One or two challenges coming up

I’ve been intrigued by two blog posts in the past week, both of which are highlighting some challenges for the Church of England over the next few months.

The first is by John Richardson who writes

This, however, brings us to the most significant statement of all, for having acknowledged that threats of separation may turn into reality, and having indicated that this might be not only necessary but helpful, the Dean states quite clearly his own conviction:

I believe the Chapter and congregation of this church will walk the same path as the Episcopal Church of America, the links are deep in our history, especially here.

Thus, according to the Dean, the Chapter and congregation of Southwark Cathedral are ready, when the time comes, to separate from others in the Anglican Communion, and to do so in line with TEC.

And here we come to the crisis.

The Diocese of Southwark is currently without a bishop. When that bishop is chosen, however, he will either have to align himself with the public position of his Dean (which the Dean claims is the position of the cathedral Chapter and congregation), or align himself against it.

It should also be remembered that, although it is a mere formality, the Chapter of a cathedral is still required by congé d’elire to ‘elect’ the bishop chosen by the Crown, so that, at least on paper, the bishop has the Chapter’s ‘approval’. Thus if the bishop decides against his cathedral Chapter, there will be a difficult conflict for him at the top of the diocese. If the bishop decides for his Chapter, however, the situation within the diocese may become impossible, for there are others in Southwark who would undoubtedly find the ministry of a bishop committed to the position put forward by Dean Slee simply unacceptable — not least, one presumes, those who put their names to a recent letter criticizing the visit of TEC’s Presiding Bishop.

Something close to open warfare between either the bishop and the Chapter, the bishop and sections of the diocese thus seems inevitable.

Yet what if the incoming bishop, by some diplomatic ingenuity, manages to put off the immediate confrontation? Even then we must remember that Dean Slee cannot be acting alone — indeed, he says he is not. On the contrary, he is confident of the support of his Chapter and the cathedral congregation, and undoubtedly he can also be sure of support from many of the Southwark clergy. But if my own experience is anything to go by, Dean Slee will also be networking (whether formally or informally) with others around the country. If he feels confident to say what he has done, and explicitly to align his cathedral with TEC as he has chosen to, we may wonder how many others are in the same position.

Indeed, we may actually be at the ‘tipping point’ where numbers of senior clergy, who can call upon a considerable degree of support, are similarly ready to declare their hand and to call the institutional bluff.

I think this notion that some will try to “call the institutional bluff” is an interesting one and I’ve written on it before. A year ago I said

Essentially, the revisionists .. have looked across the Atlantic, seen the effect that “facts on the ground” and a weak and impotent House of Bishops have produced and fancy their chances here. They are quite blatantly preparing to take on the church hierarchy, to challenge them to either do something about their gross misconduct (for that is what a clergyman living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage is doing) and to get them to either “martyr” them or cave in. They will literally out themselves (and others) and then wait to see what happens.

And this brings me to my second interesting challenge implicit in a blog post. Earlier this week Colin Coward wrote

My partner and I are planning to contract our Civil Partnership in October (dependent on approval from the Home Office). Our focus will not be the legal ceremony in the registry office but a service of holy communion in church using material from Jim Cotter’s The Service of my Love. We met our Rector this week to talk about planning the service. He is totally positive about our desire to commit ourselves to each other in church in the presence of God and our friends.

Let me be the first to offer my congratulations to Colin on wanting to enter into a Civil Partnership. More power to him. For those who don’t know, Colin is the Director of Changing Attitude, the leading Anglican pro-gay lobby group in the Church of England. He’s also a priest in the Church of England, which means that his entering into a Civil Partnership raises one or two questions for the Bishop of Salisbury. Firstly, has the Bishop, the Rt Rev David Stancliffe, asked and received assurances from Colin that his relationship is not sexual. That after all is the agreed practice of the House of Bishops as declared in their July 2005 letter on the subject.

19. The House of Bishops does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality. The wording of the Act means that civil partnerships will be likely to include some whose relationships are faithful to the declared position of the Church on sexual relationships (see paragraphs 2-7).

20. The Church should not collude with the present assumptions of society that all close relationships necessarily include sexual activity. The House of Bishops considers it would be a matter of social injustice to exclude from ministry those who are faithful to the teaching of the Church, and who decide to register a civil partnership.  There can be no grounds for terminating the ministry of those who are loyal to the discipline of the Church.

21. Nevertheless, it would be inconsistent with the teaching of the Church for the public character of the commitment expressed in a civil partnership to be regarded as of no consequence in relation to someone in- or seeking to enter- the ordained ministry. Partnerships will be widely seen as being predominantly between gay and lesbian people in sexually active relationships. Members of the clergy and candidates for ordination who decide to enter into partnerships must therefore expect to be asked for assurances that their relationship will be consistent with the teaching set out in Issues in Human Sexuality.

22. While clergy are fully entitled to argue, in the continuing debate, for a change in that teaching, they are not entitled to claim the liberty to set it aside, simply because of the passage of the Civil Partnerships Act.  Because of the ambiguities surrounding the character and public nature of civil partnerships, the House of Bishops would advise clergy to weigh carefully the perceptions and assumptions which would inevitably accompany a decision to register such a relationship.

I’m sure Colin (who I know reads my blog) will be happy to tell us all that his sexual practice is in line with the agreed practice of the Church of England.

The second question relates to the Service of Holy Communion that will take place after the Civil ceremony. As the Bishops’ letter points out (emphasis added):

16. It is likely that some who register civil partnerships will seek some recognition of their new situation and pastoral support by asking members of the clergy to provide a blessing for them in the context of an act of worship. The House believes that the practice of the Church of England needs to reflect the pastoral letter from the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Pentecost 2003 which said:

‘The question of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites’.

17. One consequence of the ambiguity contained within the new legislation is that people in a variety of relationships will be eligible to register as civil partners, some living consistently with the teaching of the Church, others not. In these circumstances it would not be right to produce an authorised public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships. In addition, the House of Bishops affirms that clergy of the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership.

18. It will be important, however, to bear in mind that registered partnerships do allow for a range of different situations- including those where the relationship is simply one of friendship. Hence, clergy need to have regard to the teaching of the church on sexual morality, celibacy, and the positive value of committed friendships in the Christian tradition. Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case.

I’m sure, given that Colin says the service will be based on items in Jim Cotter’s “The Service of my Love”, he’ll be quite happy to point out to us which bits are being used so we can be assured that nothing in the service will in any way constitute a blessing of the civil partnership.

Now I know that a number of you might take exception to these two questions being asked, but unfortunately we are slowly moving from a cold war to a shooting war on the issue of human sexuality in the Church of England. Whilst I really like Colin Coward as a person (and who couldn’t like a chap who builds a whole model railway in his back garden) I can’t believe that I’m the only person who recognises the political dimension to what he is doing here. Just like Martin Dudley before him, the attempt to create liturgy that revises the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage which is then accepted (and it will de facto be accepted if it is not prevented) is a deliberate attempt to create facts on the ground that alter our core beliefs. The reason why Anglicans take liturgy so seriously is exactly because our theology works in such a way that it is defined by it. For example, our doctrine of ordination and episcopal authority is dependent chiefly on the Ordinal. To permit liturgy to be celebrated that in any way blesses a same sex sexual relationship is to accept a redefinition of our doctrine of marriage.

Of course all this assumes that the service will including a blessing of the relationship. If it doesn’t then there should be no problem with sharing the liturgy that’s being planned should there?

Anybody got the Bishop of Salisbury’s email address?

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108 Comments on “One or two challenges coming up

  1. Let me offer a reflection here. Peter, the concern that I (and not a few others) have for approaches like yours and John Richardson's is that they assume the C of E is an 'either/or' kind of Church. But it isn't. It's a 'both/and' Church, and that is in its very genes. It's both liberal and conservative, Catholic and Protestant, in favour of women in minsitry and not in favour of women in ministry etc etc. And Cathedral Chapters, Houses of Bishops, even individual churches have people within them who take different views on the naval gazing issues that seem to pre-occupy the Anglican Communion at present. You may have seen that I commented on Bishop Alan's Blog (and you can see the responses my comment got) that the way we deal with being a 'both/and' Church is by praying together. That's what will happen in Southwark Cathedral, no matter who is elected as bishop. Our primary ministry in the Cathedral is to be a place of prayer and teaching, recognising that to be right, we have to allow that sometimes we are wrong. And we keep praying togetehr, and we don't write each other off as sub-Christian, or declare that there are two different religions within the same Chapter, because we are a 'both/and' church.

    Exactly the same is true of our House if Bishops. We know full well that our bishops take different views on the question of same sex relationships. The Bishops of Liverpool and Gloucester have recently spelled that out even more clearly for us. But we know that our House of Bishops are 'united in prayer and the brweaking of bread'. They live in a 'both/and' House.

    The clue to the bishops' 'letter' about civil partnerships is that it is 'pastoral statement'. So by all means write to the Bishop of Salisbury expressing your view. But don't be too surprised if you get an anser back that indicates that the 'pastoral' relationship between a bishop and a member of his diocesan clergy is of a confidential nature. It's a polite way of saying' mind your own business', or in more Gospel language, 'let the one without sin cast the first stone'.

    • Andrew,

      Let me address the issues that you raise;

      i) I'm really not sure that we are a "both/and" kind of church. Where does that "both/and" extend to? Polygamy? Consensual Incest? Sacrificing children to Molech? You seem to advocate a church where all can be alongside everyone else, regardless of their position. I don't think that's what you really want. But of course, once you start you drawing moral boundaries you accept the fact that moral boundaries can be drawn and in doing so undermine your critique of my drawing moral boundaries.

      ii) It is an abuse of Scripture to take one sentence of Jesus' ("Let he who is without sin cast the first stone") and turn that into a general moral theology of not asking questions. Unless you are seriously advocating a complete non-inquiry into *anybody's* activity you cannot sustain this position.

      iii) Your general approach to the Bishop's pastoral letter astounds me. What you are coming across as saying is "If a Bishop doesn't want to follow the agreed corporate line he can quite happily ignore it". Is that your position? When the Bishops write "the House of Bishops affirms that clergy of the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership", where does the get out clause come?

      • Peter – you miss the general thrust of my comment but let me address your comments.

        1. I'm sure you don't think we should live in a 'both/and' church and you choose some absurd examples to indicate why. Once we actually have people advocating polygamy in the C of E, or incest, or sacrificing children, then we can address them – but until we do, let's stick with the actual issues that we are having to address – which I address in my comments. And in those situations we certainly DO seem to live in a 'both/and' Church.

        2. I am saying that conversations the Bishop of Salisbury has with a member of his clergy are confidential – and none of your business – not that he can't ask questions. Big difference. Write to him by all means. Let us know how you get on.

        3. It is clear that some Bishops still adopt a 'don't ask/don't tell' approach. And it is clear that House of Bishops live in a 'both/and' House about matters of human sexuality. The Bishops of Liverpool and Gloucester make that clear don't they?

        • I don't think I miss the general thrust of your comment. Rather, I think it's clear that you are avoiding the reality of your position, that once one throws away a clear guiding objective morality there is nothing that should be out of bounds. It is irrelevant whether people are or are not advocating the things that I raised. The real issue is what your response would be to someone who did advocate polygamy or consensual incest. Can you give any reasonable argument as to why those two positions shouldn't be permitted by Christians? Or is your response simply to ignore moral questions that your quiet corner of Devon hasn't yet encountered?

          As to the Bishop of Salisbury, yes, his private conversations with his clergy are private, but his public positions (i.e. the 2005 Pastoral Letter) are public. What would you think of some one who said one thing in public and did exactly the opposite in private? Or is hypocrisy de rigeur in Exeter? Are you advocating that Bishops should be double minded?

          • The general thrust of my comment was about praying together, and not writing each other off.

            I'm afraid I am not going to address hypothetical situations. I'm interested in reality. And I've pointed out the reality of the 'both/and' church we live in, and you clearly don't like it, witness your comments about the Bishop of Liverpool on a earlier page of your blog – but that's your problem, not mine.

