Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 10 February 2024

David Runcorn Inclusive Evangelicals Marriage in the Garden

Adrian Thatcher Modern Church A ‘Theological Vision’, or ‘Myopic Homophobia’?

Anne Richards Modern Church Spiritual Abuse

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Living as if . . .

Alex Frost ViaMedia.News Response to the ‘Letter from Seven Bishops’: A Theology of Inclusion

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FrDavid H
FrDavid H
4 months ago

David Runcorn’s contention that the story of Adam and Eve in the garden occupies a central place in the present debates about human sexuality and relationships is surely part of the problem. Arguing over a contemporary understanding of marriage on the basis of an imaginary couple, who lived in a fictitious horticultural setting, hardly advances the cause of same-sex marriage in the real – as opposed to imaginary – world where different cultures, tribes, religions etc. have devised their own arrangements about relationships and marriage throughout human history. To argue from a creation myth that God has definitively revealed his… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

On the contrary. Whatever your personal beliefs it is a matter of fact that Genesis is one of the fundamentals of the debate about sexuality in the Church of England because many believers, and officially the Church itself, do believe in a literal Genesis. You think that is rubbish but your belief isn’t going to impact how those who do believe in Genesis interpret it. It is certainly possible to argue that Genesis is a fairy tale but nobody has yet explained to me how we tell that Genesis is a fairy tale but the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus… Read more »

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Kate Keates
4 months ago

Oooh, I think the talking snake may be a clue…

Michael Arthur Stringer
Michael Arthur Stringer
Reply to  Helen King
4 months ago

Try William Lane Craig’s excellent “In Quest of the Historical Adam: A Biblical and Scientific Exploration” for an analytic philosopher/theologian’s take – rather than spiting poison.

Aljbri
Aljbri
Reply to  Michael Arthur Stringer
4 months ago

Woah! Spitting poison? Who are you talking about? Helen’s comment is not toxic. Disagreement is admissible on this site.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Kate Keates
4 months ago

The Incarnation and Resurrection are matters of faith, not fact. The Church of England doesn’t regard Genesis as a “fairy tale”. Nor does it take Genesis literally.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Kate Keates
4 months ago

The phrase ‘fairly tale’ is not helpful. It is however fairly clear that the two creation stories in Genesis can’t both be literally true.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Kate Keates
4 months ago

“many believers, and officially the Church itself, do believe in a literal Genesis.”
Many believers – yes.
The Church itself – no.
But your point about the incarnation and resurrection are very relevant!

Last edited 4 months ago by Charles Read
David Exham
David Exham
Reply to  Kate Keates
4 months ago

Kate, what, please, is your evidence that officially the Church, and I assume you mean the Church of England, believes in a literal Genesis?

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

And yet we argue from the same myth that humans are made in the image of God.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

How is that a prescription for marriage? Does God have a wife or husband?

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

‘To argue from a creation myth that God has definitively revealed his founding intention for humanity is quite preposterous.’ – your words. So is it your position that it’s okay to argue from a creation myth that we are made in God’s image, but not that marriage is male and female? Isn’t that a little inconsistent?

Just to clarify, I believe in equal marriage. I just don’t understand why you think a biblical story has to be literal history before we can draw theological truth from it.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

I don’t believe we can claim any definitive divine intention about anything written by fallible authors wrestling with human existence. It’s possible to argue against same-sex marriage from Genesis. Exegesis is just a matter of opinion. Being “made in God’s image” , like marriage, is a human construct.

Last edited 4 months ago by FrDavid H
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

So, in no sense a divine revelation, then?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

The concept of divine revelation is also a human construct.

James
James
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

To be clear, you think Christianity is a construct of human minds and not a body of truth revealed by God? Is that your belief?
If so, why be a Christian?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  James
4 months ago

How does that “revelation” manifest itself apart from the human mind, with words written by humans and doctrines composed by men? “Divine revelation ” is a theological concept. Which “body of truth” do you accept? The Roman Curia? Papal Infallibility?

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

So there is no divine revelation? We’re just guessing.

James
James
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

“Equal marriage”? No such thing. You mean ‘same-sex marriage’ – which is an invention of late post-Christian culture. If you accept that, why not polygamy, which many cultures affirm? Why are you against polygamy?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  James
4 months ago

I never mentioned “equal marriage”. It was Tim. Polygamy is illegal in the UK.

