because the TANAK reminds them of a past that is genuinely past (no temple, prophets, priesthood, law geared to land). It was Christians who claimed that the first witness continued to witness to the eternal reality in bracing ways...or used to so do, before the OT became OLD. MYTH. Human efforts to approach God. etc.

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 6:23pm BST

Kate, you might be interested to know how closely your thought here reflects the writing of John of Damascus, in his Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (Bk 4, Chap 24) (though he preserves the order of the narrative):

We, made confident by God the Word that was made flesh of the Virgin, answer that virginity was implanted in man’s nature from above and in the beginning. For man was formed of virgin soil. From Adam alone was Eve created. In Paradise virginity held sway. Indeed, Divine Scripture tells that both Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed. But after their transgression they knew that they were naked, and in their shame they sewed aprons for themselves. And when, after the transgression, Adam heard, dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return, when death entered into the world by reason of the transgression, then Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare seed. So that to prevent the wearing out and destruction of the race by death, marriage was devised that the race of men may be preserved through the procreation of children. But they will perhaps ask, what then is the meaning of “male and female,” and “Be fruitful and multiply?” In answer we shall say that “Be fruitful and multiply” does not altogether refer to the multiplying by the marriage connection. For God had power to multiply the race also in different ways, if they kept the precept unbroken to the end. But God, Who knows all things before they have existence, knowing in His foreknowledge that they would fall into transgression in the future and be condemned to death, anticipated this and made “male and female,” and bade them “be fruitful and multiply.”

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 8:19pm BST

Then work on changing *their* minds.

As I've said, we shouldn't be wasting our time on it. Clean break. End the sham marriage.

The only way to get them to accept reasonable arguments is to get them to change the way they view Scripture, and we haven't that right.

This simply is neither productive nor particularly Christlike to keep wasting resources on what is, fundamentally, an unbridgeable gap that is too important to both sides. As I've said before, it *is* also dishonest, and that dishonesty is on both sides, because what this attempt to preserve a non-existent unity really is is a power struggle. On the conservative side is the dishonesty of a willingness to listen, which is only a willingness to listen to agreement. On the liberal side is a dishonesty of a willingness to co-exist, but only because of a belief the co-existence will eventually wipe out the opposition.

When the question is a fundamental approach to the foundational texts of the Faith, the differences cannot be bridged with our current abilities.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 5:41am BST

A most interesting revelation, Tobias! I wonder what answer cseitz might give us in mitigation?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 11:26am BST

Tobias, thank you. Very interested, but doesn't John of Damascus put things so much more elegantly than I managed in my clumsy effort?

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 7:33pm BST

I don't know what "itigation"it is, but the best treatment of the sources Jewish and Christian that I know is Gary Anderson's 'Garments of Glory.' The envy of the snake was thought by most as a sign that Adam and Eve were enjoying their sexual lives and this inflamed the serpent. The garments were not actual clothing but corporeality as such ("skin"). Thus when Michelangelo shows Adam and Even leaving the garden they are naked, now subject to mortality, save their fig leaves. They 'knew they were naked' because they ate from the tree of knowledge. The garments of glory no longer constituted their 'bodily' life with God. Now their would have skin as garmenting. For garments of glory, see Mt of Transfiguration where the New Adam shows us his glorified eternal Body, which he is making and has made for us.

You can also see my treatment in Colossians (Brazos, 2014).

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 8:23am BST

Interesting thread this one, with regard to the Genesis mythologies, both in terms of what is said and what is not being said.

No mention of the problems that some applications of Genesis have created for the church in terms of proof texting colonialism and economic and environmental domination.

No mention of how one can read about the mythological archetypes of Adam and Eve within the context of religious traditions that were equally comfortable with polygamous (polygyny) marriage or the subordination of women to their husbands.

No mention of feminist biblical interpretation and the critical issues raised by the same.

See, Feminist Biblical Studies in the Twentieth Century:Scholarship and Movement. (Society of Biblical Literature.)

https://www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/pubs/066002P-front.pdf

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 3:45pm BST

Yes, those Genesis 'mythologies' that the wise of our age like Mr Gillis declare so confidently as unobserved as such by John of Damascus, et al.