            And I'm not advocating that bishops should be anyway at all actually. Once again, I'm just pointing out the reality that some operate a 'don't ask, don't tell' approach. It's another reality you seem to find hard to deal with. I think (indeed from my conversations with some of them, I know) that at least some members of the House of Bishops follow a pretty good guide with relation to their public pastoral statements, and their private relationships with clergy: in public they give general rules, but treat everybody as an exception. Seems to me that was what Jesus did, so I'm fine with that approach. I don't see it as hypocritical.

            • Polygamy and consensual incest are not hypothetical situations in the slightest. Your complete inability to engage with the issue of the source of our moral decisions is telling.

              • Peter – I think the inability being demonstrated here is your inability to address my initial comments, or any subsequent ones by simply trying to move the agenda to your own ground. That is telling. I see, for example that you don't address the question of how the House of Bishops work again. Fair enough it's your blog.

                So I suggest that when you can come up with concrete cases of debates in synods within the C of E seeking for us to accept polygamy and consensual incest, then we will have something to discuss on those issues. Until then, they are hypothetical situations and you and I will go on living in the 'both/and' Church on the issues I described in my initial reflection – which were not related to those at all.

                As far as sources of moral decision making go – I assume the sources were the same when the Lambeth Conference changed its mind about artificial means of contraception, for example? Or attitudes to slavery? The church has changed its moral mind on a number of matters in the course of history – why do you think that was?

                • Here's the problem with that comment Andrew. You and I both know very well that the last time that the Church of England Synod debated the issue of human sexuality and produced a resolution on it the conservative position was endorsed. The last few times the House of Bishops produced publications on the issue the conservative position was endorsed. The last time the Lambeth Conference produced a resolution on the subject the conservative position was endorsed. The last time the ACC produced a resolution on the subject the conservative position was endorsed. The last few times the Primates of the Anglican Communion produced a statement on the issue the conservative position was endorsed.

                  You however seem to suggest that a Bishop should just be able to ignore that. You seem to play fast and loose with issues of authority – they matter when they suit you and when they don't we can all sit in Anglican fudge.

                  No wonder I, and very many others, can't take you seriously. You refuse to engage in moral debate and then condemn those who do when they come up with a different answer to you.

                • Canon Andrew:

                  Can you name some issues of Christian faith and morals that are not debatable in the C of E? Or is everything potentially "up for grabs"?

  2. Peter, I see that you now are simply deleting comments that you find incovenient. Three of mine have simply diasppeared. It begins to look as if you are the one who finds it hard to debate.

    I would love you to produce any evidence of where I condemn those who come up with a different answer to me. Quite to the contray, I actually suggest praying together and having an open respect.

    • Andrew,

      It's really very simple to answer that. Do you think that my stance that all sex outside of marriage is wrong is Godly or unGodly. Yes or no?

      If you can't even do that (answer the question) then don't you dare come back to me and accuse me of not being able to debate.

      • Peter – there are many questions above that which I have put to you which you simply have ignored. I am very happy to answer your question if you will just answer one or two of mine please? As indicated, you simply deleted several of my posts, and that was an indication to me that you did not wish to address them.

        And where is your evidence that I condemn people who disagree with me?

        Wicked Conservative – I am not sure what your point is really. Peter raised several issues of morality, and I said that I had no knowledge of them being addressed by the C of E at present. I'm sure the C of E could debate them if it wanted to, but I don't see any evidence for doing so at present. And I think we have enough on our plate, don't you?

          • I don't think the stance itself is necessarily ungodly. I do think that if that stance leads you into very rigid ways of judging human relationships and condemning those relationships even if they are committed, loving and beneficial – I do actually think that is rather "ungodly" (although I hesitate to use such a word about others.)

            Do you think that my stance that "marriage" is something that happens in people's hearts and souls, much more than it does in a church, is ungodly?

        • The point of my question is this: you argue for a "both/and" model of the church. I see its attractions, but I am interested in the limits of this conception of the CofE. Where does it stop? Can we have some clergy who believe in the Incarnation and some who don't? Can we have some clergy who believe in the Trinity and some who don't? Can we have some clergy who believe in God and some who don't?

          I must say, Canon, that it bothers me how extremely difficult it is to get a straight answer to a straight question from you. And please don't say "Peter does it too"; I wouldn't accept that answer from a 10-year-old. I see no reason to accept it from a senior clergyman.

          • Wicked Conservative I am not arguing for anything – I am responding to Peter's post and saying that the *reality* is that we live in 'both/and' church on the issues he raises in that post. I limited myself entirely in my comments to his post. Please read my initial reflection and I think you will find that to be the case.

            As to not answering questions – again, there seems to be a good Gospel imperative for that – and certainly for answeing a question with another. If it was good enough for our Lord…..

            And I don't actually think that Peter's questions are straight questions, and there is a sense in which to follow the logic of any argument, the questions put sometimes need to be answered in turn….

            • I'm not sure about this 'both/and' situation. You make the statement that it's the 'reality' of the situation. I see a couple of problems with this:

              (1) The basis of the Church of England doesn't seem to allow for this 'both/and'.

              (2) Simply stating it, doesn't make it true. Even it it were to be true in practice, that doesn't make it correct. Abortion, for example, is a reality – does that make it right? War is a reality – does that make it right?

              If the Church of England is a 'both/and' church, then it must come from its theology, not from its practice – to start from practice and work backwards is anarchy. If the theology is in disagreement from the practice, then we should change practice to match theology, not vice-versa. After all, one wouldn't defend oneself in coury by saying 'everyone else does it'!

              • The theology of it stretches right back to the Elizabethan Settlement HO.

                And we really are in that kind of Church. Both the Bishop of Liverpool, and the Bishop of Gloucester are members of the House of Bishops aren't they? And 'two integrities' about the ordination of women are enshrined in an Acto of Synod. You can't get much more 'both/and' than that can you?

                • You're just making assertions again.

                  With no intent to make comment about the Bishops of Liverpool and Gloucester, it is possible for someone to be a bishop, and still be incorrect – or has the Church of England moved to some kind of infallibility while I wasn't watching? This is clearly something that was known to Cranmer – Article 26, for example.

            • So in this thread you're happy to imply that I won't debate properly and at the same time you won't answer questions put to you to try and flesh out an argument. Do you not see the hypocrisy in that?

              • Peter – as I said, there is logic in progressing an argument. So my prior question to you "The church has changed its moral mind on a number of matters in the course of history – why do you think that was?" needs answering to flesh out the argument.

          • WC

            Your question is very relevent and really deserves a proper answer by Canon Andrew. The 2005 report 'Fragmented Faith' a survey of CofE congregations and clergy revealed that congregations generally had a stronger grasp of Christian doctrine than clergy. Ruth Gledhill commented on it at the time at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article540199.e...

            While 97% of clergy at least believed in God, 20% of clergy did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ and 40% of clergy did not belief in the Virgin birth. As both of these beliefs are part of the Nicene Creed, you really wonder how some clergy can stay in their jobs in all good conscience.

            It seems reasonable to suppose that the clergy who deny basic basic Christian beliefs like the resurrection and the Virgin birth are theologically liberal and are largely the same group of clergy who believe that homosexual behaviour is not a sin. (52% of clergy in the same survey believed that it is not wrong for people of the same gender to have sex together).

            So, Canon Andrew, I think that WC's question deserves a proper answer. Where do YOU draw the line on Christian belief between orthodoxy and heresy?

            • Good luck getting an answer. It does appear that Andrew would view even Jesus' statement "Let your yes be yes and your no be no" as, actually, a both/and situation.

              And our Lord spoke very clearly about such people.

  3. So Peter let me clear what you are saying. is scripture the ONLY source for answering moral questions? And on the issue of artificial means of contraception, which the Anglican Church changed its mind about, are you saying the Roman Catholic church has the wrong cultural bias?

    as to your question – the answer of course is yes AND no. As we saw earlier – you are giving a general rule – but we teat everyone as an exception. and we live in a both/and church.

    • No, I'm saying that Scripture is the primary source and it is the source that trumps all other sources. I'm perfectly happy to include tradition and reason as sources of authority but I will never permit them to alter a jot or tittle of the Scriptures.

      Now, I answered your question, why are you so singularly incapable of answering mine? Your "yes" and "no" is meaningless without actually explaining why "yes" and "no". What situations are you thinking of that would reason a "yes" or "no"?

  4. I can't get the 'reply' on the comments system to work on my Apple Mac. Maybe it is not designed to work with Safari. But philip and WC the answer to the question 'Where do YOU draw the line on Christian belief between orthodoxy and heresy?' has to be the Creeds. That is what they were written for.

  5. "Our Lord spoke very clearly about such people" (..such people?!!!…I thought he said people would know we were his disciples by the love we show each other?

    Jesus actually rarely answered "yes or no" when challenged, he told stories and parables or turned things back on his questioners to make people think more carefully about their own questions. This was particularly important because he was frequently asked questions that seemed simple, but were actually "trick questions" deliberately designed as a trap to get him to say something that might incriminate – a ploy that he was familiar with.

    …I answered Peter's question BTW :)

    • Yes, "such people". Jesus said a lot of things. He said we would be known by our love. He also said we would be exposed by our words and actions. He said that some who call Him "Lord" would not be known by Him.

      And on the question of speaking simply and clearly, He told us what He thinks of those that don't.

      So yes, He answered "trick questions" in a number of ways. But He also spoke clearly to us about what our conversations should be like.

      As it happens, I am more than happy to affirm you in your self-observation that you answer questions – you certainly do, and most clearly. Thus I would assume that Jesus' condemnation of deceitful equivocation does not fall upon you.

      • I hope the condemnation of deceitful equivocation does not fall on me, but I can be deceitful and equivocate – we all can.

        A further suggestion about whether Peter's stance on sex before marriage is "godly or ungodly".

        Might we not say that a belief that sex outside of marriage is wrong is "godly", but that a stance that sex outside of marriage is not always wrong is equally "godly"? Perhaps "godliness" does not lie in our specific beliefs on these divisive issues such as sex, abortion, women bishops, homosexuality but in the way we apply these in our dealings with others?

        • Well Sue, I disagree with you that godliness is somehow divorced from our beliefs.

          but I'm happy to agree that godliness is tied to our response on these issues. In this I am sure you are in agreement with me as I happily agree with the Apostle Paul when he says, in the context of sexual immorality in the Church,

          "1 Corinthians 5:13 God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

          or the writer to the Hebrews:

          "Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."

          • I don't think I said Godliness was DIVORCED from our beliefs? (Capitals are for emphasis, not volume!) I said that Godliness is more about how we apply our beliefs in our own lives and our dealings with others.

            I agree wholeheartedly that the marriage bed should be kept pure (Hebrews 13:4) and yet I know and love divorced and remarried Christians.If 1 Corinthians 5:13 were used by a church leader to expel someone who was divorced and remarried, I would see that as ungodly in all but the most extreme cases. I think a church leader would have to think carefully about who they judge is "wicked"?

  6. Could I ask someone to answer my question?

    Do you think that my stance that “marriage” is something that happens in people’s hearts and souls, much more than it does in a church, is ungodly?

    Colossians 4:5-6

    • more than happy to answer it.

      I don't think its "ungodly". Marriage, istm from the Bible, is something that God instituted from the very beginning (Gen 2). Whether, then, a man and a woman get married in a church building or not is besides the point, I would suggest.

      Is that the sort of thing that you're looking for?

      • I'm not quite sure it is. I believe that marriage is an inner grace and a ceremony in any building, church or registry office or whatever, is secondary to the "marriage" in the heart and soul. That doesn't mean (to me) that a formal marriage ceremony is "beside the point" though!!! …but it is not the whole point.

        • So when the Scriptures say "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh", you're not sure that answers your question as to what constitutes marriage?