James
James
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

David: My reply was intended for Tim, I don’t know how it ended up here. My point is that “equal marriage” is a political slogan from the United States and is absurd. Christian Marriage is NOT “equal”, it is the union of opposites, one man and one woman in an exclusive sexual un ion intended for life. Now if Tim imagines we can break one of the fundamental (and transcultural) characteristics of marriage, the union of a man and woman, what reason exists for outlawing polygamy – which does exist in many cultures (and secretly in many parts of Britain… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  James
4 months ago

There are many reasons – perhaps economic – to outlaw polygamy. Why does polygamy follow from allowing same-sex marriage? It doesn’t. Are you suggesting men and women are not “equal”? In Christ, there is neither male nor female, according to St Paul. I suspect you are an evangelical who believes only your interpretation of Scripture is the correct one . We have moved on from the time when slaves should obey their masters. Which, according to your reasoning, should still apply .

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  James
4 months ago

If Christian marriage is “the union of opposites, one man and one woman in an exclusive sexual union intended for life”, why do the Archbishops give faculties for one in six ordained priests to get involved in divorce, and why are there discussions in African Anglicanism about allowing a move towards polygamy within Christian marriage as being culturally appropriate?

The definition of Christian marriage is, and has always been, flexible. If we can flex the “for life” and the “one man and one woman” bits, why can’t we flex the gender bit?

Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

Because the institution of a sacrament must be historical and material, it must have a matter and a form. The argument that marriage was instituted ‘in paradisum’ was devised by the council of Trent against the Reformers and to see it used by evangelicals is, to me, beyond incredible.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
4 months ago

Yes, I’m not arguing against that position.

James
James
Reply to  Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
4 months ago

Lorenzo: Evangelicals don’t think marriage is a sacrament. But they do believe it is instituted by God, as Jesus teaches.
This isn’t “beyond incredible”. It’s there in the New Testament for anyone who can read. It’s also Anglican teaching as in the BCP. Read the New Testament and the BCP and you will understand this quite easily.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

On the contrary, I argue from Genesis chapter 1 that humans are made in the image of God. The Adam and Eve story starts with chapter 2. And I believe the “six days of Creation” story and the “Adam and Eve” story are two separate Creation accounts more or less merged together
God speaking the Universe and its constituent parts into existence may seem as mythical to some people as the Adam and Eve story, but I feel it is a far more logical Creation story than the Adam and Eve story.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
4 months ago

What it means to be created in God’s image and likeness is much debated. The first question to ask might be, ‘what would this have meant to those it was first spoken to?’ (so far as we can be sure). In that ancient world kings were absolute rulers, demanding to be worshipped as semi-divine beings. They built large, imposing images and likenesses of themselves everywhere, requiring sacrifice and total devotion. Even today they are a feature of despotic regimes. Political or religious those images were signs of oppression, hierarchy, dominance, slavery and total obedience. By complete contrast, here in the… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  David Runcorn
4 months ago

David, that’s an incredibly powerful point. Thank you.

Jonathan Chaplin
Jonathan Chaplin
Reply to  David Runcorn
4 months ago

Well said David, precisely the point. Some seem to be missing the wood for the trees.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Jonathan Chaplin
4 months ago

I can’t see the wood. How is an ancient creation myth helpful in promoting same-sex marriage? We can justify any prejudice by quoting random scriptures. I wouldn’t have chosen this particular tree to explain the gay marriage wood.

James
James
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

David: what you call “an ancient creation myth” – and it’s hard to think your words are not pejorative – is actually what is taught y our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Lord and Teacher of the Christian Church. Who teaches your your ethical and religious ideas? For myself, I am a Christian and, for most of my life now, a priest of the Church of England, so I know the source of authority for my religious and ethical beliefs – but where do yours come from?

James
James
Reply to  David Runcorn
4 months ago

“… a God who does not oppress, has no interest in status or reputation, does not demand unquestioning allegiance ….”

