9 Comments on “Gavin Ashenden on the Church and Culture

  1. So, I have a few questions:

    1. “the rise of nazism in Europe was a moment … this is a moment”. REALLY!!!?
    2. Gavin quite wrongly characterises the situation as either Bible and Church tradition or secular equality. How do you respond to those who argue for women’s ordination and gay equality from the Bible (I’m thinking of Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke as examples on gay equality / many more on women’s ordination). In my view, whether you agree with their interpretation or not, it is quite wrong to suggest that they are simply ignoring the bits of the Bible they don’t like and adopting a secular value. If you accept that, it means you should engage with the idea that this is actually about two different interpretations of scripture, rather than a choice of scripture versus culture.
    3. Do you really agree with Gavin that evangelicals and anglo-catholics should unite (presumably just those who hold a conservative view on sexuality)? I find it very odd that conservatives can brush aside such vast and (to my mind) far more significant theological divides on some issues, whilst comparing what is (to my mind) a minor theological issue to the rise of nazism in Europe.

    • i) Get over yourself. He’s not saying the liberals are Nazis (though they behave like it sometimes). He’s saying that this is a defining moment for the Church.
      ii) The problem arises in that (a) the liberal Biblical view can be easily shown to be incorrect and (b) half the liberals I know are of the “well, even if you could prove the Bible says what you say it says, I’m still going to advocate for gay relationships. This is the position of Giles Goddard, Colin Coward et al. Their private self-centred religion trumps the Bible every time.
      iii) Yes.

      • Peter

        Thanks for responding. So if we could go a little deeper.

        1. It hadn’t occured to me that Gavin was comparing liberals to nazis – I understand his point, I’m just amazed. ++Jensen and ++Wabukala both said that “the crisis has passed” in the Anglican communion, and I just don’t see what this ‘moment’ is. Gavin specified the consecration of women as bishops and the Pilling report, but both of these are just the current status of processes that have been rumbling on at a snails pace for at least two decades in an advanced state. The rapid secularisation in Britain took place in the 1990s not the 2000s. It strikes me that Gavin’s “this is a moment” is somewhat artificial. In fact, there is no moment.

        2. Gavin specified both the consecration of women as bishops and views on sexuality, so I’d like your view on both, as you endorsed his video. I figured that you would believe you can show the liberal Biblical view to be wrong on sexuality – otherwise you would not hold the view you do so strongly. The trouble is, if you ask Brian McLaren or Steve Chalke, they would say the same about your perspective. It would be courteous to recognise that there is a genuine debate to be had, rather than dismiss others’ perspective out of hand, or to ignore people like McLaren and Chalke and only choose to pick on the ill informed or lazy straw man arguments, which I believe Gavin does in setting up his “Bible Vs secular ethics” straw man.

        As for the folks who take the view that they don’t care what the Bible says – well, I didn’t ask about them. Nor will I ask you to condemn the blatant homophobia that is rampant in the church, which I know you do. It is best to tackle the strongest argument, not the weakest.

        3. So perhaps, you could just be a little more explicit as to which views you are happy to compromise in, by being in communion with people who disagree. Perhaps the sinlessness and bodily assumption of Mary, transubstantiation, prayer to the saints, the authority of church tradition as equal to that of scripture, and purgatory? For you it is fine for people in your church to believe these things? But not to believe exactly as you do on all doctrinal matters if you take a different view of the scriptures on sexuality? This is what I find difficult to understand.

        • i) I’m sorry for being so assertive yesterday evening. In a slightly better mood now. I think “the moment” (for me personally) is the prospect of us crossing the line from tolerating or turning a blind eye to people breaking rules and sinning to actually **endorsing that sin** (i.e. blessing a same-sex relationship that is sexual). It actually disturbs me that this doesn’t disturb you! This is for the first time a clear rejection of Biblical teaching.

          ii) Both Chalke and McLaren use old and out-dated arguments. Chalke on “physis” says that I am sinning by marrying a woman and being married. McClaren goes further and pretty well argues from the same vacuum that allows you to argue for *any* “Permanent, Faithful, Stable” relationship, even if Scripture says it’s sinful.

          iii) Well let’s take those in turn.

          a) Mary – I’m pretty clear in my mind that the immaculate conception and bodily assumption are not Biblical. I would just about be able to accept the Eastern view on the Dormition as a matter of tradition, but things like the IC just contradict the clear teaching of Scripture on the sinfulness of all humanity. So here Gavin and I would probably differ, but I don’t think these are matters of calling something evil, good. Neither (in the Anglican tradition at least) are they matters of salvation.

          b) Prayer to the Saints – Pray who you want to. I understand the argument of praying to a Saint in the same way that I would ask a friend here on earth to pray for me. I don’t come from a tradition that finds any strength in that – I’d much rather chat straight to the CEO than a telephone operator. I’m probably much more up for venerating the memory of saints than other Evos. Regardless, I don’t think it calling something evil, good.

          c) Tradition – I’m pretty much a straight down the line Anglican on this. Tradition informs Scripture and as long as it does not contradict it it is good.

          d) Purgatory – Not in the Scriptures and a waste of time, but doing penance is never a bad thing.