          • I think it is a beautiful description of marriage and a very strong statement on the sanctity of marriage ( particularly given the context of the teaching on divorce surrounding it.) What I love about that text is the focus on the personal relationship "uniting" and becoming "one flesh." It is the love and intimate sexual bond in marriage that makes it so sacred – although there is also the idea of a claiming of adult autonomy "leaving father and mother". Marriage is richly deserving of the elevated status it is given in Christ's teaching and that is why we should rightly uphold it and promote and celebrate the formalising of it in a ceremony that emphasises God's help and guidance.

            BUT what that does NOT mean is that when I meet with relationships that are not formally sanctified, I assume they are "all wrong" and that only the official marriages are "all right".

            • The problem with your response is that I don't believe you can give any clarity as to when a sexual relationship that has not been formally sanctified is right or wrong. I mean, is such a relationship right if sex occurs after 24 hours of meeting? A week? A month? A year? How do you come to the judgement?

              To be fair, Scripture gives us a completely acceptable answer to this – Hebrews 13:4 says "Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous." Clearly what the Scripture says is that the marriage bed should be held in honour and should be undefiled. Those that defile the marriage bed (i.e. do not wait for marriage to have sex) are "sexually immoral and adulterous". There is simply no other logical reading of the verse.

              Marriage (for example in a Church of England ceremony or a Civil Registry) provides a formal sanctification of the "leaving and cleaving" that Genesis 2 presents as the appropriate model for sexual relationships. If you want to suggest that sexual relationships outside of formalised marriage are not "sexually immoral and adulterous" then you really have to either tear Hebrews 13:4 out of your Bible OR show how it does not mean what it obviously reads as saying.

              FWIW, I'm happy to do the Greek if you have any doubts about what that verse actually renders as!

              • There are in some cultures marriages where sexual relations occur after 24 hours of meeting (ie arranged marriages) and I have met someone who married three months after meeting, so I am not sure we can get “clarity” on the complex issues of human relationships, especially as they pan out for different individuals and societies.
                I don’t know the greek to understand if “defiling the marriage bed” translates as sex before marriage, as well as infidelity within it. I do not see the bible as inerrant in the way that you do anyhow, I believe we have to look at it in the context of particular cultural understandings.
                For what it is worth, I believe that sex should occur in the context of a lifelong, committed relationship with sexual faithfulness at its core. In marriage you undertake a vocation to your spouse, and their interests and well being should be a priority. I struggle with the issue of divorce and remarriage, but I recognise that many people fall short of this ideal. I don’t actually see myself as that “liberal”, for all that I am in some respects, but I think we need to be sensitive to the realities of people’s lives and not to limit God’s grace.

                • It doesn't really matter what some cultures do. There are some cultures where women are treated as chattel and sold off to respective husbands. Do you want to treat those as normative?

                  I think your first paragraph betrays your theological approach. Where I want to discuss what the Biblical model of marriage is, your response is to refer to cultural models as being authoritative. Why else would you raise those examples?

                  On what authority do you claim that "sex should occur in the context of a lifelong, committed relationship with sexual faithfulness at its core"? Why should we take that as being any guide just because it works for you? You talk about not limiting God's grace, but on what basis in the first place do you understand God's grace to be what it is? Because you decided it so? Why should that count?

                  • I don't say that cultural models are authoritative, just that our ideas about marriage vary from culture to culture. I don't want to treat any abusive or oppressive models of relationships as normative, or as desirable.

                    I am afraid the bible does not offer us a consistent model of marriage. Exodus 21 :10 makes it clear that a man is free to take a second wife – providing he continues to feed and clothe his first wife.Deuteronomy 21: 10-14 makes it clear that a man can take a wife from among his prisoners of war( after she has been allowed to mourn the death of her family for a month), it does not mention the need to get her consent – in fact it says he should marry her because he has violated her- and it is clear that, if the man then tires of her, he can release her to go back to her own people – but must not sell her.

                    Would you want to see this model of marriage as normative?

                    The understanding of what is meant by marriage is pretty broad when considered across the bible and does itself differ according to cultural norms.

                    If in doubt on a moral issue, I look to the gospels, where I find evidence that the model Christ offered was of lifelong committed relationships, in which divorce and remarriage constitutes adultery. However, I temper this with my understanding of God's grace and forgiveness, which derives from my relationship with him, my reading of scripture and, I believe, the guiding of the Holy Spirit. Why shouldn't those things count and why on earth would you have a problem with my approach or crassly dismiss it as being "because I decided it"?

                    • When Jesus talks about marriage, he does so in the context of Genesis 1, which would indicate that his ideal of marriage came from Adam and Eve. As that's pre-fall, it seems natural to take this as normative for all of creation – it's certainly pre any covenant.

                    • If I'm honest Sue, I think your reply tells me more about your approach to Scripture then it does about marriage. The two examples from Torah you give are specific commands to the Israelites at a specific time. I think I would want to ask you whether you believed that they were good commands by God to his people.

                      Let's have a look at the two examples you give, and let's examine them in the light of the knowledge that the Scriptures speak about Christ. The two commands are not from the section of the Law that deals with how to atone for sin, rather they are civic laws which help the Hebrews live holy lives in front of God.

                      Let's do Exodus 21:10 first. The primary mistakes you make here are assuming that this is a directive commands rather than a permissive command. The wording is clear – "If" and not "When". It is not assumed by the command that a second wife will be taken, rather the injuction covers the situation where a second wife is taken.

                      But what you missed out was the context of the command, which helps to explain what's going on. Here's the section in full:

                      “When a man lsells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or mher marital rights. And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

                      Now, the first question to ask is in what circumstances would a father sell his daughter as a slave? We need to get past our 21st Century prejudices and understand that selling children into slavery 3,500 years ago was not in any sense a bad thing. A "slave" would work for his/her master for 7 years and then be set free (unless he/she wanted to stay – Exodus 21:2). Slavery in this sense was not the owning of another human being as though they were just an item of property. Rather, to be sold as a slave was a way of guaranteeing the survival of the family. A poor father with no resources to feed his family would "sell" one of his children to another person. He would get money up front (forward but discounted payment of wages) so he could feed the rest of his family, and the "slave" would work for 6 years for his/her new master, where he/she would be fed and clothed and housed. This procedure benefited both parties, and the rules of Exodus 21 were in place to ensure that the relationship could not be abused.

                      I find Exodus 21:4-6 especially interesting. To modern ears the idea of being given a wife and then having to leave the wife and kids if the slave doesn't want to stay with his master seems to be a repulsive idea. But when we view the Old Testament through the lens of redemption in Christ we see the beauty of what's going on. We need to understand that the price paid for the slave is the ransom that redeems him from death (no entry into slavery = no work, no food, no home = death). The purchase of the slave has actually saved him and the blessings of a wife and family come with that. If we view this as a type of salvation then we can see the logical choice at the end of the period of slavery – the slave can walk away from his redemption, but in doing so he loses the gifts of that redemption. Of course the slave has a choice to stay, and to be joined for ever to the one who has saved his life and to the new family that has been given to him. What does that remind you of?

                      Now we come to the female slaves. Verse 8 makes it clear that the purchase of a woman is often a purchase made in order to provide a spouse. It is the same principle as the kinsman-redeemer in Ruth – a price is paid to redeem the woman AND to give her a future and a family. However, Exodus 21:8 says very clearly that a woman so redeemed cannot just be discarded if the husband changes his mind. If he doesn't want her anymore as a wife he must return her to her original family – but there is no indication that the price paid for her has to be returned. This means that the Law places a high value on the rejected wife and the husband comes out of the deal much the poorer if he reneges on his intentions.

                      If the woman is puchased to be a wife for a son, then she must be treated like a daughter. This is hardly the model of bondage slavery is it? Equally, if the master takes another wife, the purchased wife must still be treated as well as the new wife. If this doesn't happen then the wife can return to her old family and the husband doesn't get his money back. The intent therefore is for the husband/master to love his wife properly and to treat her as one of the family – another type of redemption in Christ.

                      Now, the one objection remains, which is the fact that the husband has two wives, but you are making the mistake that since the Scripture recognises a situation it necessarily condones or even supports it. This is far from the case – the Law provides a provision for the position of multiple wives, because often these multiple wives (as well as being a cultural practice, though sinful) were the result of men acting as kinsmen-redeemers or similar. Hence the command for men to marry the widows of their dead siblings – the intent here is not to satisfy mysoginistic passions but rather to provide for those who otherwise would be destitute.

                      My understanding of the Scriptures is that the ideal form of marriage is monogamy – it is the type indicated by Genesis 2, it is shown in Ephesians 5 to be a model of the union of Christ and the Church, and the Pastoral Epistles clearly indicate that it is the only form of marriage permitted for Christian leaders. However, it is clear that at certain times God permitted his people to take more than one wife in order to act in a redemptive fashion (i.e. to redeem widows or to protect those trapped in poverty). What the Exodus passage you cite does is provide a clear legal framework for that practice. None of this negates the clear Scriptural notion that monogamy between a man and a woman is the ideal for human behaviour.

                      The Deuteronomy passage is interesting because it actually displays something contrary to what you suggest. The common practice in war 3,000 years ago was that you had absolute rights of subjection over the people you conquered. The normal model of behaviour was to literally rape and pillage the homes of those you had defeated. What Deuteronomy does however is say to God's people that that is simply not the model of behaviour that they are to maintain.

                      The other consideration is that the practice of the Hebrews was to annihilate the populations in Canaan that rejected YHWH. This means that although the judgement over the heathens who were sinners and worthy of God's wrath was death (and that is the same judgement that is upon us all), women were redeemed by being married to Hebrews. The text is very clear – the captured woman must be allowed to grieve and sexual intercourse cannot happen for at least a month. If after that the man decides he does not want her as a wife, he cannot treat her like chattel – he must let her go free (which means that she escapes the fate of her people in being killed).

                      It is very probable that a captured woman who stayed with her new husband would convert and become Hebrew. In this light the act of sexual intercourse can be seen not as an aggresive act of dominance but rather, since it indicates the union of the two (hence the reason why the Hebrew man cannot simply rape the woman on the battlefield and leave her) it becomes another redemptive sign. The woman has been taken from a situation where she would have died (and died again spiritually as a sinner condemned by the Law and with no appropriate atonement) and has been placed in a situation where she not only lives physically, but also lives spiritually as one of YHWH's covenant people.

                      There is a very interesting examination of this passage from a Jewish perspective here.

                      Is it worth pointing out that you still haven't answered my question from the previous comment. On what basis do you know that God's grace is present in these relationships you offered? What is your authority for saying so?

                    • What an awfully long script needed to justify this, Peter!

                      "In this light the act of sexual intercourse can be seen not as an aggresive act of dominance but rather, since it indicates the union of the two."

                      Any barbaric act can be rationalised by ideological or symbolic justifications, but to many of the women involved it was rape and violation. The text even says that she must not be sold "because you have humiliated her", other versions read "because you have violated her" and "because you have forced her to have sex with you."

                      To answer your question, I know (or believe) that God's grace exists in such relationships, because I see evidence for it. We are told in scripture what the fruits of the Spirit are. When I see love, joy, peace, perseverance, self control etc, then I know that God's love and spirit informs those relationships.

                    • You're just demonstrating my point for me Sue. By continually asserting that it is rape or violation you are imposing a 21st Century cultural bias on the text. Why can you not accept that "buying a wife" has actually nothing to do with imposing your sexual desires upon another person and everything to do with helping support a family? There is absolutely nothing in practice different between Exodus 21 and Ruth 3 and 4 where Boaz pays the redemption price for Ruth.

                      And it all leaves me rather confused. Why do you accept the Scriptures at one point (grace) and not at another (how grace is typologised in redemptive purchases of humans)? It seems to me that you simply pick and choose the bits of the Bible that your 21st century prejudices and biases like and reject anything which doesn't conform with your view of how things should be. The very thing you accuse conservatives of (picking and choosing) is in actual fact the thing you do.

                      Your assumption that an Israelite man should automatically want to treat a purchased or captured wife as little more than a sex object is as offensive as when some conservatives assume that all homosexuals are promiscuous. It is nothing short of misandry and anti-semitism.

  7. "The two examples from Torah you give are specific commands to the Israelites at a specific time."