Leaving aside a weighted word like ‘oppress’, is this really the God of the Bible? Recognition of (or refusal to recognise) God’s glory (‘reputation’) as King and Creator is pretty central to the narrative of the Bible, as is unwavering allegiance (‘Abraham, take your only son ..’). I don’t think you’ve really entered into the world of the Bible here, David, you have mixed up Christianity with modern liberalism.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  James
4 months ago

James. One response – but you don’t really sound very open to discussion so this may simply raise your blood pressure further. Back to the beginning. What kind of God makes things? The answer is not immediately obvious. A God who is omni everything has no needs and lacks nothing. There is no job to be done. No project needs a work force. This means that creation is, by any normal measure of things, pointless. If God has no reason or need to create this must all be a gift of love. We read that Christ, ‘though he was in… Read more »

James
James
Reply to  David Runcorn
3 months ago

David, don’t worry about my blood pressure, I checked it the other day and it is VERY healthy – I hope yours is as good as mine. Of course God has no “needs” – I understand that as an orthodox trinitarian theist. But you are asking the wrong question: it is not what God ‘needs’ but what is good for His creation; and as a biblical scholar (albeit my doctorate is in OT, but I try to keep abreast of the shorter testament!), I don’t think your exegesis of Philippians 2.1 is very good – which I recall studying with… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  James
3 months ago

Thanks again. We both know we come from very different places theologically – but have in common an absolute commitment to the centrality of scripture. I think the idea of the incarnation as the humiliation of God/Christ needs using with great care. I do not think it was humiliating for God to choose to make humanity in his image and likeness. He called it good. he did so because he is humble. Humility and humiliation are not the same. I am speaking of the former. A humble God would not find anything humiliating – because the concept is completely foreign… Read more »

James
James
Reply to  David Runcorn
3 months ago

“A humble God would not find anything humiliating – because the concept is completely foreign to him.” Not what Paul says in Phil 2.6-8 (‘he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross’) and 2 Cor 8.9.

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

I think it is rather that humans make God in their own (homophobic) image.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
4 months ago

I love David Runcorn’s essay on Genesis, and the way he gently challenges a number of long standing assumptions about what the text can teach us. But I wonder if in one area he has not quite gone far enough, and that area is gender. David has still assumed that the original Adam is male, and assigns the pronouns “he” and “him” right from the start, but is this correct? A number of scholars are beginning to argue that the original Adam was hermaphrodite, both fully male and fully female, as was God. And at the “splitting” phase God simply… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

I guess my question, then, as a non-linguist, is this: Does ancient Hebrew have genders for nouns? Is “adam” male because the noun is male, just a table is female in Spanish because the noun “mesa” takes the feminine article?

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

That’s a good question about “adam”. I do know that “girl” is “yaldah” in Hebrew whereas “boy” is “yeled”, but I’m not sure if that is the same thing as feminine tables in Spanish or feminine windows in French.
I’ve often wondered the same thing about Genesis 1:27, where many translations state that God created “man” in God’s image, then the Hebrew restates in God’s image “man” or “him” was created, then finally, male and female God created “them”.
Are the translators being faithful to the Hebrew?

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Pat ONeill
4 months ago

Hebrew nouns are masculine or feminine as in French. Adam is a masculine noun and so yes masculine pronouns are used. This is grammatical gender of course and does not imply sexual gender. This is not why adam is seen as male – that is simply reading an assumption into the text. The key thing is that adam is a pun on adamah (dust). The creature is made from the ground (dust). Hence Ash Wednesday….

Last edited 4 months ago by Charles Read
Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

I read David’s article after I read your comment and I think hermaphroditism is a possibility David presents, albeit without placing it obviously centre-stage. Whatever you (both?) are right I think. It makes sense. I think it’s pretty irrelevant, however, as the traditional procreative sex roles only manifest after the Fall. For me the missing point isn’t hermaphroditism but pain. “To the woman He said, I will greatly multiply your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of childbearing; with spasms of distress you will bring forth children.” The Lord intended pregnancy to be difficult and childbirth painful.… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Kate Keates
John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Kate Keates
4 months ago

Not being either a Hebraic scholar or a gynaecologist, I’ll cheerfully admit to being unable to criticise any of these comments! However, in my very limited experience, hermaphrodites are exceedingly rare – I’ve only ever met one, the little child of an office colleague. They had my greatest sympathy. It is a VERY difficult position for anyone to be in – and, of course, they never asked to be born like it.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  John Davies
4 months ago