          The problem with sexual acts (not sexuality as you write – this is very clearly NOT an issue about sexuality) is that sex has a deeply iconic role as a signifier of the union of Christ and the Church. Marital sex is a christological statement and a soteriological statement and to have sex outside of marriage is (a) doing something that Scripture says very clearly is sinful and (b) to make a mockery of the icon of marital sex and instead to say something theologically false – it is idolatory. For the Church to bless sin and to endorse sexual practice that denies the saving work of Christ is deeply disturbing and this is the difference.

          • Peter

            I value the discussion – no need to apologise. And I think we’re making progress!

            So I see where your view of ‘the moment’ is – I guess the reason I don’t see this as a particularly pressing point is that I don’t see that this is actually where we are. The CofE has maintained the line (which I think is the same as yours) that sexual orientation and relationship are not an issue, so celibate same-sex people are free to be priests and bishops. Arun’s tweet on Pilling stated that there has been no plan for a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. If something is proposed, then let’s look at it, but I don’t see why ‘the moment’ comes now without guessing about something which may come down the pipe which is currently not being proposed.

            And I understand that you don’t think Chalke / McLaren et al have a strong argument. I guess all I’m saying is that it is unfair to characterise the debate as “Bible Vs secular ethics” when both sides argue their point from scripture. In fact, many liberals would say that the Church’s historic position on issues like female ordination and sexuality were driven from implicit cultural assumptions which has distorted the reading of scripture. I see this clearly on female ordination, for example. So it is perfectly possible to argue that secular values and scripture are deeply wrapped up on both sides of the argument, and it would be best to focus on the theological points only. I’m getting the sense that we both agree here too.

            And finally, I see your point that you’re OK to accommodate theological views that you don’t agree with as long as they don’t affect salvation or our view on the saving nature of Christ. And I’m pleased to see you refer to sex outside marriage, rather than just gay sex, there. Although the issue then becomes why the GAFCON folk and Gavin in his video above, focus entirely on gay people. Was this line not crossed in the 1960s when the Church changed policy on divorce, for example? This is officially sanctioned and blessed by the Church, although is arguably a much clearer Biblical issue than homosexual activity.

            • it is unfair to characterise the debate as “Bible Vs secular ethics” when both sides argue their point from scripture

              It’s not unfair. Chalke’s ‘scriptural’ arguments are so unconvincing that he simply has to be dishonest in advancing them.

              • mattghg – here’s what Steve Chalke wrote at the start of his article in Christianity Magazine on The Bible and Homosexuality:

                “I feel both compelled and afraid to write this article. Compelled because,
                in my understanding, the principles of justice, reconciliation and inclusion sit at the very heart of Jesus’ message. Afraid because I recognise the Bible is understood by many to teach that the practice of homosexuality, in any circumstance, is a sin or ‘less than God’s best’.

                Some will think that I have strayed from scripture – that I am no longer an
                evangelical. I have formed my view, however, not out of any disregard for
                the Bible’s authority, but by way of grappling with it and, through prayerful reflection, seeking to take it seriously.”

                You may well think that he is gravely mistaken, but I think it better to take him at his word that he honestly believes what he says, and that he really has read his Bible and grappled with the theological issues.

                • But is it really down to an honest difference of interpretation? or is there an attempt on Steve Chalke’s part to avoid the gospel becoming skandalon: the announcement of which triggers unintended moral catastrophe?

                  Steve Chalke explained his position regarding the applicability of Romans 1:18 – 32 to modern homosexual relationships at a church service for Christian Unity. In debate with Peter Ould he claimed that the couples that approach his church with the hope of a formal blessing on their relationship cannot be said to exhibit the catalogue of godless behaviour listed in verses 29 to 31.

                  Yet, this view misses the thrust of St. Paul’s argument regarding how the principle of divine wrath that has surrendered both Gentile and Jew to ever increasing depths of depravity that can only be reversed by the gospel that Paul is so eager to preach again in Rome.

                  The means by which depravity finds expression in a religious setting is continued in chapter 2: teaching what is good, but excusing self-moderated versions of the same sins.

                  So what if a gay couple don’t overtly exhibit all of concomitant heathen vices mentioned in Romans 1. Neither do those who are mentioned as demanding God’s affirmation of righteousness on their own terms in Romans 2. Yet, the apostle’s conscience-probing in Romans 2:21 -23 exposes their moderated expressions of misappropriation, self-worship, ungovernable sexual desire and other reprobate behaviour.

                  Trying to claim that Romans 1 addresses a wholly different kind of homosexuality to that which is exhbiited today is splitting hairs. Paul primary argument is that homosexual acts are much against the self-evident purpose of our bodily organs and originating nature as idolatry is against the self-evident transcendence of God.

                • I know that’s what he said; I flatly don’t believe him. The only way he could have come to the ‘interpretation’ he has is by determining in advance that scripture must say what he wants it to.

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