    Peter, your approach to scripture in saying that demonstrates exactly why I said the answer to your earlier question is both yes AND no. And of course the examples you keep quoting from scripture about homosexuality are specific commands to people people at specific times.

    Sue demonstrates very well why the answer to your question is both yes AND no. And you have failed to demonstrate why, on the question of artificial methods of contraception, that different churches can come to different conclusions using the same sources.

    And now, John Richardson, in his latest post, has demonstrated that we are in a 'both/and' kind of church. And what it is his proposal to deal with this? "We'll find our OWN bishops" Real playground 'my gang/your gang' stuff. And just as I posted in my first reflection on this thread – I am being written off because i don't see things the conservatives see them. I am, in David Ould's phrase, simply be called ;such people'.

    And Hopeful Ordinand I'm flattered that you think the Elizabethan Settlement and the Act of Synod are just my 'assertions'. I think Church History will show things rather differently however!

    • I find your reply rather naive and logically inconsistent Andrew. Are you suggesting that the proscriptions in the two passages are NOT for a certain people at a certain time (i.e. that they are universal and therefore we are beholden to them)? If your answer is no, then why do you critique me? If yes, why do you not remonstrate with Sue for rejecting them?

      You would need to provide some better explanation for why Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 and Hebrews 13 speaking about sexual practices are only for the first century Christians then simply stating it is so. At least I try to grapple with Scripture in order to understand how passages that at first glance I have a problem with can actually be God-breathed. Your response seems just to be to rip up anything you don't like, imposing your 21st century cultural biases on the Word of God. In doing so you are just a cultural colonialist, no better then the 19th century missionaries who abused local culture in Africa and Asia.

      • I was referring to the Deuteronomy text when I called it rape, Peter. The text itself says the man has "forced the woman to have sex" or "violated" or "humiliated her". So, not my words.

        10 When the Lord your God gives you victory in battle and you take prisoners,11 you may see among them a beautiful woman that you like and want to marry.12 Take her to your home, where she will shave her head,[a] cut her fingernails,13 and change her clothes. She is to stay in your home and mourn for her parents for a month; after that, you may marry her.14 Later, if you no longer want her, you are to let her go free. Since you forced her to have intercourse with you, you cannot treat her as a slave and sell her.

        But, hang on, earlier on YOU said to me,

        There are some cultures where women are treated as chattel and sold off to respective husbands. Do you want to treat those as normative?

        But surely this would be imposing 21st century bias, or Western bias or whatever, on other cultures? So now YOU are arguing from the "that was the way it was in their culture" perspective that you (wrongly) accused me of arguing from!!!

        Why is there so little consistency or intellectual integrity in your arguments?

        • I'm really not sure what you're taking about. The passage says very clearly that if a Hebrew takes a captured woman as his wife and then decides to discard her he has in practice forced himself upon her. However, you are bringing your cultural bias to the text because you presume that the initial sexual intercourse was violent. Rather, what the text is speaking to is a situation where a Hebrew male offers a captured woman a chance to be redeemed but then reneges on that. He has in effect raped the lady and committed sexual immorality because he has not carried through on that which he promised. Torah is very clear that such a wife cannot be treated like chattel, the very thing you want to suggest the text actually says.

          Let's be very clear what is happening here Sue – I am engaging in hermeneutical exegesis of the text. I am trying to explain it in both its cultural context and in its role as being part of a corpus of Scripture that reveals the saving work of Christ. You are the one here who simply rejects the message of the Bible and you do so without providing any hermeneutical engagement with the text but rather simply throw it away because it does not fit your 21st Century cultural prejudices.

          • Peter, you can assert you are "engaging in hermeneutical exegesis" as much as you like, that does not disguise the paucity of your arguments, nor your pitiful attempts to try to make the text mean what you would like it to mean (when it clearly doesn't) in order to justify your very limited approach to scripture.

            I fear that you are being disingenuous, I sense in your posts a note of desperation because you must know that this is likely to "convince" only those whose faith is too weak to allow a chink in the fragile edifice of their certainty.

            • I am not going to comment any more on this thread, because I may end up being rude. I can't respect this level of argument, so goodbye and God bless you all.

      • Well Peter I don't find your replies too consistent either. Let's go back to the (unanswered) question of the Lambeth Conference's change of heart over the matter of artificial means of contraception. You responded initially by saying that 'they finally read Scripture correctly without imposing a cultural bias'. So – the RC church still has the the wrong reading of scripture on this? Or are there two possible readings?

          • Actually Peter you changed the subject away from that quite a lot earlier on and ignored it. You seem to be specialising in accusing Sue and me of doing what you do yourself. So let me ask again..for the third time. Let’s go back to the (unanswered) question of the Lambeth Conference’s change of heart over the matter of artificial means of contraception. You responded initially by saying that ‘they finally read Scripture correctly without imposing a cultural bias’. So – the RC church still has the the wrong reading of scripture on this? Or are there two possible readings?

            • The problem with this is that when I answer you questions you don’t answer mine. Let’s try it one more time.

              On the subject of contraception, the RC is very clearly wrong. I see no Scriptural mandate for prohibiting the use of barrier contraception. Can I suggest that if you think I am wrong you actually give me some Biblical argument to demonstrate why. If you can’t then you obviously agree with me (which makes me wonder why you asked in the first place).

              • Peter, the problem is that you just answer what you want, without actually grasping the real question put to you. The issue is, why did Lambeth change their mind? Why was their reading of scripture so wrong on the matter? And what confidence does it give us that they can get things right now?

                • You've just proved my point. I answer your question but you won't answer mine. Same as always.

                  Let's actually look at the Lambeth resolutions. 1908:41 rejects the use of contraceptives. 1920:70 condemns the use of contraceptives to further fornication (i.e. use a condom so you don't have a baby so you can have as much sex with someone you're not married to as you want). 1930:15 simply acknowledges that contraceptives might be used where there is a clear moral obligation to avoid pregnancy (i.e. for economic reasons).

                  Here's the thing though – at no point do these resolutions make a Biblical case for condemning contraception, and quite frankly I think that's because one can't be made. While it is very clear that the Bible sees humanity beginning at conception (and therefore abortion is murder), I think it is a flawed piece of logic to move from there to condemning the practice of preventing conception in the first place. There is no Scriptural case for it, and if you cannot present one then you acknowledge this.

                  So all we have is the Lambeth Conference moving from a position where it allowed its cultural bias (a tendency to look with uncritical favour on Roman Catholic moral teaching) to affect its judgement to a position to where it recognised (rightly) that Scripture did not forbid contraception.

                  • The idea that until the Lambeth Conference of 1930 the Lambeth Conference/C of E generally looked with uncritical favour on Roman Catholic moral teaching is scarcely historical…between the two communions was a deep permafrost with a degree of superiority on the part of Anglicans i would judge.Anglican bishops condemned artificial contraception because they thought it was sinful and degrading, not because they were in thrall to RC moral theology. To analyse the grounds for these beliefs would require looking at bishops statements/ church primers/sermons/reports, anglican textbooks used in theological colleges and so forth…a good doctoral thesis perhaps..and it may have been done. But it would be remarkable if no Anglican had brought the Bible into the discussion in the late 19/early 20c, it would surely have been their first port of call…What did Bp Ryle say on the subject I wonder or Bp Moule or Chavasse..if I was nr an academic library I would enjoy doing a bit of research!

                    • Go to the C19 Lambeth Resolutions and see if you can find any reference to Scripture when they address contraception. No? I rest my case.

                      I also note that Andrew has singularly failed to provide any reference to Scripture to defend his position. Curious that.

                    • I don't have any case to defend Peter. I agree with you that scripture is of limited use, and have never said otherwise. And we know that the moral teaching of the RC Church in this respect is widely ignored anyway. You entirely missed the point of my question to you. It is that we see developments in moral teaching, and we shall see more yet.

                    • What kind of argument is that? Are you seriously suggesting that because Scripture doesn't address contraception (and you seem to have admitted as much given that you haven't produced one reference to Scripture either way) and that therefore we have to use tradition and reason (which is a terribly Anglican thing), we can use that basis to revise our teaching where Scripture is very clear on a subject (eg sex outside of marriage). All you're doing is demonstrating that you reject the notion that all Scripture is God-breathed and inspired. If that's the case, why use it all when you can never be sure which bit was inspired? I mean, I don't like that bit about not murdering people – should I just come to the conclusion that my reason might lead me to a better moral then "thou shalt not kill"?

                    • Fair enough Peter..but I think you rest your case too easily? What I wonder did the C of E itself say about contraception from the late 19c? After all Lambeth Resolutions are not binding..I cant imagine Moule/Ryle/Chavasse et al paying much attention to them…..and I can remember clergy in my youth who spoke against contraception in marriage preparation…I think the research project I outlined would be rather informative.I can't believe your moral theology course at Wycliffe Hall was a distillation of Lambeth Conference resolutions…..but Im rather pleased you are cognisant withcheers! them …I taught part time on a ministerial course for years and found few ordinands who knew anything about Lambeth Conferences or much about the Anglican communion or ARCIC ….cheers!!

                    • Well Perry, can I suggest that if you want to take this line further you should give us some references to C19 Anglican thinking on the subject. I know that for Andrew it's really, really hard to actually present any evidence to support his claims, but I'm sure you're up to it.

                    • Fraid I retired early Peter to care for my old ( 96yr) mum in Canterbury, so not in a position to ransack the libraries as I did when UCL and Dr Williams were so close ( I was rector of Bloomsbury)I think what churchman said about contraception pre 1930 ( and masturbation as well) would be rather interesting..after all masturbation was called the sin of Onan and I rather suspect churchmen related this to contraception in the Victorian period .But its a long time since I cantered round these pastures….best leave it to more zealous youngsters like you….but I seem t5o recall an American scholar writing a book on English protestant theology and contraception …Solloway i think. he wrote a book on Anglican social thought I seem to remember….

      • I assume Peter, that you argue they are for a specific culture and time? If so, then why does God have different rules for marriage for different cultures and different times in history?

        We are looking at marriage here, not food laws. Why has the model of marriage set out in Genesis been changed to permit men to have several wives and to allow him to rape a captive woman and later return her to her family when he "tires of her"?

        God changes the rules on marriage for specific times and cultures?

        • What you fail to appreciate is that just because the Bible permits a practice to take place does not mean that it implies it is the perfect model for humanity.

          The redemption of women occurs in an environment where the death rate was much higher then it is today. Husbands died through ill health and (in the period from which these texts we are discussing come from) through warfare. The allowing of taking second wives is *never* presented in Scripture as something that YHWH commands or commends (and unless you can demonstrate otherwise I suggest you drop insinuating the idea that YHWH commands it), but rather is an allowance to help humans live in a broken and fallen world. The beauty though of what YHWH does in permitting such activity is that he uses it to indicate the redeeming work of Christ. The idea of husbands redeeming wives from poverty, slavery or death is a type of the work that Christ does of redeeming you from the poverty of your sin, the slavery of your falleness and the death that comes through your brokeness.

          It's astounding what you can see in Scripture (or rather what the Holy Spirit reveals) when you read it in order to see and understand the substitutive work of Christ proclaimed through its many pages. Equally, is amazing how much you miss when you close your heart and soul to the truth of what Christ has done and the nature of the God-breathed revelation that YHWH has given us to tell us of his saving work.

          Jer 5:21 Hear this, you foolish and senseless people,

          who have eyes but do not see,

          who have ears but do not hear:

          22 Should you not fear me?" declares the LORD.

          "Should you not tremble in my presence?

          I made the sand a boundary for the sea,

          an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.

          The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;

          they may roar, but they cannot cross it.

          23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts;

          they have turned aside and gone away.

          24 They do not say to themselves,

          'Let us fear the LORD our God,

          who gives autumn and spring rains in season,

          who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.'

          25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away;

          your sins have deprived you of good.

            • The point though is that you will not accept the difference between Scripture permitting one form of relationship in certain circumstances for certain reasons(polygamy) and championing another (monogamy). By rejecting this distinction you then purposefuly move to deny the inspiration of certain parts of Scripture.