Intersex conditions aren’t as rare as most people think. (The term intersex as largely replaced hermaphroditism.). You might know someone intersex and be completely unaware of it. For example I knew one lady (I will avoid anything which might identify her) whom absolutely everyone thought was just a normal (and attractive) young woman. Actually she had a 46 XY karyotype but had Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome and had therefore developed a fully female body other than a) being infertile and b) needing estrogen supplements at puberty. Incidence is reckoned at upto 1 in 20,000 births, which is 0.1‰ of women. Offensively… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Kate Keates
3 months ago

Thanks, Kate. As I said before, I have virtually no knowledge of genetics; it certainly isn’t my science. Indeed, my formal, academic sex education began and ended with pre-O level biology, in about 1967,using a film some twenty years older. (I assume things have moved on a bit since then?) My colleague explained what her child would have to face later in life, which aroused my sympathy for them, and their difficulties. Now I never knew how that story ended – they’d be in their mid thirties now. Life is hard enough without that to cope with too. As I… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  John Davies
4 months ago

Hermaphrodite or intersex?

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

There are many ways to interpret hermaphrodite, which simply implies in some way male and female combined. Within the grouping LGBTQIA, the I stands for intersex, which includes those who may be in some intermediate state physiologically, as Kate describes above. But within traditional religious practise there is often a theme around the coming together of male and female. This can be about God, who is often portrayed in some way as male and female combined. But also in traditional religious practise it was common for those in the service of the God to be male and female combined in… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Yes, but I was curious as to how a little child could be hermaphrodite. In medicine, doesn’t the term mean being able to sexually reproduce with either sex?

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Janet. The word hermaphrodite has various different meanings in biology and medicine. In human medicine it is more about which specific anatomical features are present or absent, as Kate indicated.

But the word has been widely used across history to refer to a wide range of different human conditions and ways of being, many of which might be inside the modern category LGBTQIA. When used in this context the word is probably to vague to be helpful. It would be better to drill down into the detail and be more specific about that human condition.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Sorry, I forgot to say, we should keep the use of the word hermaphrodite for it’s original meaning – in mythology.

Hermaphroditus, in Greek myth, was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. The water-nymph Salmacis, seeing him bathing in a pool, fell in love with him and prayed that they might never be separated. The gods interpreted her request literally and joined the pair into one body. In both his name and his being, therefore, Hermaphroditus combines male and female.”

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60188-8/fulltext

James
James
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Hermaphroditism doesn’t exist among human beings. Some kind of genital ambiguity is estimated at about 0.018% of births.

James
James
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

‘intersex’ is a silly word used very indiscriminately. Actual hermaphroditism is virtually non-existent.

Geoff McL.
Geoff McL.
Reply to  James
4 months ago

Isn’t that precisely why the word intersex is used?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  James
4 months ago

What word would you use for people born with ambiguous genitalia?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Personally, I would use whatever word they chose – or none at all, if that’s what they wanted. But I know some at least are comfortable with ‘intersex’.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Janet Fife
3 months ago

Hullo again – I do seem to have set something going here. When they’re old enough to decide for themselves and make choices, I agree; use their personally preferred term. In the case of my colleague’s child, they did literally have both of the basic organs – and would have to wait until it became clear which of the two would be dominant in adult life, at which point the redundant one would be subject to surgery. I was thinking specifically of the anatomical aspect of the issue, rather than emotional or psychological, which is probably one of my own… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  John Davies
3 months ago

Thanks John, I hadn’t heard the term ‘hermaphrodite’ used of humans with both sets of sexual organs, but I can see why it would be. Though presumably she wouldn’t have been able to reproduce with both sexes? An interesting case, but it must have been difficult for her and her parents when she was growing up.