Sounds like his argument is directed against Kate and Fr Haller both!

By all means let's have a recent SBL session intended to represent a single segment of late modernity declare what is wise and true for the Christian Church. Which probably cuts against the grain of their own concern to leave the Church out altogether as a consideration.

We press on. Amities en Christ.

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 6:36pm BST

The first few chapters of Genesis do indeed offer us many opportunities for reflection, some of them mutually contradictory.

Given the other puns and plays on words in those opening chapters, it is worth noting the serpent's craftiness and the theme of nakedness coincide. (The Hebrew for the naked couple (arumim) at the end of chapter two confronts the "wise" (arum) serpent at the start of chapter three.) The serpent is wise precisely because he is naked: he has learned this from his own experience of shedding his skin. He both tempts and "teaches" Eve to become like himself -- not just naked but wise to her nakedness.

This suggests a turning away from "God-likeness" (as the couple are already "clothed" therewith) to the inward-turned selfishness of self-known nakedness -- the poor bare forked animal of King Lear's disillusionment -- and attendant shame.

Was the serpent jealous of Adam in possessing Eve, as some of the Rabbis and Fathers thought? Or, if he was Lucifer or Lucifer's agent, as many others see it, did his self-centered wisdom (his "naked" envy that couldn't bear to see mankind enjoy a status he once held) seek to drag humanity down to "lower than the [even fallen] angels"?

Posted by Tobias Haller at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 7:36pm BST


@ cseitz, "Sounds like [t]his argument is directed against Kate and Fr Haller both!" It is not an argument "directed" against anyone, and certainly not against Kate or Tobias Haller whose posts I enjoy reading.

It is simply to advert to voices that are often left out, or passed over in silence which would seem to be one of the points addressed by the formidable erudition of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza.

" ...cuts against the grain of their own concern to leave the Church out altogether as a consideration." Do You find that dismissivness works strategically?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 12:43am BST

"The Hebrew words used for male and female very much mean 'bodily male' and 'bodily female' - Can we properly define male and female without referring to our bodies? I don't think so."

I'm always interested to see those for whom I, as a genderqueer person, just don't exist (in their worldview).

In the Mind & Heart of God, however, I am convinced I am known and loved---AS I was created. TBTG.

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 4:39am BST

JCF,

Obviously I have never met you and I don't know you, but yes, thanks to God for making you who you uniquely are.

Since you have the openness to acknowledge your genderqueer 'you', I want to affirm that part of you (and yes, gender anywhere along the spectrum is only part of who a person is).

The whole of who you are is called into being (constantly and repeatedly in an ongoing process of becoming, don't you think) by a loving God who delights in your creation and who you are as a person.

And besides, I have a suspicion that everyone is 'queer' (as in has their own quirks and traits that aren't quite conforming), even though many people desperately try to appear acceptable and part of 'the group'. I think we all, in our uniqueness, have things that make us 'other' than the cultural status quo. I'm not implying that genderqueer is quirky. But I'm implying that difference prevails in all of us, one way or another, even in God - who after all we regard as personal, not some kind of automaton, and therefore may also have unique personal traits, distinctive and individual. In a sense, the Trinity itself may be far more than simply a 'male God' in identity... may understand and feel femme poles, and macho male poles, and queer identity, and lesbian impulse, masculine attraction. We cannot know with any certainty, exact this is the type of people God conceives, imagines, and calls into being.

So yes, thanks be to God.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 11:24am BST

And still no one sees?

There are two fundamentally different worlds - one which sees the world around us, as it is, and tries to understand God in that reality. The other that sees the world as some sort of twisted "Mirror,Mirror" universe which is shown in its rightful state only in canonical scripture, and all evidence to the contrary is only a trick.

One relies on rational faith found demonstrated in the objective reality world, the other on supernatural faith set against the objective reality of the world.

Two. Different. Realities.

The split has happened. The scripturally-literal conservatives are a different faith, not just a different interpretation of faith. It cannot share one denomination with an entirely different faith.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 16 August 2016 at 7:14am BST
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