              • So, Scripture (God) has permitted polygamy?

                The rules on marriage and human relationships are not absolute, but are tailored to different cultures and circumstances.OK.

    • I appreciate that there's little to no point actually trying to debate with you, but what I said was that you were making assertions about the Elizabethan Settlement and Acts of Synod. I think I've demonstrated elsewhere that you have a somewhat cavalier attitude to the basis of the Church of England and definitions in church documents, so you should probably be somewhat more precise about what you mean.

      • HO I'm asserting that the Act of Synod has allowed both those in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood AND those against to remain in the C of I. I'm asserting that the Eliz. Settlement allowed the C of E to retain both catholic AND protestant dimensions. what is contentious about those assertions?

        • I'm asserting that the Eliz. Settlement allowed the C of E to retain both catholic AND protestant dimensions. what is contentious about those assertions?

          It's contentious because it's false. The Elizabethan Settlement sought a compromise between the moderate Protestants and the more hard-line Puritans. It conceded next to nothing to the Romans but, rather, set about establishing what form of Protestantism should prevail.

          the claim of modern-day liberals, such as yourself, that the Church of England was founded on a via media that legitimises your own wholesale rejection of Biblical authority is thus shown to be, at best fanciful.

          Furthermore, if there was really a middle way between Romanism and the Reformed, it would have been between equally conservative Roman and Reformed strands. To somehow argued from there some form of basis for your own entirely tangential theology is, at best, misguided and probably more accurately described as willfully ignorant of the historical realities.

          • David – I think you'll find that founders of the Oxford Movement would disagree with you there. The C of E has catholic roots, and the Elizabethan Settlement put in palce a process by which those roots were retained. The Oxford Movement enabled those roots to grow once again.

            Had there been no catholic roots, the C of E would not have that balance of Protestant and Catholic that it has today. It is a both/and church. It has nothing to do with liberal theology at all, and everything to do with church history.

            The same is true of the Act of Synod…..

            • Wow, Andrew – that's some spectacular historical revisionism.

              A C19 movement whose leader has the integrity to leave Anglicanism because he sees that his views are incompatible with it is actually based in C16?

              Newman's Tract 90 is such an obvious obfuscation of clear statements in the 39 Articles that for anyone to argue that they had a substantive basis there …. well, he'd have to be a raving revisionist who was happy to twist the meaning of English.

              Oh, sorry – my mistake. I see, now, how you come to that conclusion.

              • Oh you Ould boys really love the ad hominems don't you! Best to stick with arguments ratehr than attascking people. The latter is simply a sign that you are losing the argument.

                Newman was just one of the architects of the Oxford Movement. Look at the Pusey House website for further info but this paragraph says it all really:

                "Though he did not see the end of dissent and dispute, Pusey (who died in 1882) lived to witness the theology of a Catholic Church of England carried into all areas of the land. The rediscovered emphases on apostolic succession and the Catholicity of the church, on priesthood, on sacrament and sacrifice, on prayer, holiness and the beauty of worship, are the Tractarians’ gifts to their successors. A glance round the contemporary Church of England, still vastly divergent but nevertheless teeming with colourful decorations, revised liturgies, ancient hymns, and thousands of processions, aumbries, altars, oratories and retreat houses, reminds us just how dramatically the life of the English Church was renewed by the Catholic vision of those Oxford ‘men of large designs’."

                Note the use of the word 're-discovered' in that paragraph. Not discovered, but re-discovered. They managed to re-discover all that because of the roots that had been left in place.

                Do you still want to argue that the C of E is NOT both Catholic and Protestant?

                • All you've done there is provide an historical account of the catholic tendency in the Church of England from the mid 1800s. What you have spectacularly failed to do is actually engage with the core issue which is whether the Elizabethan settlement was one between catholics and protestants or between moderate protestants and puritans.

                  It matters not one bit what happened in the 1800s when we are discussing what the intent of the Elizabethan Settlement was. If it can be demonstrated that the Elizabethan Settlement was as David describes then all you have presented us with is a record of an abberation from that settlement that occured in the 1800s and is still with us today.

                  So to get back to David's criticism, you have presented absolutely zero evidence that the Elizabethan Settlement was as you suggest. Instead you simply revise history to suit your own cultural biases. Perhaps what you need to do next is make a cogent argument that the Elizabethan Settlement was one between catholicism and protestantism. That would involve you referencing source documents and demonstrating from the text the intent of the Elizabethan reformers.

                  Yes, I think that would be a really good thing to do. That would demonstrate that you are willing to debate this properly rather than just accuse of us ad hominem, because at the moment Wild claims + no sourced evidence = raving revisionist.

                  I really do think that's what you need to do. Let the reader understand.

                • Do you still want to argue that the C of E is NOT both Catholic and Protestant?

                  I am quite happy to affirm that the CofE is Catholic, in that it officially (despite your wishes otherwise) adheres to the protestant faith of the Church Catholic.

                  That is, of course, what the Elizabethan Reformers meant when they used the word "Catholic" as, for example, John Jewel's Apologie makes perfectly clear.

              • Dear David,

                A reading of Diarmid MacCulloch or Henry McAdoo might suggest a rather more nuanced picture. The reformed Church of England post 1559 was always a rather unusual Reformed church ( liturgical forms/3 fold ministry/cathedrals etc) and became more so in the course of time..Lancelot Andrewes/Laud ;particularly so post 1662…nothing to do with theolgical liberalism. Newman may have gone..Pusey and keble didnt. You can hardly deny that the Anglican Communion today is an attempt to hold together those who value catholic order and those who value justification by faith. There are whole provinces that are broadly "catholic"; indeed I gather some Australian dioceses are distinctly so…you can scarcely deny these people are Anglicans????? Henry Chadwick on the 39Articles ( The Study of Anglicanism ed Sykes/Booty/Knight SPCK 1998 pp 106 following are informative……

                • There are whole provinces that are broadly “catholic”; indeed I gather some Australian dioceses are distinctly so…you can scarcely deny these people are Anglicans?????

                  On the contrary, Perry. I am quite happy to opine that they may very well call themselves Anglican, but if they do not affirm that Protestant doctrine that is the 39 Articles and BCP then they really can't complain when others question the validity of that claim.

                  I make the same statement about theological liberals. Whether one is Tractarian or liberal, you're still a cuckoo in the nest, even if you manage to kick everyone else out.

                  • Gosh David your definition of an anglican is pretty narrow…presumably it wouldnt have included William Temple, Michael Ramsay let alone dear Rowan!and members of all those Provinces that dont use 1662 and dont have references to the 39 Arts in their Constitutions ( Interestingly they are just a diocesan option in Kenya and Tanzania)and of course even in the C of E has altered theterms of consent considerably. Present day Anglicanism must be rather a trial to you…but you seem a rather belligerent sort of bloke, so I expect you rather enjoy being the pukka item as you would see it. Here in Canterbury the Anglican presence seems rather broader based…and pleasantly friendly.

                    • Plus, Clergy don't have to assent to the 39 Articles here in Scotland but didn't we, by consecrating Seabury,kick off the whole Anglican *communion*? :)

                    • Gosh Perry,

                      what you mistake as "belligerence" is actually acute bemusement that there are whole swathes of clergy out there who didn't have my own wonderful experience of not having to cross my fingers and tell a little white lie when I made my ordination vows.

                      It's a bit like turning up at Pepsi headquarters only to find that the board of directors and the marketing department all prefer Coke and buy it in by the crateload. You then go down to the factory and find that they're daily changing the recipe so that it becomes more and more like Coke.

                      every so often you express a little exasperation at what they're doing there. I get it, of course – they like the salary and the pretty clothes and the machinery of Pepsi, it saves them having to build their own Coke establishment. But it's when they keep insisting that they're really pukka Pepsi that you do begin to wonder if they've lost grip with reality.

                    • Not aware I had to cross my fingers when i made my ordination vows or subsequently in any of the parishes to which i was inducted. Retired now..to Canterbury..where like Jonah I can observe things from under my gourd. You Ould brothers are certainly a caution…Im told a satirical website nicknamed you "the Righteous brothers".As the decades unfold I will follow your careers with interest.When I was a DDO i had a few lads like you two..deployability was always something of an issue. I notice now some have changed, some have left the parochial ministry, some have left the C of E and some have found jobs after their titles and stayed put. Might be different in Oz…Who knows?

                    • Interesting to know that "righteous" is a term of contempt among CofE liberals. No doubt they are the same people who nearly always put "godly" in quotation marks.

                      But seriously, Perry, while David and Peter express their opinions robustly (perhaps a little too robustly on occasion), I suspect that is simply a reflection of their passion for the gospel. After all, we know what God thought of the lukewarm Christians of Laodicea. Plenty of civilised establishment types thought Jesus himself was too harsh, too scathing.

                      On the "crossed fingers" question, I don't think we can avoid the conclusion that many clergy are saying the creeds dishonestly, given that several comprehensive surveys have indicated that large numbers of them just do not believe in the divinity of Christ, the Virgin Birth etc. Many of us have occasional doubts, and it is hard of course to fully understand many Christian doctrines, but to actually report definitively in a survey that you do not actually believe in them at all…

  8. This is not the most edifying thread of comments I have read on the blog, Peter. However, I have a comment or two to throw into the mix.

    1. The main reason that I self-identify as 'liberal' is that if my life so far has taught me anything, it is that many of those things that in my 20s I knew as certain and irrevocable truth have, thanks to God's grace, turned out not to be so. I know that not only my life and beliefs, but also my perceptions of them, are challenged and changed. I am not the same person who left university nearly 20 years ago, and I thank God for it. However, as a result of this I cannot escape the fact that I might well look back in another 15 years or do when my daughter reaches that same point in her life, and realise that I think the same then of myself at this point. Difficult though it might be at times, the rallying cry of the truly theologically liberal has always been, "we might be wrong"! What has disturbed me about this thread – and I imagine it has disturbed Andrew too – is the automatic assumption that anyone who does not think in a particular way is not to be considered to be Christian. How can you be so certain? How do you decide which parts of the Bible to submit to extensive explanation and commentary, and which bits to take entirely at face value? To put it another way, what are the axioms upon which your arguments rest?

    2. Linked to the above, here is an example of the sort of thing I am talking about. Your question concerning sexual activity outside marriage. Do I think such behaviour is immoral? Actually, as an ideal, yes I do. (Although I realise it is an ideal that many of us, myself included, have failed to live up to.) Your response then would be along the lines of 'so you can't possibly approve of physical same-sex relationships because that's not included in marriage.' So where do I go from there? Well, either my views on same-sex relationships are wrong, or I am questioning what is meant by 'marriage'. The difficulty comes at this point. For as long as you shut the conversation down with 'this is what you have to believe or you're not a Christian' there is little progress to be made. The greatest irony in all this is that for those of us whose liberal position is as I have described, if there was a little more reason and a little less smiting, you might even persuade some of us to your point of view. After all, I was one of those who very nearly went to Rome in 1992, and now I am hoping that someone will put forward an amendment to the Women Bishops legislation next month in favour of a single clause measure so that I can vote in favour of it.

    I hope all of this makes sense – perhaps to put it in its simplest terms, try to remember that anyone who takes the time to post here does so because they think that we are all trying to build the same Kingdom. Given the chance, all of us might have something to learn.

    • I think I can respond to your points in a brief manner Justin. My greatest frustration with the approach of Andrew is not that he holds an opinion different to mine, but he will not reasonably defend it. When asked to support an assertion he will not do so. When asked to provide some Biblical exegesis to back up his position he will not do so.

      I have absolutely no problem with people coming to different positions to me, but I have little time for those who cannot do the courtesy of giving a Biblical defence for something that is allegedly "Christian". Take for example my discussion with Sue over passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy which she dislikes. There is no attempt by Sue to engage with the hermeneutic that I present – the response is rather to simply reject without any engagement whatsoever. In the light of that, who is the one that is being inflexible?