I agree about God being beyond, but inclusive of, our gender categories. A friend (not entirely seriously) refers to God as ‘non-binary’, which is rather a nice thought.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Janet Fife
3 months ago

As I’ve just said to Kate, this is the first time I’ve ever heard the word ‘intersex’ and wouldn’t have understood it. For me a hermaphrodite is either a creature having both sets of organs in the same body or – and I suspect this will be new to you – a horse drawn, two wheeled farm cart which, by means of a hay ladder and a temporary front axle has been converted to a four wheeler – also known as a ‘mufferer’. Of the two, I would more instinctively think of the farm cart! Quite why the vehicle should… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  John Davies
3 months ago

You’re right, I’d never heard of that one! How interesting.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Kate Keates
3 months ago

Not sure where to put this thought, but this spot is as good as any. Years ago, at school, we read Paradise Lost, which depicts love making between Adam and Eve, firstly prior to the fall – everything wonderful, sweet and charming and then after the fall, as basically straight Pornhub carnality. So John Milton certainly saw there being a sexual experience in the original ‘perfect’ state. Being curious after all the discussion here, I checked out Genesis 2 and 3. God gave his command, to be fruitful and multiply to the couple well before the fall, which presumably implies… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

David says, ‘Note that Adam is not yet a gendered male. It is not clear when the name ‘Adam’ moves from meaning ‘humankind’ to becoming the personal name of a gendered man. But the story is not yet at that point.’

Tobias Haller
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

And given all the fuss about how consummation fits into the modern English legal understanding of marriage, there’s the fact that there is no consummation until after the Fall. Perhaps the most important learning from the whole story is not about marriage after all, but companionship: it is not good for the Adam to be alone. The search for a partner, after the animals are rejected, leads to the recognition of “one like him.”

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Tobias Haller
4 months ago

Exactly.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Tobias Haller
4 months ago

Exactly!

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Tobias Haller
4 months ago

Good that Lent has not yet to come, as I can say Alleluia to Tobias’ post. The notion of consummation somehow ‘making’ a marriage (and upheld in the English law of nullity) was first formalised only in the 12th century by the canon lawyer, Gratian. Later, others read this back into ‘the two become one flesh’ in Genesis. Since when Genesis has had to do rather too much heavy lifting.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Allan Sheath
4 months ago

The most comprehensive survey is here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/how-marriage-became-one-of-the-sacraments/A1D4E582A1F5CBF9FF6E01788EEA0112. There was still significant fluidity prior to the debates at Bologna (1547) and Trent (1563). For many, consent (solus consensus) rather than consummation made a marriage, and uncertainty about this issue continued for several centuries. This work, also by Reynolds, is important: https://brill.com/display/title/652?language=en.

Tobias Haller
Reply to  Froghole
4 months ago

Indeed, a long debated point. It is perhaps helpful to recognize that humans are capable of consent, while the “brute beasts” are well capable of consummation! Surely as well the author of the preface to the 1549 marriage liturgy had at least some of the medieval debates in mind when alluding to this distinction.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Froghole
4 months ago

The early history of the Church’s involvement in marriage shows that blessing is at the heart of what the Church does, with the vows a civil or domestic matter. However, in the Established Church, the nuptial blessing and the celebration of the Eucharist soon (inevitably?) gave way to the ‘contracting’ of a marriage by the exchange of vows. I have long seen the Genesis story as primarily about companionship, and the reading of legal understandings of marriage back into it as somewhat anachronistic. For this reason I was happy (and privileged) to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple with… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Allan Sheath
3 months ago

More specifically, Anglicanism likes to found the scriptural basis of marriage on Genesis 2.18-24. Yet the context is the creation of humankind rather than the story of its first couple. Reading an exclusive theology of marriage into this is to ignore the bigger story.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

My understanding is the rabbinic sages pondered whether Adam was more like a male/female conjoined twin that God then cleaved in two.
And I believe it has to do with Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (KJV, deliberately)” If the Hebrew has the same masculine noun usages, then that final “them” may be what caused the speculation.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

I think David does say that the earth creature (to use Trible’s term) is not male – he mentions that the text says ‘the adam’ until ch. 4.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Simon . Thank you for your appreciation of the blog. May I offer a few responses? I do not assume Adam was male. I wrote, “Note that Adam is not yet a gendered male. It is not clear when the name ‘Adam’ moves from meaning ‘humankind’ to becoming the personal name of a gendered man.” ‘Adam’ does not become a personal name at all until the conception of their third son Seth, in Gen 4. Until then, even after the creation of Eve, he/they are called The Adam – The Human.   I agree there are complex issues with language, indeed… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  David Runcorn
4 months ago

