Thinking Anglicans

Calvin, usury and civil partnerships

Last December, TA reported briefly on the Welsh bishops statement on civil partnerships, and on Andrew Goddard’s response to it.

Then in January, TA reported on the Bishop of Bangor’s forthright response to Andrew Goddard.

Since then, Andrew Goddard responded by republishing an earlier essay entitled Semper Reformanda in a Changing World: Calvin, Usury and Evangelical Moral Theology.

Now, the bishop, Anthony Crockett, has published this further article. It’s quite long, but does come back eventually to the original topic:

…The Welsh Bishops, to get back to my original paper, tried in their statements on homosexuality and civil partnerships to indicate their perception of where Christians who read the Bible with integrity are, like Calvin in his day. Some of the views they mentioned are undoubtedly revisionist, in terms of the biblical and traditional material – as revisionist, but not more so, as Calvin’s in relation to usury – and on the same grounds, namely the principle of equity and the application of the Golden Rule ‘on which hang the law and the prophets’. The Bishops might have taken the trouble to produce ‘a form of moral argumentation and an appeal to Scripture’, to say nothing of tradition, social change and the ‘way in which our current situation is different from that of the biblical writers’. But those arguments are already much in the public domain. The Bishops appreciated the need, felt by some, to reconceptualise the phenomenon of homosexuality (cf Calvin’s identical argument on p12), and now Dr Goddard, in posting his paper on the Fulcrum website, has done them the favour of reproducing that argumentation for all to see, and to make up their minds. The Bishops will welcome his willingness to apply Calvin’s method based on equity and the Golden Rule, for like Calvin, they do not want to ‘turn (their) back on Scripture. Rather (they want to) let Scripture shape (their) thinking at the level of moral and theological principles’ (p10).

Perhaps Dr Goddard would agree that it would have been better if he had applied his analysis of Calvin’s hermeneutical method to our Statements, before he reached for his pen. Then his precipitate response and unhelpful tone might have been avoided. But all’s well that ends well. We should be glad that his lucid presentation of Calvin’s rationale for his revision of the consistent, unwavering, ‘clear’ biblical and traditional veto on usury is now in the public domain. I should like to suggest that we should all apply it consistently and conscientiously to the issue of same-sex relationships, refusing to confuse the issue with that of promiscuity, as Gagnon – he of the unpleasant tone – does. Instead of condemnation, we should admit that when homosexual people talk of permanent, loving, same-sex relationships, they are speaking of something which ‘is in fact significantly different in practice from Scriptural concerns and so cannot simply be subsumed in the standard moral descriptions and condemnations’, as Dr Goddard himself recognises could be the case (p12). Who knows, we might even consent to listen ‘to homosexual people, welcoming them into our homes and sitting down to eat with them’, as Stephen Fowl (p6) recommends.

8
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
8 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
5 Comment authors
Thomas RenzPeter BergmanCheryl CloughJohn HenryPrior Aelred Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Prior Aelred
Guest

Kudos to + Anthony Bangor for engaging with his opponents with far more patience, charity and sound scholarship than I could ever muster — Wales is fortunate to have him.

Usury and birth control are indeed excellent examples of now generally accepted sudden reversals in “clear and tradtional teaching” in response changing times.

John Henry
Guest
John Henry

I wish +Anthony Bangor had become ++Anthony Cantuar in place of ‘spineless’ Dr. Rowan Douglas Williams. The Anglican Communion deserves better and needs a leader who exhibits theological clarity rather than a pawn of ++Peter Abuja and the latter’s associates of the Anglican Network in ECUSA. Dr. Williams doesn’t even stand by the Windsor Report which takes a dim view of border crossings by the EPISCOPI VAGANTES of the Global South.

Cheryl Clough
Guest
Cheryl Clough

I would not be so quick to attack Rowan Williams. Anthony Bangor probably wouldn’t have had the time or clear head space to write his paper if he had been Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s easy to forget that obligations of office can hinder theological contemplation. Also, it is highly likely people will look back on these times and be grateful that Rowan Williams is a leader that can cope with ambiguity. One of the comments from the recent 9th assembly of the World Council of churches is the possible impact of moving to a consensus model of debate, rather than… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

It is worth reading both contributions in full even if they are lengthy. They are very instructive. Anthony Crockett opens his response by stating how glad he is that his own “robust response” (gladly borrowing Ruth Gledhill’s words) to Andrew Goddard’s “disparaging remarks” has succeeded “in getting him to declare his hand on Calvin’s revision of Christian teaching on usury” – interesting choice of words to refer to the internet publication of an essay which has been in the public domain since 2003 and which a moment later he later calls an “off-the-peg” article. Do phrases like “we can now… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

“Despite its regrettable lack of historical context, which would have shown how revolutionary Eck and Calvin were in this respect…” (AC on AG) overlooks the context, purpose and constraints of AG’s essay. There was no need to show “how revolutionary” the revision of tradition was, since the essay leaves us in no doubt about that, and AG’s stated concern with evangelical methodology made Calvin a useful object of study when Eck would not have been. Note in this context how AC misconstrues what AG says about the usefulness of studying Calvin when he claims in the first paragraph that AG… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

I wish someone did a careful comparative study of Eck’s and Calvin’s method. AC seems to see no difference between the two. In his first response to AG he only references Eck’s 1515 disputation and in this second response, he is happy to be identified with Calvin’s method. What Eck and Calvin advise church members to do and avoid may look the same superficially but the reasoning behind it is a rather different matter, if Lisa Jardine’s Worldly Goods (which AC recommends in his response) can be relied on. She writes of “an ingenious three-tiered arrangement of contracts” which Eck… Read more »

Peter Bergman
Guest
Peter Bergman

Crockett gets it wrong again. If Calvin had thought that Scripture banned usury (= interest) in EVERY circumstance, he would have been against it too. But Calvin knew that interest/usury was not absolutley proscribed by Scripture, so he put Scripture ahead of the teaching of Christendom (which still allowed usury in dealings with Jews). Crockett (who knows a thing or two about unpleasant tone) is in a difficult situation. As a remarried divorcee, his appointment was opposed by many in Bangor and raises questions about Jesus’ own teaching. In any case, if Crockett spent just a few minutes with a… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

My comment about AC consistently misspelling Gagnon is inaccurate. He does it only in the passage quoted and spells the name accurately in the other place where he refers to him. I am sorry!