      I have never shut down a conversation on the basis of "this is what you should believe as a Christian". I will shut down a conversation if someone makes suppositions that they are unwilling to defend in any manner, yet they criticise you for simply restating the orthodox position.

      • I can't engage with arguments ( not exegesis or hermeneutic – don't flatter yourself!) that is so wholly illogical, inconsistent and, I suspect,you know that this is the case.

        For example you write,

        "The passage says very clearly that if a Hebrew takes a captured woman as his wife and then decides to discard her he has in practice forced himself upon her."

        The text says nothing of the sort! It says that "if you tire of her, you may let her go". There is no condemnation of the man tiring of his "wife" and he "may" discard her (it is permitted) but he must not sell her because he "humiliated/ forced himself" upon her. The verb "humiliated/ violated" refers to the past action. It does not say "because you have tired of her, that sex act has now transformed into violation."

        But it is more than that, you also refuse to answer questions and ignore anything that challenges the inconsistencies of your position. I really have lost a great deal of respect for you reading your responses. I said that I wasn't commenting on this thread anymore and so I think it was ungenerous of you to accuse me of not engaging. I can't engage because I cannot intellectually respect the integrity of your approach.

        • Well let's have a look at that issue you raise.

          For example you write,

          “The passage says very clearly that if a Hebrew takes a captured woman as his wife and then decides to discard her he has in practice forced himself upon her.”

          The text says nothing of the sort! It says that “if you tire of her, you may let her go”. There is no condemnation of the man tiring of his “wife” and he “may” discard her (it is permitted) but he must not sell her because he “humiliated/ forced himself” upon her. The verb “humiliated/ violated” refers to the past action. It does not say “because you have tired of her, that sex act has now transformed into violation.”

          The first problem with your exegesis is that there is nothing definite in the text that suggests that the "humiliated" is directly linked to the sexual act. The literal translation of the root word in Hebrew ("anh") is "put down". While in some places it is clearly used in the context of rape (Deut 22:29 for eg) in other places it is used to speak of affliction (Ps 90:15, 119:75 for eg) or humility (Is 58:3). There is a serious body of opinion that relates this "humiliated" or "dishonoured" (which is how the NIV renders it) to the divorce of the woman and *not* to the sexual act. This interpretation is supported by the LXX which renders the word as "etapeinosas" which has absolutely no connection to sexual violation whatsoever and means "humbled" or "humiliated". Certainly, your use of the phrase "forced himself" in connection to "humiliated" has no textual basis in the Hebrew or the LXX – if you think it does then by all means point out the words to me.

          So, in order to support the suggestion that the "humiliation" is directly related to the sexual activity, you would need to convince me textually that the "humiliation" is explicitly connected grammatically or syntactically to the sex act.

          Secondly, you are not taking account of the cultural context of the text. You bring a 21st Century bias to the text by assuming that the sexual congress between the man and the woman was a violation and non-consensual. There is nothing in the text to presume this, and indeed, given that the woman had just been spared death and was being offered not just a husband but also complete membership racially of the Hebrew people, contextually she would have welcomed such an act (though with 21st Century blinkers on we find that initially hard to understand). You also presume with your 21st Century bias that the man would have acted sexually violently towards her – once again there is nothing in the text that supports that presumption. Indeed, if the motive were rape and sexual conquest, why the 28 day mourning period for her old family? Why not just have her and then discard her?

          And note that the woman, if divorced, is treated not as chattel or as a concubine to be passed on but is specifically given the dignity of a free divorced woman – "let her go where she wants. The humiliation (IMHO) is the fact that having been united to the man she has now been dumped (as it were) by him. By all means, the sexual union may have been violent, but equally it may have been consensual (at the time). There is nothing in the text to suggest either way (unlike as you are implying, that it is quite obviously rape) since the only reference is in Deut 21:13 to "go in to her" which is clearly a reference to sexual activity, but has no explicit evidence on the nature of that sexual union.

          So, if you are to argue that the sexual union was indeed rape, you would need to demonstrate textually that it was so. At the moment, all you are doing is assuming that the sexual union referred to in the text was rape, but there is nothing in the text to explicitly suggest that, and indeed were that the intent of the author different language could clearly have been used.

          And Sue, I'm afraid to say, but this kind of stuff IS exegesis and use of hermeneutic. I have examined the original language of the text to try and identify very clearly what is and isn't happening. I have engaged with the cultural context of 3000/3500 years ago to explore what the understanding at the time would have been about the actions described. I have responded to the points you have made about the text and given a detailed explanation as to why your interpretation is incorrect, and sadly you have not as yet engaged with those arguments more than simply saying "you're wrong and I'm right".

          It's now your turn. If you want to support your supposition that the sexual congress between the man and woman is violent then please show us where the text displays that. If you want to support your supposition that the "humiliation" refers to this alleged rape then (having first demonstrated in the text where the rape occurs) please demonstrate how the "humiliation" syntactically or grammatically relates to the rape.

          By the way, I'm quite happy to accept the fact that this passage seems to let the man get off entirely free for divorcing his new wife simply because he changed his mind. But then, it's very clear from Matthew 5 and 19 what Jesus thinks about that.

          • I do wish you wouldn’t make up things that I have said, Peter!

            You say that I assume that the act was rape because I presume ,

            "that the man would have acted sexually violently towards her."

            But I never, ever use the word “violent” about this act of congress. I think you have made the mistake of thinking rape is only rape if it is violent?

            Rape is sexual intercourse without the consent of one of the parties. The intercourse in this case MAY have been violent, if the woman resisted, but may not have been if she submitted. People can submit out of fear or the knowledge that they have no choice. The point is that the woman here has no input into the decision, her consent is not required, and the text gives a mandate in law for rape or violation. I actually did not presume the man would have been sexually violent (from my knowledge of men, I guess it would have varied according to the man and the situation.)

            Why do you pretend I have said things when I haven’t?

            Now, given that the same Hebrew word is used elsewhere in the same book ( Deuteronomy) to very specifically mean rape, it is logical to suppose it has the same meaning here and relates to the sex act. Most translations render it with this meaning or allow for this interpretation. I can’t find any that say “because you humiliated her by discarding her” – this is to “force” the text somewhat away from the more natural grammatical reading.

            BUT whether a man “humiliates” a woman through rape or by discarding her after acts of intercourse that do not require her consent, both acts are abusive.

            We do have to look more clearly at the fact that there is no obligation on the man to consider this marriage as permanent. His only obligation is not to profit by selling this his wife, there his obligation and concern for her in God’s law ends!

            You say that this woman has,

            “Specifically been given the dignity of a free divorced woman” (!)

            If you understand the cultural context you will know that the prospects for a woman in this situation were bleak and did not involve much dignity. It might have been impossible for her to return to her kin, they too may have been captured or sold), if she did return, they may have rejected her because she had been “humiliated”. Her most likely recourse would be to prostitution to survive. Many commentators suggest that the reason Jesus says that a man who divorces his wife makes her an adulterer is as a reference to this being the likely outcome for any discarded woman. I would be very surprised if you were not aware of these contextual factors, yet you ignore them in your “exegesis” and “hermeneutic”.

            My reading of Matthew 19 is that Jesus understood some passages of scripture do not derive from God. My understanding accords entirely with his. This is one reason that I go back to the gospels time and time again, because they are a record of Christ’s teaching, to inform my Christian thought and action.

            • The point is that the woman here has no input into the decision, her consent is not required, and the text gives a mandate in law for rape or violation.

              Where in the text does it say that the sexual act is rape? It simply says that the sexual act occurs. You are assuming it is rape. I repeat, where in the text does it state that the sexual act is rape (violent or otherwise)? You are absolutely right that women may submit out of fear etc, but nothing in the text states that that is the situation.

              You continue to impose a 21st Century bias on the text. You assume that the nature of the new marriage relationship would not be desired by the woman despite no evidence in the text to suggest this. You assume that because the woman's husband has previously been killed by the Hebrews that she would merely passively comply with the new sexual union despite no evidence in the text to suggest this.

              It is *not* logical to assume that the word means "rape" because it is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe such an act. It is also used elsewhere to mean "humiliate" without any sexual connotation. On what grounds do you insist upon translating it here as "rape" (beyond imposing a 21st Century perspective on the text)?

              I don't disagree with you that the act of divorcing the woman *may* have led her into prostitution (though this is simply assumptive on your behalf as the woman *may* have been offered marriage by another man). However, this has absolutely no bearing on the issue that we disagree about, namely whether the text implies the woman is raped or that she is forced into passive consent.

              I think your reading of Matthew 19 is flawed, since Jesus says that not one jot or tittle can be changed from the Torah.

            • Let me add, nothing I'm saying denies the fact that a man *could* use the Law as outlined to simply force himself upon a woman and then discard her, but to assume that that is the intent of the text is to disregard the fact that the Law could also be used to show love and acceptance to a woman whose nation and family had been wiped out. It is very clear in the text (e.g. "put aside the clothes she was captured in" is a euphemism for moving from the status of alien into the status of family) that the woman is not viewed simply as a sexual object but rather is to be accorded the rights of any Hebrew wife.

              • We'll have to disagree on this one, as on so many Peter. You just don't address any of the points I have raised.

                The intent is not to show love and acceptance, but to satisfy men's carnal desires. The text says, " you may see a beautiful woman you desire to marry", the focus in on the man's needs, not "there will be women among the captives who need love and acceptance"! And then you talk to me about 21st cultural bias!!!

                It is also a bit of a joke when you tell me not to impose 21st century assumptions about what constitutes rape, and yet earlier you said that some cultures treat women as chattels and said "would you want to see that as normative?"

                I haven't assumed the woman would passively comply. That is just you making things up again!

                I have not assumed that some of the women wouldn't welcome this marriage – I am sure some would. Again, you just make up what I've said!

                I've explained to you what rape is, sorry you don't understand! If rape is not rape to God in 1410BC then everything is up for grabs according to the times and culture anyway.

                Your arguments are riddled with inconsistencies. All you can do is bluster about me imposing a 21st century perspective while ignoring my points that in that cultural context a discarded woman would not have much "dignity" as you assert earlier, but would be extremely vulnerable!

                I'll leave your readers to make up their minds about your pitiful attempts to force scripture to mean what you want it to mean. My mind is made up!

  9. I've been following this thread but have not been commenting as I've been in debate with William, which has now finished. I see this thread has gone cold, but I'd like to warm it up again (groans all round!) as I think that there are some important points to be made!

    Firstly, I agree with Justin that 'this is not the most edifying thread of comments I have read on the blog'. Once any thread develops into a Peter/Andrew exchange it often degenerates fairly swiftly into tit-for-tat. I tend to stay out of things at that point and let the Canon fire at the Vicar (and vice versa).

    Even though I am very low church, committed to the 'priesthood of all believers' and seeing vestments, including 'pointy hats', as rather a giggle, I did get saved through the Anglicans. Call me old fashioned, but the sight of two clergymen going at it hammer-and-tongs really is undignified! It’s also a mental image that I could do without – 'Men in frocks arguing'! Ugh! :-)

    Still, amongst the chaff on this thread I think that there really are some grains of wheat. So I'm going to attempt to sort through the strongest points that have been made by all and summarise. Whether I am successful in this self-set task is, of course, entirely up to you!

    I'm going to restrict myself primarily to the exchange over Exodus 21:10 and Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and the issue of rape, partly because I have limited knowledge of the church history issues raised in the other main exchange of views, but mostly because I think that it raises more interesting issues.

    But first a couple of general points.

    1. Peter's debating style

    I think that WC puts it best in his comment on this thread. 'While David and Peter express their opinions robustly (perhaps a little too robustly on occasion), I suspect that is simply a reflection of their passion for the gospel'. I'd go along with that point and I temper my feeling sometimes that Peter expresses his points very forcefully with the realisation that he is, after all, an orthodox, evangelical and charismatic Minister in the CofE where '20% of clergy did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ and 40% of clergy did not belief in the Virgin birth' (to quote from my one previous contribution to this thread). If I were a Minister in that environment, I think that I'd get pretty frustrated too!