I think we also have to recognise that the scribes who first set Genesis down in writing lacked our modern comprehension of gender identity and components of sex. To use a less charged example, while I am no Hebrew scholar I understand there is debate as to whether at the time Genesis was written there was a clearly defined word for blue. The whole discussion would be tangential to this thread, but I think there is a central observation that we can’t wring more meaning from Genesis than the palette of physical and theological concepts available at the time to… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Kate Keates
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
4 months ago

David, many thanks for your response. I must admit that my original posting was intended to be simply about the use of gender pronouns in translation, but the debate seems to have grown from there, which is fine. I am very happy to acknowledge that you described the original Adam as not yet gendered. But you also wrote “God makes the first human in a completely empty world. At this point, Adam has nowhere to live and nothing to do. So God creates a garden and installs him as the gardener”. Through long habit it is so easy for all… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Simon. Thank you for your fuller response and giving the context of your comments. Happy to leave it there – except to say that the Hebrew story tellers were not working in their own bubble. Both creation accounts can be read as responding to other contrasting narratives in the world around them. Israel was telling a new story. Thanks again.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

“My criticism … projecting back Christian interpretations, traditions and values created some time after the text came into being. I think this is valid, but limited.” I like the point you make here. I’ve attached a link to a 2023 article from Scottish Journal of Theology ( published online by Cambridge University Press) by Jeremiah Coogan. His subject is a reading of Nicene controversies anachronistically into NT texts. However his method is in my estimation friendly to the point you are making here, and applicable to the conversation regarding the biblical creation myths and human sexuality and marriage. Indeed the… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Simon Dawson
3 months ago

Mention of the creation stories of other, ancient cultures which were neighbours to Israel raised more interesting questions. All of them had similar or parallel themes, one I recall had someone being split in half by a divine sword; most of them include flood narratives and other common themes. (Been a long time since I read any mythology. Tried to read the Iliad a couple of years ago, and gave up after the first chapter! My mind simply could not accept such utter rubbish! (Sorry, Homer)) So the obvious question – playing devils advocate, is why should we give more… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  John Davies
3 months ago

In return John, thank you for sharing your various comments and thoughts over the months.

It can be a hard and lonely journey using the pages of Thinking Anglicans, as well as many other methods, to challenge the Church’s attitude and teachings around homosexuality.

So when one gets posts like your to confirm that people are thinking and listening and responding, it gives one hope, and increased energy to carry on.

Richard Barrett
Richard Barrett
4 months ago

A bit of levity: I recently related to my husband that a prominent “orthodox” Anglican had written online that God performed surgery on Adam, removing a rib to create a woman. The response: “You mean gender-reassignment surgery?”

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Richard Barrett
4 months ago

Even funnier when you consider the scar from that would look a bit like a one-sided top surgery…I know I have several friends who would take that interpretation and run with it, lmao

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
4 months ago

I am writing to the seven bishops in no uncertain terms and will post the letter. Their contribution is theologically errant and in no way a sensible contribution to the debate. Mercifully they are a small minority of the College, despite their assertion that they represent a larger (unnamed) group.

Last edited 4 months ago by Anthony Archer
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Anthony Archer
4 months ago

This assertion to be part of a larger unnamed group reminds me of the church treasurer who used to come to me with complaints and would begin by asserting “Lots of people are saying…” It usually turned out that that was a lie.

John Darch
John Darch
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

I had a Churchwarden who used exactly the same words to try to give some heft to his personal opinions!

John Davies
John Davies
4 months ago

This was written after reading the two pieces by Adrian Thatcher and Alex Frost, but I don’t seem able to post it on either original site. Never mind. I’m speaking purely personally again, so well, take it as you find it. I read the original article by the seven bishops, and must admit it grated – I’m a married (elderly) straight who was single until 40, and found little but misery, frustration and pain in the ‘abundant life’ celibacy imposed by the circumstances life supplied. It enables me to be very empathetic to LGBT Christians after I started reading up… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  John Davies
4 months ago

Maybe the Seven Bishops are having flashbacks to the seven bishops prosecuted prior to the Glorious Revolution??
Or are planning to write more letters?
‘Letters from a Homophobic Cult?’ to offer them a title.
Unfortunately this all threatens to overwhelm the GS and underwhelm the public . The only agenda item which seems to have hit the National press is the item on clergy being bullied by lay officers….

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
4 months ago

The seven bishops are articulating the historic position of the Church of England.

