Thursday, March 01, 2007

Getting Serious With Siris: IA

Here is where things stand in terms of essays and responses in my ongoing debate with Siris:

My initial case for blessing same sex unions
Siris' Objections to my initial case
Part I of my response to Siris
Siris' Objections to my Part I

Things have gotten rather involved, but it seems some progress is being made and that we have not been reduced--yet at least--to simply begging the question against one another. It seems, alas, that I have not found a conservative Anglican opponent after all--maybe a conservative evangelical?

I will take the opportunity here to respond to Siris' objections to my Part I before responding to other points Siris brought up in his objections to my intial case--got that? After all, it seems to me that the cogency of my response as a whole to Siris ultimately hinges on addressing Siris' points that I identified in my Part I as (A) and (B); to paraphrase:

(A) Ephesians 5:21-33 does not have to do with eschaton, and while there will be a relation at the eschaton between Christ and the Church, Scripture does not call on marriage here below to be modelled on that relation;

(B) The individual member of the Church is not the right type of entity to enter into a relation with Christ on which marriage here below could be modelled.

I. Siris' Latest Defense of (A) and My Response
I had written that Ephesians 5:21-33 did in fact refer to the relation between Christ and the church at the eschaton. Neither of us questioned that some relation between Christ and the church was in Ephesians depicted as a model for marriage here below. The controversy was over which relation between Christ and the church--the one obtaining here below, or the one at the eschaton? I claimed the eschaton: the relation between the Church and Christ here below was simply too spotty an affair to serve as a moral ideal or model.

Siris rejoined by saying: seems to me that there's a bit of a slide between taking the relation between Church and Christ as its savior as a model of marriage and taking the Church as a model of marriage. And that's an important difference; because none of the reasons for rejecting the latter carry over to the former. This is because the model that is put forward in Ephesians 5 is heavy on Christ's activity, not on the Church's.

While there is an ambiguity between the Church taken in precision and the Church taken in relation to Christ, I meant to speak simply of the Church in relation to Christ at the eschaton. That is, I meant to say clearly that the Church here below in its relation to Christ does not present an edifying or morally suitable model that might serve as an ideal for marriage. Ironically, the Anglican Communion is now making that point for me.

For Siris, however, the Church-related-to-Christ-here below is not of significance for Ephesians 5:21-33 as a model for marriage; rather, the Ephesians text is interested only in Christ-related-to-the-Church. Thus, bad behavior by the Church here below would not affect the use of the current or here below Church/Christ relation as a model.

I think Siris is overlooking Ephesians 5:22-24, and especially verse 24:

24Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

That is, the text in question does address the Church not merely as Christ related to it, but as it is related to Christ; I take this to be prima facie apparent. Thus, if we were to follow Siris' reading and see this as speaking of the Church here below, we would have before us a rather poor reality on which to model wifely submission in marriage. The Church here below is only very imperfectly in submission to Christ, and at times has rather clearly gone ahead in grossly immoral directions contrary to Christ's wishes. Paul could hardly be thought to recommend here that wives go and act analogously to the unfaithful and stiff-necked Church, say commiting adultery or taking up prostitution.

II. Siris' Latest Defense of (B) and My Response
I had made two points; I had written for the sake of argument that (1) even if an individual were not the right type of entity to enter into the eschatological relation with Christ constituting salvation--only the Church could do that--still individuls could take the Church/Christ relation as normative here below for relations like marriage between persons. The fact the Church is many is no bar to one individual modelling behavior here below on the Church in the hereafter. Furthermore, (2) I claimed Christ enters into relations here below and hereafter with individuals as such, not just with the Church, and the salvation graciously offered by Christ to the Church is nothing if salvation is not offered as well to indiviuals--this latter itself being an eschatological Christ/indiviual relation.

I stick by my point (1), and note that so far as I can tell, Siris has not addressed it. Moreover, I believe that (1) alone is sufficient to make my case against Siris' (B).

Against (2), Siris says three distinct things so far as I can tell:
(a) a claim I argue according to the fallacy of division
But it's a fallacy of division to assume that because Christ has relation R to His Body that he has relation R to every (or even any) individual in the Body.

And later in his text: If by R we meam, "whatever relation on which marriage is supposed to be modeled", we cannot direclty conclude from (Christ)R(Church)to(Christ)R(individual member of the Church)any more than we can, for any relation S, directly conclude from(Self)S(Body)to(Self)S(Eye);that would be a fallacy of division.