    2. Ignoring Sue and changing her words

    I think that Sue has a point here. One example that I noted was where she asks: 'Perhaps “godliness” does not lie in our specific beliefs on these divisive issues such as sex, abortion, women bishops, homosexuality but in the way we apply these in our dealings with others?' David replied that: 'I disagree with you that godliness is somehow divorced from our beliefs', which is not actually what Sue said. Sue immediately responded that 'I don’t think I said Godliness was DIVORCED from our beliefs?' but then her point was left hanging. It's an important argument: namely that 'godliness' rests more in how we treat others than in what we actually believe, and one that can be supported by scripture.

    Similar, and soon after in the thread, Sue argues that 'there are in some cultures marriages where sexual relations occur after 24 hours of meeting (ie arranged marriages) and I have met someone who married three months after meeting, so I am not sure we can get “clarity” on the complex issues of human relationships, especially as they pan out for different individuals and societies'. Peter responds: 'It doesn’t really matter what some cultures do. There are some cultures where women are treated as chattel and sold off to respective husbands. Do you want to treat those as normative? I think your first paragraph betrays your theological approach. Where I want to discuss what the Biblical model of marriage is, your response is to refer to cultural models as being authoritative. Why else would you raise those examples?' Sue quite rightly reminds Peter that 'I don’t say that cultural models are authoritative, just that our ideas about marriage vary from culture to culture. I don’t want to treat any abusive or oppressive models of relationships as normative, or as desirable'.

    We need to be careful to respond to what people are actually saying rather than what we think they are saying. Of course that cuts both ways!

    3. Exodus 21:10 and Deuteronomy 21:10-14

    Sue then argues that ‘the bible does not offer us a consistent model of marriage. Exodus 21 :10 makes it clear that a man is free to take a second wife – providing he continues to feed and clothe his first wife. Deuteronomy 21: 10-14 makes it clear that a man can take a wife from among his prisoners of war (after she has been allowed to mourn the death of her family for a month), it does not mention the need to get her consent – in fact it says he should marry her because he has violated her – and it is clear that, if the man then tires of her, he can release her to go back to her own people – but must not sell her.

    Would you want to see this model of marriage as normative?

    Peter replies with a long (although not as long as this is going to be!) exposition around these scriptures, based around, as I see it, three main arguments:

    1) The violation or ‘rape’ needs to be seen in the historical and cultural context of how captured people, especially women, were usually treated in ancient cultures. In this context the scripture actually gives rights of protection and compensation to captured women by treating them as de facto Israelites.

    2) These scriptures must be seen as permissive scriptures that regulate the treatment of captives under civic law rather than as direct commandments on marriage and relationships which also show us God’s heart.

    3) The qualities of grace, redemption and recompense in these regulations prefigure the greater grace, redemption and recompense of Jesus and His death, sacrifice and resurrection to free us from the bondage of sin. These regulations are part of much a larger theme in which the Law and regulations are always pointing to the salvation that Jesus will bring.

    Let me deal with these three arguments in turn.

    3.1. Rape or not rape?

    Sue, I completely see where you are coming from in your arguments. In modern terms, women are treated terribly under these regulations with their freedom severely limited. There is no sense from Deuteronomy 21:10-14 that a captive woman is able to give consent, or refuse to be a wife, and the sense of the passage is of the husband having the right to take a wife from amongst the captives. It seems similar to the patriarchal rights given to men under Islamic law in many countries today.

    However, I do feel that you have failed to engage with Peter’s contextual argument. In comparison with the usual treatment of captive women in the ancient world, the treatment of captured women set out in Deuteronomy 21:10-14 is a huge improvement! For a start, they are not killed or enslaved! They are to be given an honoured status as Israelite wives with all the rights that go with that status. If the man abandons them, they must be allowed to go as free women without the status of a slave. The distinction between slave and free was of course the key economic distinction in the ancient world.

    The argument over rape or not rape is, I think, unclear. I’m aware that there are many different translations and I haven’t studied ancient Hebrew! My online New King James Bible and Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary (a useful free tool from http://www.e-sword.net if you’re interested) uses the Hebrew word ‘ânâh’ which it translates as ‘humbled’ along with many other similar alternatives including ‘afflict’ and ‘look down upon’. But it does also include ‘ravish’ and ‘defile’ amongst the alternatives, so your interpretation could be correct.

    3.2. Permissive or commanding scriptures

    Sue, we were here a few months ago debating the difference between permitting and commanding polygamous marriage for David and Solomon. I remember you withdrawing from that debate in something of a huff as well! It seems that you have a problem with the idea of permissive scriptures or regulations and that you just don’t see the point.

    I have to say that I’m with Peter on this point and I see it very clearly. There are three types of Old Testament Law and regulations:

    1) Religious or ceremonial Law on how the Israelites should approach and worship God. Much of this law falls away with the coming of the new Covenant in Christ.

    2) Legal or civic law on how the Israelites, as God’s chosen people, are to govern themselves and so begin to model how God wants us to act and behave. Much of this law has become the basis for modern law in societies with a Judeo-Christian tradition.

    3) Civic health and safety regulations which were appropriate to the ancient world context of Israel but which now fall away with our greater scientific and technological knowledge.

    Of course, I agree that it is sometimes difficult to tell which is which as they are mixed together in some passages of scripture, and herein lies the source of many disagreements on Peter’s site!

    I would hope however that we are all sufficiently mature Christians on here to at least recognise these three different types of ‘law’. Surely we can agree that OT Law and regulation contains both permissive scripture that has the purpose of regulating a less than perfect situation and direct commands which reveal God’s heart and which, in love for Him, we must obey. This is not Guardian CiF Belief after all, where half the posters seem to think that ‘mixed fibres’ and ‘shellfish’ do away with all the OT! (Sometimes I comment there as ‘nansikom’ if you’re interested).

    Hopeful Ordinand made a very useful short contribution that ‘When Jesus talks about marriage, he does so in the context of Genesis 1, which would indicate that his ideal of marriage came from Adam and Eve. As that’s pre-fall, it seems natural to take this as normative for all of creation – it’s certainly pre any covenant’.

    I see this as a very clear difference from scripture, as I do also see the difference between permissive scripture and commands. In fairness, I think that this difference is now a long-lasting point with which you need to engage!

    3.3. Shadow and type of Christ

    The third of Peter’s points is that the qualities of grace, redemption and recompense set out in the two scriptures, especially Deuteronomy 21:10-14, prefigure the far greater grace, redemption and recompense of our salvation in Christ. In the language that I’ve been taught in Bible Class, these regulations are a ‘shadow and type’ of how God treats us and how His heart through all eternity has been to save us in Christ. Peter devotes a good deal of space, both in his initial comment to Sue’s scriptures and in follow up comments, to expanding on this theme.

    And I loved his exposition of this grand theme of scripture! The more you read the OT, the more you see examples, shadows and allegories of how God intends to save us. Whenever I come across these examples in my reading of scripture, my heart is warmed to think that God purposed from the start of creation to save us, even though He knew that we were a rebellious people that would reject Him. It’s as though throughout the OT he’s saying to the Israelites: ‘You see, this is how I AM, when you get to know me. I’m a loving God whose heart is to release you and save you, even though you spurn me. When will you guys get it!’

    And this is entirely in line with Jesus’ revolutionary declaration in Matthew 5:17 : "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill." He’s saying the same thing but now he’s going to write the law in our hearts through the Spirit!

    So, Sue, I’m really disappointed to see you completely miss this great theme of scripture in your comments, when it fairly leaps out of what Peter is writing. Your response to his length is only: ‘What an awfully long script needed to justify this, Peter!’ when most of his length has been dealing with this wonderful ‘shadow and type of Christ’.

    But let me be fair and generous. I learnt this in Bible class and it has been a great blessing in my reading of scripture since then. There is no special reason why you should have seen this theme if it was not pointed out to you, except that it is very obvious once you read the OT.

    There should however be no such excuse for Canon Andrew who following the long exchange between Peter and Sue leaps in with the observation that ‘Peter, your approach to scripture in saying that demonstrates exactly why I said the answer to your earlier question is both yes AND no. And of course the examples you keep quoting from scripture about homosexuality are specific commands to people at specific times’.

    Andrew, I’m sure that you’re familiar with this theme that OT Law and regulation prefigure Christ! That is the core of the argument that Peter is making, that permissive scripture is not how God wants us to act, it is about how he is using the Law and regulations all the time to show grace and redemption, and so point to his coming salvation in Christ. I can’t believe that you don’t see this!

    So, to sum up a very long comment, I can see why folks on this board see Peter’s comments as sometimes very strongly worded. But I can also see why he gets frustrated and responds: ‘At least I try to grapple with Scripture in order to understand how passages that at first glance have a problem with can actually be God-breathed’. His site is, after all, titled ‘An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy’, isn’t it? To define orthodoxy, don’t we always go first and foremost to scripture in order to find out what God is telling us?

    I think that there’s an interesting discussion coming from this about how we read scripture, as there are clearly very different approaches amongst the regular commentators on this board. What is an orthodox approach to reading scripture? But perhaps that should wait for another day!

    • Hi Philip,

      I think I do say at some point that a symbolic gloss can be used to justify passages of scripture that are describe barbaric acts ( I rather dislike this approach.) An example would be Peter's interpretation of the giving of new clothes as symbolising redemption and the loving acceptance of the woman as a daughter of the house. But – shaving the head, paring the nails and providing new clothes is a time honoured way of eradicating lice (and was used in the concentration camps.) I guess it has more to do with ideas about purity and cleanliness.It also strips someone of their former identity that some might experience as degrading.

      I have my doubts about the "permissive laws" approach, if God makes such concessions to human frailty in laws on something which conservatives claim is as absolute and unchanging as marriage that seems to me to throw up further problems…

      Of course the Deuteronomy law is better than the situation of serial rape and then selling a woman into slavery, but not a lot – I commented before on the "dignity of a free divorced woman" idea and exactly how vulnerable such an abandoned woman, without kin, means and in an alien environment, would be.

      • Sue

        To respond to your comment, your first paragraph gives a very good illustration of the need to consider the context of the passage in its culture. I agree with you entirely that such treatment of a captive woman would be barbaric today. But, as Peter set out, in the context of ancient Israel, the treatment is redemptive adn also intended to point to redemption.

        The 'permissive law' approach or the 'permissive will of God' is fairly mainstream and well known in theology, especially reformed theology. The idea is that while God's perfect law sets out His directions for how we should behave, his permissive will or law allows actions that are less than perfect out of his forbearance and in anticipation of his salvation through Christ.

        I'm no theologian, but IMHO the Deutoronomy passage that you gave needs to be seen in this context. God permits less than perfect treatment of captured women in the ancient world context of the usual treatment of captured women being rape or death. In his forbearance He suspends judgement of the sin of Israelites forcing captured women to marry them, while at the same time pointing towards how they should be treated (by giving them the honoured status of wives) and also pointing to the coming redemption by Christ.

        In the case of marriage, which I agree is of foundational importance, God' permissive and perfect will is clear. In pre-fall Genesis, His perfect will for marriage is revealed as faithful monogomy between husband and wife. Post-fall, as human sin increases and polygamy comes into relationships by human sin, God regulates polygamy through his permissive will through regulations like Deuteronomy 21:10-14, while always pointing towards the coming redemption in Christ. Once Christ has come, God's perfect will for marriage is revealed again in the context of grace, where Christ has died for past, present and future sin for all who repent.

        This is why when Jesus is asked about divorce by the scribes and Pharisees (Mark 10:1-12),He immediately goes to the heart of the issue, the hardness of heart created through sin. 'Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept (allowing divorce). But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate'.

        Jesus goes to our sinless existence before the Fall and argues that divorce was never God's intention, it was rather permitted. Jesus goes straight back to how God created us: male and female to become one flesh in marriage.

        I do want to come back to your response to Peter's original comment on these verses: 'What an awfully long script needed to justify this!' The irony is that liberal theology has for decades been engaged in such 'awfully long' arguments to try and justify homosexual behaviour as good.

