Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 3 May 2017

Kieran Bohan A brave faith An outpouring of the spirit – Searching for a more inclusive church

Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News A Question of Christian Identity?

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 GAFCON & the paradox of ‘cultural captivity.’

Michael Sadgrove Woolgathering in North East England Discerning Vocation in the Third Age: more from the retirement front line


  • To Jayne Ozanne: well put; and, yes, on our progressive end of the spectrum we do have bigots that we need to acknowledge and challenge. It doesn’t change how progressive I see myself, but perhaps does call me to some humility.

    To Andrew Lightbown: simply, yes.

  • Lavinia Nelder says:

    Thank you Andrew

  • Edward Prebble says:

    “The Jayne Ozanne article is fine as far as it goes”
    Rod, I had placed a response on the via media site before I read your comment. I quite agree with you, but would like to repeat what I said there, with a little change.
    When I was studying Romans at University of Nottingham in 1982, Dr, later Professor, James D G Dunn had an interesting take on Chapter 14, where he saw Paul presenting a paradigm that can apply in many situations, including debates about (homo)sexuality. Paul describes two groups of people, whom he describes as “strong” and “weak”, thus displaying his own feelings. Dunn suggested that “conservative” or “traditional, and “liberal” or “progressive” can be substituted.
    On any issue, be it the eating of meat sacrificed at pagan altars, or the ordination of women, or equal marriage, there is a natural tendency for conservative people to judge those who are pressing for change, and for liberal people to despise those who argue for maintaining old patterns. Verse 3 says that meat-eaters must not despise the scrupulous, and the scrupulous must not condemn those who eat the meat. And v10 says that we should never pass judgement on a sister or brother, nor treat them with contempt.
    Rod, you, and I and Jayne Ozanne (and I guess most TA readers) can place ourselves towards the “strong” end of Paul’s spectrum. Dunn’s point is that the temptation for us has a different hue than that applying to conservatives; it is a temptation to despise or treat with contempt those who disagree with us, including those who in their turn are tempted to judge or condemn us.
    Of course we need to call out anti-intellectualism when we see it, but we are unlikely to be heard if our critique is coloured by contempt.

  • MarkBrunson says:

    That’s what we progressives are best at – faced with others engaging in cruelty, bigotry, hypocrisy, we ask what’s wrong with *us*. It’s like the beaten wife on “Maury.” “If I didn’t make him so mad, he wouldn’t have to hit me!”

  • Thank you, Rod, for your comments – on Paul’s take on moral questions. None of us ought discount the cultural situation in which Paul wrote his letters. From his previous Judaic theology, for instance, Paul had to adjust to the more humane pastoral approach of Jesus – whom he was able, after a lifeltime of experience as a Pharisee, to proclaim as the true Messiah. Likewise, if Paul were alive today – with modern insights into human biology and an understanding of authentically committed same-sex relationships, he might be writing differently.

    Context has a lot to do with theologising in the particular situation one is intepreting.

  • Kate says:

    I suggest great care should be taken when relying on Romans 14.2. It only says that some are called to live by more restrictions than others. It does not suggest that it is acceptable to preach that everyone should refrain from eating meat.

  • Edward Prebble says:

    I think we are in absolute agreement on two assertions, separated by a “but”. The only difference is which assertion comes before, and more importantly, which assertion comes after the “but”.
    For example, I can say “I really love looking after my grandchildren, but it’s sometimes hard work”, Or “It’s sometimes hard work looking after my grandchildren, but I really love doing it”.
    I totally agree that sticking to clear arguments is a good defense against the temptation to despise those with whom we disagree, and even more do I agree with your earlier point that reflecting on the harm done by various opinions is a good way to counter a false equivalency between “conservative” and “liberal” positions (as always, those are very poor labels, but let’s stick with them for the moment).
    Let’s recall that this interesting discussion begins with Jayne Osanne’s comments. I think she is quite right with her central assertion that when we allow ourselves to speak from the perspective of various “tribes”, we run a greater risk of doing harm by our arguments. The very name of this website is another example – are those who disagree with the views typical on this site unthinking? I expect that she would agree with you (and me)about some of the comments we might like to add after a “but” BUT her point stands.

    Oh, and how can conservatives be regarded as “weak”? I have thought about that a lot since adopting Dunn’s schema based on Romans 14 many years ago. I think Paul illustrated his very point by describing the non-meat-eaters as “weak”. Why he needed to use such a disparaging epithet for these people only he can say, and he is not here to ask. I quite agree – many of them are strong indeed.

  • Thanks again, Rod, for your further ruminations. I wonder how a modern St.Paul would have dealt with the conservative GAFCON position, vis-a-vis the matter of their siding with the local regulatory persecution of Gays in their territories. It seems to me not too unlike the situation of the Pharisees all too ready to cast the first stone, while not considering the effects of their own repressive attitudes towards ‘sinners’, whom Christ came to redeem.

  • Cynthia says:

    “But love is bridged with justice,”

    American theologian and philosopher, Cornell West, says that “justice is the public expression of love.”

  • Janet Fife says:

    I have always understood that when St Paul describes believers as ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ he is referring to their faith or their conscience, not to the degree of power that they hold. This is his argument in 1 Cor. 8 regarding the eating of meat, where those with a strong conscience eat meat sacrificed to idols, knowing that idols have no real existence. Those with a weak conscience don’t eat such meat, worrying they may be compromised or polluted by it. Rom. 14:1 also says it is those with a weak faith who refrain from eating meat – unless they refrain out of a desire not to put a stumbling block in the way of the weak.

    From his point of view, as I see it, those with strict scruples are weak in faith and those with a stronger faith may take a more liberal attitude. When I was a conservative evangelical these two passages prompted me to do some hard thinking.

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