Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 26 June 2024

Helen King sharedconversations LLF: Moving Forward as One Church

Matthew Duckett Writing on the Walls of Nineveh Sermon for a Mass of Thanksgiving for a Civil Partnership

David W Congdon ViaMedia.News Essential Doctrines, Essential Hierarchies

David Runcorn Inclusive Evangelicals Is Genesis chapter 2 a definition of marriage?

Anon (on behalf of the Oxford Safe Churches team) ViaMedia.News Lovingly Hated

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John Davies
John Davies
28 days ago

David Congdon’s article seems to capture the essential issue behind all the discussions here – a matter of heirarchical power structures, ultimately trying to maintain their superiority in a world which is more egalitarian in its outlook. So they have to maintain a ‘pecking order’ of subordinates, defining who is and isn’t equal. I had a lot of annoyance with these attitudes when my church was being influenced by ‘Restorationist’ theology – asked to my face why I wasn’t married, which, as a single man of thirty was an affront to the dogma that women needed a male head overseer.… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
28 days ago

There is so much in David Runcorn’s essay that I agree with. But the same issue comes up here as came out in that recent discussion about being washed up. This Genesis 2 story reflects narratives and metaphors which occur elsewhere in non-Christian literature, so can we explore this other literature to add richness and insight to our Christian discussion of Genesis? In Plato’s Symposium, he tells a myth about the origin of love between humans. According to the myth, humans were four-legged creatures with two heads who walked upright – like two humans conjoined back to back. They were powerful… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Dawson
27 days ago

Many people recognise that CS Lewis’s Aslan is modelled on Jesus and can help some people to understand the real Jesus. I bet many Christian parents have bought the Narnia books for their children to inspire them. I don’t see that as much different to reading Pagan literature to gain an understanding of ancient Scripture but I’m not a conservative evangelical either.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Simon Dawson
26 days ago

Dare I suggest that not that many con/evo Christians are actually familiar with pagan literature to begin with? I’m tolerably well educated, having trained as a teacher, but have no knowledge of Plato.
I have a limited knowledge of alternate creation myths, from reading Christian authors such as Fritz Riddenaur and the occasional tv programme, but wouldn’t even think of bringing them into this particular argument! Not because I’m technically a con/evo, but quite simply because it would never occur to me.

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
27 days ago

David Congdon knows more about LLF than I do for sure; but his analysis of conservative rhetoric in general is bang on. This (para. 6) ” …it is not enough to keep our ‘heresies’ grounded in history; we also need to keep our ‘orthodoxies’ historically rooted as well.” The various conservative cohorts differ one from another; but they tend to share a choice of ground upon which to duke it out with others. The name of the game is to move the conversation to the non-falsifiable/non- verifiable realm prematurely. Such a strategy allows them to engage as minimally as possible… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
27 days ago

Thanks Rod. If I had had the space I could have cut and pasted your quotation into my post. It would have fitted perfectly.

I continue to be surprised by how many (but not all) Christian scholars display a lack of curiosity and awareness about the actual historical cultures within which these biblical texts originated.

Last edited 27 days ago by Simon Dawson
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
27 days ago

There is a kind of ‘wink wink nudge nudge’ comment from, The Making of the Bible: ” There are a number of communities, both Jewish and Christian, that continue to regard the bible as infallible—even on nonreligious topics–and such an attitude is not entirely absent from the academic sphere.” (p. 317). There is a footnote attached to this statement. It references some scholars and notes, ” …examples can be found in the mission statements of numerous evangelical theological seminaries.” (Notes, pp. 309-317, n. 44). Congdon writes (para. 9) : ” Even if we allow for marriage to be an essential… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
26 days ago

But this is the problem Rod. Most people blindly assume that the biblical past was patriarchal and heteronormative, and hence different from our values today. But increasingly, modern scholarship is challenging that, and there is much evidence that in these very early cultures the genders were much more equal, and people similar to what we would now call LGBTQ were widely accepted and valued. Just as an example, look at Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We call them the patriarchs, but if you study Genesis carefully it is often the case that it was the wives who were assertive and controlling… Read more »

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
26 days ago

I think our respective points share the common ground of evidence based analysis. Certainly to your point, feminist scholars would take issue with the double whammy of both the historically misleading presentation of a highly dominate patriarchal society in texts and the reading of such texts by a subsequent patriarchal church. My point is that the texts have a cultural and historical context. They can’t be read at face value as dictated from heaven and binding for all times and places. One question that is important to ask is: do texts describe what was or do they reflect what their… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
26 days ago

Good point there, Rod, about Martha who clearly believed Jesus was indeed divine.Apart from her own magnificent declaration, both she and Mary said ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died”. And then subsequently overlooked or ignored, as was Mary of Magdala. She, who had the priviledge of being the very first eye witness to Jesus’ resurrection, was subsequently edited out of Paul’s list of witnesses! There are times when I do wonder about the inerrant inspiration of scripture….. Seriously, though, how many people in the pews actually think about these issues in the way, and with… Read more »

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  John Davies
26 days ago

Thanks John. “…how many people in the pews actually think about these issues in the way, and with the depth of knowledge, which is displayed here?”. I think a lot of folks in the pews, and those who are not often or any longer in the pews as well, actually think about these things a fair amount by times. I’ve conducted funeral liturgies in church. It is interesting to try and read the facial expressions, the body language, and the non-verbale participation of many of the folks in the congregation. They come to support the family or pay respects but… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
25 days ago

Interesting comment, Rod, learned from an experience which is wider than mine. I’m more used to the sort of churches where issues are a bit more cut and dried – but how does that encourage people to think, or even widen their understanding? Interestingly, a friend was telling me that another fellow Christian told him they’re voting Reform next Thursday – they see nothing in their policies at odds with a Christian faith. It shows how wide the spectrum of Christian attitudes is. Like you, my own views have changed a lot – this site helps – but I still… Read more »