You are free to disagree with them.

To characterize them as a homophobic cult is a ludicrous charge.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

Peter. I do not find labelling helpful either but Adrian Thatcher’s response (above) offers plenty of sharp, informed and valid challenges to the idea this is, and always has been, THE historic position of the church. Have you read it?

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

Might I ask what definition of homophobia you use? Mine is treating someone worse because they are gay, lesbian or bi. What is yours?

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Kate Keates
3 months ago

The word provides its own definition.

Phobia means to experience a sense of revulsion.

Last edited 3 months ago by Peter
John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
3 months ago

Indeed, I’d not noticed the similarity!

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Amongst all the discussion on Genesis and gender I need to make time to appreciate Colin Coward’s blog. He described exactly where I am. Ultimately God must be a mystery and unknown. So a conscious decision to live “as if” it were true must be all I can do. It’s not about an assent to certain faith propositions. It’s more about attempting to live one’s life engaging constructively with a religious community and a set of religious texts. I now understand that this is more of a Jewish way of living one’s religious life than Christian, but if it’s good… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
4 months ago

I think both David Runcorn and his respondent FrDavid H are both are on to something. David Runcorn exemplifies the value of divergent interpretations of a myth or story. One value of an artistic work is engendering human values and feelings in the hearer/reader/viewer. I appreciate Runcorn’s take on Genesis much for the same reasons I appreciate the exegetical framework of someone like Bishop Steven Croft. That said, I can identify to some extent with the hard nosed realism of FrDavid H. The past few weeks the daily lectionary here has been featuring readings from the Gospel of Mark including… Read more »

Fr John Caperon
Fr John Caperon
4 months ago

On the interpretation of Genesis, one has to wonder whether such an ancient mythological source can really be brought to bear on current controversies about the nature of marriage, surely? Discussing some years ago with a wonderful old priest the principles of biblical interpretation, I expressed uncertainty about how to distinguish the poetic from the literal. ‘John’, he said, ‘it’s all poetry.’ Isn’t that something we all need to learn? For literal truth we go to science; for poetic (and theological) truth, we go to the bible, to poetry. All theological/poetic language is analogical, metaphorical: we need to accept the… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Fr John Caperon
4 months ago

I totally agree. When we try to translate biblical poetry into prose it becomes both meaningless and unbelievable. Living human life poetically renders it more wonderful and less pedestrian than one lived in prose.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Fr John Caperon
4 months ago

“For literal truth we go to science; for poetic (and theological) truth, we go to the bible, to poetry.”  ( under lining mine). I wonder? “When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made!    All the world wondered. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade,    Noble six hundred!” –Tennyson “O thirty million English that babble of England’s might, Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night; Our children’s children are lisping to “honour the charge they made-“ And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!” –Kipling “The… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Rod Gillis
4 months ago

It is true there are poetic lies and distortions. Does that detract from Fr Caperon’s point that biblical writers are grappling with truth, poetically?

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

No not at all. I agree with Fr. Caperon on point; but as noted simply wish to point out the importance of distinctions and nuance on his point. I would add a further distinction. “For literal truth we go to science; for poetic (and theological) truth, we go to the bible, to poetry.”. We also go to history. History of course is not science, but critical history does advance on the rails of methodology similar to science i.e. sifting the evidence based on documents, archeology, and other data and then putting on offer probabilities i.e. evidence based hypotheses . Here… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Rod Gillis
4 months ago

Thank you for this discussion. I am reminded of the Israeli novelist Amos Oz noting that ancient Hebrew had no word for ‘fiction’. Modern Hebrew had to invent one. Thus in Jewish libraries his novels are found under a category called ‘Narrative Prose’. He notes how unreliable the distinction is between fact and fiction. A history book, claiming to be a factual record, may be distorted by all kinds of biases, while a historical novel may be a profoundly truthful analysis of events. A further thought, from Robert Alter, writing about narrative in the bible – ‘what we need to… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
4 months ago

David,

I love your Alter quote about prose fiction. I am looking at this topic currently in my own research. Would you be kind enough to point me towards the source document.