(b) an interesting point questioning the relevance of my premises
Now, Bates's response seems to me to start out right (with the point about distributive and collective properties) and then go wrong in the paragraph starting, "At any rate, I take it that (ii) is in fact false: that at the eschaton Christ does enter into a real, reciprocal relation with each individual believer." Because, I take it, no one disagrees with this. In fact, I suspect no one would disagree with the claim that Christ is now in a real, reciprocal relation with each individual believer, however imperfect it may be from the believer's side. What's in dispute is whether there is anything in the text requiring us to regard this relation as the model of marriage. And there is not.

And again:
In Revelation, the Lamb's Bride is the New Jerusalem; in Ephesians it is the Body, the Church; in neither of these is it the individual. The fact that there is a salvific relation between Christ and individual seems very much like a red herring, because the conservative Anglican can simply deny that this is relevant to the discussion, and it isn't clear why anything said would lead us to conclude otherwise.

(c) a claim that I am faced by a dilemma
So there seems to be a dilemma: the argument (as a response to the conservative Anglican) seems either to commit the fallacy of division or to require an argument for saying that the relevant relation between Christ and the Church is the very same with a relation between Christ and a member of the Church.

On (a): While there is always a danger of falling into the fallacy of division, obviously there are cases where the parts do have properties of the whole. That is,

Not every property of the whole is shared by the parts

does not imply

No property of the whole is shared by the parts.

So, for instance, both the heap of sand and each of the grains of sand in the heap have the property of being material. My case nowhere requires assent to the idea that every property of the whole is shared by the parts; I do not see why Siris believes otherwise.

On (b): Siris admits that there is a real, reciprocal relation between Christ and each member of the Church at the eschaton, but claims not to see the relevance of this for my case--in effect, he asks what that eschatological relation has to do with marriage? After all, he says, the marriage feast of the Lamb pictures Christ related to Jerusalem, not to individual believers.

In response, I suggest that Christ will never marry a city. Jerusalem is figurative for the Church, as I think Siris would agree. Revelation 21 is referring with Jerusalem to what Ephesians 5 calls the Body, meaning there the Church. Revelation is speaking, therefore, of an eschatological union between the Church and Christ, something begun here below rather imprefectly and consummated hereafter. But note Revelation pictures the consummated relation a marriage relation. Again, marriage is referred to figuratively, as I take it Jesus in the Gospel narrative was serious in saying that there is no marriage in heaven. The point though is at least in part that here below we can understand something of the meaning of the consummated relation between the Church and Christ in terms of something we are familiar with, namely marriage here below: the consummated relation will be like that. Thus, the Revelation 21 text is rather favorable to my cause, which requires seeing the eschatological relation between the Church and Christ as a model for marriage here below. In fact, Revelation 21 almost settles the issue. For as I have already mentioned, I see no reason why a relation between individuals cannot be modelled on a relation between a group and an individual.

If more need be said, let me draw your attention to what Siris admits: there will be--in addition to the eschatological relation between Christ and the corporate Church--an eschatological relation between Christ and its individual members. Christ offering salvation to the Church offers it just as well to the memebrs of the Church--otherwise, no member of the church would be saved.

Here is what I take to be the clinching point. In both cases, the salvific relation involves unity with Christ: that is, the achievement of a unitive purpose. That unity is pictured between Christ and the corporate Church when marriage is referred to in Revelation 21; indeed, it seems to me that the use of marriage as figuative in Revelation 21 is licensed at least in part by common knowledge of the normative achievement of a unitive purpose in marriage here below. Just so, the unity between the individual member and Christ achieved by Christ in the giving of salvation would license the use of marriage as descriptive, figurative language. It follows that the eschatological salvific unity between the member and Christ could serve meaningfully to model marriage here below in one's relation to a spouse.

On (c): I do not commit a fallacy of division, in my opinion. In particular, there are reasons outlined in my response to (b) above for extending the application of "marriage" from the corporate Church; I do not simply take the extension as following from logical rules of inference.

Nor am I committed to seeing the Christ/Church relation being the same as the relationship between Christ and an individual believer. That horn of the dilemma looks confusing to me; I do not claim the Christ/Church relation is identical with the relation between the Church and just one member, because I believe the Church has more than one member. I may be wrong--it is possible so far as I know that it has only one--but I think that outcome exceedingly unlikely and rather unscriptural. It would have been better if Siris claimed I am faced with reducing or eliminating the Christ/Church relation in favor of the relation between the Christ and all members of the Church, the Church being nothing over and above its members. While I am tempted to think that way, I am not sure whether it is so, and more to the point I do not think my argument requires such a reduction or elimination as a premise.


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