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  John Davies
25 days ago

My take is that a reading of scripture opens a dialogue between one’s culture and that of one in the past. Result: aspects of such dialogue are the cultural tensions that arise. Take for example Luke 23: 39-44. Does one conclude from this that the horrific political tool of crucifixion is justifiable? How does one ‘read’ this in an era enlightened by human rights? And this from a gospel often characterized as particularly concerned with the vulnerable. “You are under the same sentence as he. In our case it is plain justice; we are paying the price for our misdeeds”… Read more »

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
25 days ago

John 8:53. my bad

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
Reply to  Simon Dawson
26 days ago

Good luck with that one. Everywhere same sex acts are mentioned in the bible they are condemned. Modern textural criticism of ancient texts has been around for a while, certainly since the 1960’s, and is taught in theological colleges so if there is something new to be discovered in the area of sexual ethics we probably would have heard about it by now. Humanity is just the same as it ever was and the Bible just isn’t phased by this issue at all.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Adrian Clarke
25 days ago

‘Everywhere same sex acts are mentioned in the bible they are condemned’. This is true (perhaps ‘whenever’ rather than ‘everywhere’. There really aren’t many mentions at all). They are condemned because they all examples of abusive, violent, coercive, male centred lust, pederasty, or idolatry. What do those texts have to do with faithful, loving, committed relationships? 

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
25 days ago

David and Adrian, Wherever same sex acts are mentioned in translations of the Bible from Hebrew into English by Christian scholars then they may be condemned. But if, as scholars must, you go back to the original Hebrew, then the situation is much more nuanced. I underline here to emphasise this fundamental issue which is often totally ignored in such discussions. The sad fact is that for centuries Christian translators have distorted the original texts of the Hebrew and Greek in order to match their pre-existing Christian understandings. If the original Hebrew had an LGBT or difficult sexual implication this… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Simon Dawson
25 days ago

Serious question – where does Joseph do cross-dressing? Is that anything to do with his coat? That really is new to me. Looking beyond this a little, what does it make of the ‘John Stott dictum’ – take the clearest, most obvious meaning of scripture, when you only have an English Bible to work with? If we’re not careful we’ll be destroying one of the basic principles of the Reformers here – ‘every man his own Bible scholar’, and the need for people to have a readily available, accurate translation of the scriptures in their own tongue as a means… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  John Davies
25 days ago

John. Thanks for the very good questions. You are right that what I have said will leave many questions to be explored. The idea that a Bible translation may be inaccurate could be quite destabilising. Where does Joseph do his cross dressing? – explained in the videos where if you follow the Hebrew it says that his famous garment is that worn by the virgin daughter of a King. The need for people to have a readily available, accurate translation of the scriptures in their own tongue as a means of finding salvation – I agree, absolutely vital. But what… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Simon Dawson
25 days ago

Hullo, Simon Thanks for your response – as you rightly observe, I’m asking questions rather than making dogmatic statements, and there are indeed a great many, very open ended ones. But you learn through asking questions. God gave us minds, and expects us to use them to find him, and in service to our fellow men. By the way: “Just as we wouldn’t justify reintroducing sexual acts into worship, you cannot forcibly ram modern likes and dislikes into an ancient text to give them a spuriously divine approval. – Agreed. but similarly we should not ram modern Christian dislikes of LGBT… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  John Davies
25 days ago

Thanks John,

It is always a delight to have a conversation with you.

Josiah is complicated, but perhaps that is a discussion for another day. I have a sermon to polish up.

Simon

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Simon Dawson
24 days ago

Hope it goes well, then, Simon. Thinking about things, it now seems to me that the ‘Stott dictum’ – plain, clear meaning, is all right for everyday guidance – the straightforward business of being a light to the world in our conduct. It doesn’t work as well – indeed, it is too simple, to handle major matters like this, where more specialist knowledge is required. (The other day I had to look up the Hebrew word for ‘Beautiful’ – to go on a ‘Beautiful gate’ I was making for a school drama group. The research proved very intersting!) There seems… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
24 days ago

David, you ask

What do those texts have to do with faithful, loving, committed relationships? 

Perhaps this might help to answer your question.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o6TG57KFQ0

Best wishes

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Simon Dawson
24 days ago

Thanks. I am familiar with these examples. Only really willing to be convinced by Centurion and his servant – but we just do not know and we cannot make it so. Overall I feel this tends to search for take any lovingly expressed(even passionately so) relationship between people of the same-sex in the bible as probably gay or lesbian. The use of language is very speculative – especially Joseph and his coat.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
23 days ago

Thanks David, Personally I find the Centurion and his servant the least convincing evidentially, compared to David or Joseph. I can’t force you to be convinced, All I can do is use the hospitality of TA to put the academic research and evidence on the table for people to analyse and evaluate for themselves. And many others are persuaded. The theologians I cited have been Professor of the History of the Church at the University of Oxford, and Professor of Biblical and Constructive Theology at the United Church of Christ’s Chicago Theological Seminary, supplemented by data from the Jewish Publication… Read more »

Last edited 23 days ago by Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Simon Dawson
23 days ago

One further thought, not in an attempt to convince you but to hopefully help others reflecting on this topic. I would regard the centurion as the most “speculative”, as there is no specific mention of LGBTQ behaviour in the text. Whereas Joseph is the least speculative, as there are specific references in the Joseph texts to gender transgressive behaviour, and such behaviour closely matches non-biblical evidence, where divination and priesthood is closely linked to gender transgressive behaviour, such as cross dressing, in multiple reports from Babylonian, Assyrian, Ugaritic and other contemporary cultures. It’s all about how you assess the evidence.… Read more »

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