        There is however a fundamental difference in approach. While liberal theologians have resorted to poor contextual readings of scripture and, in some cases, straight-forward ignoring of portions of scripture or classical text that don't fit their case (see for example Peter's 'Sexuality and Slavery: Parts 1-5), Peter's reading of scripture is based on firmly established and orthodox approaches.

  10. >>>>>So, Sue, I’m really disappointed to see you completely miss this great theme of scripture in your comments, when it fairly leaps out of what Peter is writing. Your response to his length is only: ‘What an awfully long script needed to justify this, Peter!’ when most of his length has been dealing with this wonderful ‘shadow and type of Christ’.

    But let me be fair and generous. I learnt this in Bible class and it has been a great blessing in my reading of scripture since then. There is no special reason why you should have seen this theme if it was not pointed out to you, except that it is very obvious once you read the OT.

    I'm plainly not speaking for Andrew Sue, but many 'liberals' very much do not go along with the theological bingo approach to OT Scriptures for the disservice it does to the Jewish religion and necessity of forming readings that best support an ideology irrespective of what they naturally say. Perhaps Canon Andrew knows that it's ludicrous (for example) to claim that rules about eating pork are somehow self-evidently in category 3) of your system above?

    • CB

      The differentiation of OT law and regulation into 3 categories is so mainstream that it's even on Wikipedia, which is hardly a fount of biblical orthodoxy! From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_law_in_Chri… …

      'Thomas Aquinas explained that there are three types of biblical precepts: moral, ceremonial, and judicial. He holds that moral precepts are permanent, having held even before the Law was given, since they are part of the law of nature, ceremonial precepts, which deal with forms of worshiping God and ritual cleanness; and judicial precepts (such as those in Exodus 21) came into existence only with the Law of Moses, and were only temporary'.

      'Article 7 of the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563) of the Church of England declares that Christians are bound by the moral commandments contained in the Five Books of Moses, although not the ceremonial, ritual or civil laws'.

      'The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) divides the Mosaic laws into three categories: moral, civil, and ceremonial. In the view of the Westminster Divines, only the moral laws of the Mosaic Law, which include the Ten Commandments and the commands repeated in the New Testament, directly apply to Christians today. Ceremonial laws, in this view, include the regulations pertaining to ceremonial cleanliness, festivals, diet, and the Levitical priesthood'.

      • >>The differentiation of OT law and regulation into 3 categories is so mainstream that it’s even on Wikipedia, which is hardly a fount of biblical orthodoxy!

        Exactly. I'm not claiming that you invented said division; its popularity is not a proof of its veracity. Surely from a *true* evangelical (in the protestant sense) perspective, whether a construct was imposed on a text 100, 300, 500 or a 1,000 years ago is essentially irrelevant if it's not justified from the text itself?

        From , Woody Allen aside, the nearest Jewish book I have to hand ('Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend) :

        'The dietary laws themselves have been explained as veiled health measures, as means of testing Israel's obedience to God, or as generating holiness and moral perfection. In the age of the Messiah all animals will be kosher….' (etc)

        Of course Judaism contradicts key aspects of Christian Orthodoxy, but it's not fair to say that the 3-way division is anyway self-evidently manifest in the text. The idea of God – Omnipotent and All-Powerful – donning his bacteriologist hat to prevent his People eating dodgy pork or shellfish in a specific local at a specific time is an absurd diminishing model. And of course people can agree with the three way division and disagree on what belongs where. And that's also aside from the issues raised in the rape debate above on presciptive/normative/permissive laws (where a spectrum of Christian opinion can legitimately exist)

        • CB

          That's fine, the three way division of biblical law can be contested. But you're the one who referred to it as a 'theological bingo approach to OT Scriptures', aren't you? I'm merely pointing out that it's a gross mischaracterisation of an approach running through Thomas Aquinas, Calvin and much Reformed Theology.

  11. Also, I'm not sure that 'orthodox' 'evangelical' and 'charismatic' are worth conflating as the logical opposite to liberal heresy! A lot of genuine self-describing Bible-believing protestants would quite legitimately object to the manipulative emotionalism and egotism of snake-oil salesmen like Todd Bentley et all.

    • CB

      I don't think that I did conflate 'orthodox', 'evangelical' and 'charismatic' 'as the logial opposite to liberal heresy'! But, if it will help, I'm happy to offer a few definitions.

      As I believe in a loving and merciful God, I follow the guidance given in the Bible for who is a Christian, as given in Romans 10:9. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

      FWIW I believe that there are 'Christians' based on this definition in all denominations and none. There are also plenty of people in evangelical and charismatic churches who are not Christians, again based on this same defintion. As the scripture implies, its primarily a belief and heart issue. But we are also not called to judge other people – that's God's job!

      However, we are not just called to become Christians (salvation), we are also called to grow in our faith (sanctification). And this is where good theology comes in. It should support us in our growth as Christians by explaining the things of God.

      However, as Jim Packer puts it in his excellent book, 'Knowing God': 'It has often been said today that theology is stronger than it has ever been, and in terms of academic expertise and the quantity and quality of books published this is probably true; but it is a long time since theology has been so weak and clumsy at its basic task of holding the church to the realities of the gospel'.

      It's clear here that he is refering to liberal theology, which IMHO is an massive obstacle to developing a deeper knowledge of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

      I see liberal theology primarily as an attempt to bring a synthesis between theology and post-Enlightenment philosophical thought. As a process, it has been going on for nearly 200 years and is now largely spent. Its main weakness is that it has uncritically adopted the foundations of philosophical modernism (man is good, society is progressive, the material world is paramount). It has therefore come to deny that God is supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient, holy, just or a judge. And by doing this it has created a 'small God' that is described by the values that modern society deems worthy: such as loving, forgiving, faithful.

      And now that post-modern philosophy is in the ascendency, where there is no absolute truth, merely a narrative of how you see your own experience, it does not have the intellectual resources to mount any sort of challenge.

      That does not mean, in my view, that it is a bad thing to be a political liberal. One of the greatest current mistakes, common on both the political left and right, is to align one's theological and political position together. They are not the same. If you believe, as I do, that God gives us in the Bible not just the story of salvation, but also the principles upon which to build a good and just society, then clearly good theology is vital to give us the values and principles upon which to build our politics.

      Here's a nice quote for you, CB, from CS Lewis' 'Mere Christianity': ‘If there were such a (Christian) society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, ‘advanced’, but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old fashioned. …. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing’.

      That's pretty much my position!

      • >>However, as Jim Packer puts it in his excellent book, ‘Knowing God’: ‘It has often been said today that theology is stronger than it has ever been, and in terms of academic expertise and the quantity and quality of books published this is probably true; but it is a long time since theology has been so weak and clumsy at its basic task of holding the church to the realities of the gospel’.

        Mildly arresting line, but that's about the best that can be hoped for in mainstream Wesley Owen evangelical type books. Of course I accept that Packer is a class about (say) Mark Driscoll's puerilities.

        >>>I see liberal theology primarily as an attempt to bring a synthesis between theology and post-Enlightenment philosophical thought. As a process, it has been going on for nearly 200 years and is now largely spent.

        Not really, because – however avowedly Sola Scriptura your average evangelical will claim to be they live in a way that (taking the long view, i.e. hundred if not thousands of years) is closer to accepting the implications of 'liberal' victories than John Knox or Luther type stridency. And you neglect to mention the more pertinent questioning of the extent to which *past* Christian formulations have been formed by particular contexts. The witness of history arguably far more validates (say) Magisterium than it does the contention that Scripture has one clear self-evidently moral meaning available to all. It does crack me up when people accuse liberal theology of merely demonstrating the best current moral thinking – as opposed to demonstrating the worst of pre-Enlightenment assumptions! I've heard evangelical say that they don't understand how people can relate to high church worship, as if your average evangelical congregation of BMWs, Alpha Courses, vague tactical feminism, iCrap, watered-down prosperity gospel etc etc is somehow Revealed Truth! And if I *was* an evangelical I'd be frankly offended at the reiterations of 'simple faith' type anti-intellectualisms – suggesting, as it does, that evangementalism type ideology only really works if you try not to think about it…

        Agree with you on political point.

        I think Lewis' Mere Christianity is far from being his best (and I speak as someone who slogged his way through 'The Fairie Queene' based largely on Lewis' recommendation!). For example, the Trillemma argument is a famously discredited fallacy. Yet it still crops up in current 'orthodox' (i.e. Religious Right Publishing Industry) 'apologetics'. It is unfortunate (as I hope you'd agree?) when people use 'liberal' to denote Spong type genuine heresy (of course, a lot of the anti-gay lobby are strangely fond of the heresy of Donatism).

        • cerebusboy:

          A couple of points:

          First, Donatism was not a heresy. It was a schism.

          Second, your analogy between the Donatists and "the anti-gay lobby" is, to be charitable, imprecise. Donatists argued that priests who has yielded to persecution – notably by giving up holy books – could not ever be reinstated to Holy Orders, and that their sacraments were invalid. Orthodox Christians such as St Augustine argued against this view, and they eventually won the day, leading to the development of the Christian truth that the unworthiness of the minister did not effect the validity of the sacrament. Modern traditionalists hold firmly to this view; the explanation for their opposition to JJ, Gene Robinson lies elsewhere, in perfectly valid New Testament principles.

          Just by the by, using terms like anti-gay really leads me to wonder whether you are arguing in good faith.

        • CB

          Wow, that's quite a diatribe against evangelicals! I don't have anything against diatribes in principle, if they can be justified.

          I've now doubt that you can find evangelicals and evangelical churches that are 'unthinking', but to generalise from that to all of evangelicalism is frankly unsupportable.

          Especially in the two-thirds world where 80% of evangelicals now live (including me!) There is much excellent evangelical theology coming out, often but not always in the Reformed Tradition, that builds a Christian engagement with society based on the incarnation and on God's covenant.

          And, in my experience, many if not most two-thirds African evangelicals are socially conservative but economically radical, with a strong emphasis on engagement with community and society to address poverty and inequality. And, as that is my personal position, I feel pretty good being here!

  12. I take your point re:schism, but surely it's accurate or conversationally fair to describe certain post 4th century reappearances of particular errors in *belief* as 'Donatism'?

    >>odern traditionalists hold firmly to this view; the explanation for their opposition to JJ, Gene Robinson lies elsewhere, in perfectly valid New Testament principles

    I was referring, specifically, to those conservatives who've said that they would not be able to receive Holy Communion from gay priests. 'Donatism' is one of the more charitable ways to characterise such beliefs.

    >>Just by the by, using terms like anti-gay really leads me to wonder whether you are arguing in good faith.

    Don't use 'homophobia' as it's (perhaps justifiably) contested, although obviously there's much on (e.g.) Anglican Mainstream that can best be described by such a term. Claiming that it's somehow unfair or inaccurate to describe an ideology that (at best) regards 'gay' as an unbiblical false identity and is opposed to Church acceptance of gay relationships as 'anti-gay' is ,frankly,Orwellian.

    • cerebusboy:

      I see what you mean, but I think there is something to be said for accepting people's self-description if you wish to have a civilised debate with them.

      To give you an example: I work for a pro-life charity, and when I debate with people who call themselves pro-choice, I accept that self-description *even though I think it is misleading*, because that is where they are coming from. As a matter of good manners and argumental strategy, it is the right thing to do.

    • I was referring, specifically, to those conservatives who’ve said that they would not be able to receive Holy Communion from gay priests. ‘Donatism’ is one of the more charitable ways to characterise such beliefs.

      On the contrary – "Donatism" would be simply incorrect.

      Donatism is the belief that the ministry is unacceptable EVEN IF the minister repents of former sin.

      What we see happening today is the rejection of the ministry of those who are unrepentant of sin. That is a massive difference. If Jeffrey John were to repent of his former lifestyle and teaching then he would be wholly acceptable to those who now protest his nomination. That's not donatism – it's just a desire for Biblical standards to be upheld in the Church.

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