Thank you.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Certainly. It comes from his ‘The Art of Biblical Narrative’. (he has a companion volume on poetry). On narrative you may also enjoy The Art of Reading Scripture. eds Ellen David and Richard Hays.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
3 months ago

Thanks, I value Alter’s translations highly (having learnt the benefit of going to Jewish Scholarship alongside Christian scholarship when reading Hebrew Scriptures). I will have to dig it out. One further point in the fascinating debate between yourself and Rod Gillis. Rod writes “The giving of the law on Sinai by God or the Resurrection of Christ are each mythologies”. Which I agree with. I love Rod’s “imaginative play” phrase. But there is also a darker side also. The tragedy is that by many modern assessments, the Davidic combined monarchy of Israel and Judah is just as much a created… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
3 months ago

Simon If I may, since I’m mentioned in your dispatch (lol), I am of the opinion that scriptures are often used badly as social script Not just religion but the ‘sacred’ scriptures of religion, like their human authors, have a very real shadow side. It is especially sombre when God is assigned as the ‘author’ in attempts to place them or their application above criticism. You advert to the horrific situation in the middle east. However, I’d like to refer to something a little closer to home the history of which I am more personally conversant with. During the 1930s… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod Gillis
3 months ago

Rod, your comment on the shadow side of the Beatitudes narrative hit the mark with me much closer than you might have predicted. Thank you. For the past few years I have been researching the relationship between homosexuality, religion and the church and the topic comes up there. Indeed I have been tempted to coin a new Beatitude: Blessed are the gays, because they will show us how to suffer on behalf of the Kingdom of God. One of the fascinating aspects of sexuality and religion is how often, across the world and across the millennia, those with a homosexual… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
3 months ago

“Blessed are the gays, because they will show us how to suffer on behalf of the Kingdom of God.” I like the notion of the beatitudes as model for additional contextual beatitudes. From my reading of it, the gospels don’t present spiritual insight as a truth or a proposition to be memorized and adhered to merely intellectually. Rather it is the marginalized and oppressed who in wrestling with their own oppression and marginalization who find the words for and give voice to the demands for empathy and justice which are behind the truly good news. Thanks for the insight in… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod Gillis
3 months ago

Agreed, and thanks.

Whilst I described what I have observed, I prefer your beatitudes interpretation. To me it smacks a bit of liberation theology. What I described is too reductionist and mechanical, and lacks compassion.

And whilst Ms Erdman’s book had some interesting things to say about care and compassion, I think her approach (what queer people can teach you from the margins) risks making a virtue of necessity. It’s best not to be on the margins.

Last edited 3 months ago by Simon Dawson
Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
3 months ago

“It’s best not to be on the margins.” A good insight. Giving voice/finding one’s voice, the good news seems determined not to leave it there. Voice gives way to movement i.e. a bringing in from the edges to which folks have been banished, an egalitarian welcome to the table and the hearth place of common life.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Simon Dawson
3 months ago

‘It’s best not to be on the margins.’

I think the NT assumes that followers of Jesus will usually be on the margins. Philip Yancey told a story of a Muslim friend who had read both the NT and the Qur’an. He said to Philip, ‘The main difference is that the Qur’an assumed that Muslims will form a government and run society, but the NT assumes that Christians will be a persecuted minority.’

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  David Runcorn
3 months ago

David Runcorn, very interesting comment. Thanks so much. The Amos Oz reference reminded me of something Northrop Frye wrote regarding prose fiction. “The Greeks hardly needed to develop a classification of prose forms. We do, but have never done so. We have, as usual, no word for a work of prose fiction, so the word ‘novel’ does duty for everything, and thereby loses its only meaning as the name of a genre. The circulating library distinction between fiction and non-fiction, between books which are about things admitted not to be true and books which are about everything else, is apparently… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
4 months ago

Nobody contributing to Thinking Anglicans would be in favour of Spiritual Abuse but the thorny problem is what to do about it. If Anne Richards is warning the vulnerable to take care then everyone will be in favour, but I fear that she may want more than that. If the vulnerable are going to be “protected” who is going to do the protecting and how are they going to be appointed ? I am old enough to remember when there was no Internet and professional journalists thought I should be “protected” from knowing too much about Palestine. I was recently… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
3 months ago

One can only handle so much Thinking Anglican edification concerning biblical narratives, myth, legend, Frye, Genesis fact or fiction, epistemology, evidentialism, and the list continues…Blessings for a Holy Lent.

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