Valentines Day Note to PB Schori: A Scriptural Case for Gay Unions
I. Setting the Table
It seems many on the Anglican right prefer to keep going--mistakenly--as if there were simply no Scriptural case for gay unions. What counts as a "Scriptural case" is a matter of no small importance of course, and one which would, I think, be rather difficult to spell out in a set of relevant necessary and sufficient conditions; indeed, so it is for any attempt at defining. Nevertheless, I think what is desired is pretty clear: something based not in systematic theology of philosophical theology, say, but biblical theology--and biblical theology not of the bad old historical-critical kind (Barr? Bah!), but biblical theology more along the lines of canonical criticism (think Childs) or narrative theology (a la Lindbeck, Frei, et al).
Let's face it: the Anglican right has chosen its ground with notable care--indeed, their style of Bible-reading sustains what may seem otherwise miraculous, that is, a "common ground" of meaning between evangelicals and traditionalist Anglo-catholics that is both respectable in scholarly circles and recognizable as the old-time religion from those in the pews who care to listen up but who are without fancy learning. The same cannot be said for historical-criticism, postmodernism, liberation theology, feminist criticism, and many others. Indeed, the right wing style of Bible-reading does much more: (1) it permits common ground between Anglo-American right wingers and African/Asian/South American evangelicals a la Akinola and Gomez , while as a bonus it (2) just happens to fit well with Archbishop Williams' way of reading the Bible.
And so the conservative Anglican way of Bible reading--a loose amalgam of techniques associated with the canonical criticism and narrative theology--has alot going for it, and it would be utterly unrealistic to expect a seismic shift in their way of reading any time soon, especially as it has worked so well for so many. Thus, any attempt to reason with them that does not engage them from within their way of reading, or in fancier garb, from within their hegemonic hemeneutic, is doomed a priori to failure. Thus, all along the multform Anglican right, expect arguments based on systematic theology, form criticism, liberation theology, historical criticism, etc to meet with stony silence, with hearts unmoved. Among the first rules of rhetoric and oratory: Know thy audience! Let it be so.
Is there a case that would fit within the confines of canonical/narrative thinking in favor of what GC2003 (and our neighbors in Canada) did? Oh yes, there is; never fear.
II. Oops--Don't do it Again
But first, have another look at how TEC argued in To Set Our Hope on Christ and tell me what is wrong with it, presuming what I said above in (I) is accurate:
(1) Same-sex unions realizing the unitive end do so by God's love.
(2) Any realization of the unitive end effected by God's love is holy.
Therefore, (3) same-sex unions realizing the unitive end are holy.
(1) Same-sex unions exhibiting effects of the Spirit are holy.
(2) There are same-sex unions exhibiting the effects of the Spirit.
Therefore, (3) There are holy same-sex unions.
(1) The church is permitted to bless holy unions.
(2) Some same-sex unions are holy.
Therefore, (3) The church is permitted to bless some same-sex unions.
These work together: Argument I's conclusion, (3), provides justification for (1) in Arg. II; (3) in Arg. II provides premise (2) in Arg. III. Finally, vindicating GC2003, the conclusion to Arg. III justifies blessing same-sex unions. What is needed is empirical evidence for Arg. II (2)--that there are in fact same-sex unions exhibiting effects of the Spirit, namely actualization of the unitive end. I think the evidence is out there, no question.
But no such array of argumentation, no matter how impressive, will satisfy the Anglican right. For it is not engaging them on their ground. These arguments are doomed to be ineffective because they are not couched in the right's preferred idiom of biblical criticism.
The same goes for Charles Hefling's recent use of Anglican theology in Other Voices; he is right, mind you, to say there is a vast, undeveloped but sure traditional ground for arguing from right reason to make our case, and I think the case will be soon be well fashioned by various hands. But so what? Develop that ground as you will, it will be utterly ineffective in our current debate. That is not to say it will be simply useless--there are still provinces blessed to respond to right reason, but these are by and large already sympathetic.
III. My Two Cents
What is needed is another type of case, one set out in the style of the Anglican right: one that works within the frame of their preferred narrative, appealing to the canon as canon, one that will not hack away at obscure and nearly unique Greek terms, historical contexts of temple prostitutes and boy toys, one that doesn't appeal to gay liberation, etc.
Here it is:
1. Christ was resurrected in the flesh, and will exist in the world to come.
2. In the world to come, members of the Church will be resurrected, male and female, in the flesh.
3. In the world to come, the members of the Church will bear a new real, reciprocal relation to Christ; call it R.
4. Here below, marriage should be modeled on R.
5. R obtains between males: for instance, Christ and each blessed male.
6. As R obtains between males (from 5), and marriage is to be modeled on R (from 4), marriage may obtain between males.
The only step orthodox conservatives on the right should balk at is the conclusion, (6). Every other step is grounded in the Bible-qua canonical narrative. True, various left wingers from different TEC factions would balk at one or another of the premises; that's fine. They are not the intended audience, though they are free to listen in if they wish. The argument is something like a a razor-sharp two-handed sword, something meant to be carried into battle with both hands for the purpose of taking care of business.
Why is it any good? First, it fits its target audience--I think--exceedingly well. Right wing Anglicans should have a hard time denying any of the premises (1)-(5) in good conscience. If they try, immediately call their orthodox credentials into question, and go on to point out if they wish to Revise such a substantial point of traditional doctrine as is expressed in (1)-(5), how can they complain about our perceived revision without sheer hypocrisy? Go on to finish by pointing out that while your opponent may Revise substantial doctrine, you will not, but will remain faithful to the venerable and holy tradition expressed in (1)-(5); point out thereby you love Christ more than you hate homosexuals. Now go and ponder the absolutely gruesome eschatological implications of that.
Second, if you actually beilieve (1) to (5), as I do, then you have the added attraction of defending something that is true, so far as you can tell.
Third, I have noticed from bringing this argument up before that it invites specious objections based on the gratuitous assumption that R is symmetrical. It is not; to say as I do above that R is reciprocal is merely to point out there is a type of real relation, R1, going one way, from Christ to each human, and a type of real relation, call it R2, that goes from each believer to Christ. So far, trivial: what is not trivial is the assumption that R1=R2. That is not an assumption the argument needs, and I deny the identity. Inasmuch as Christ is true God there is ample foundation in reality to uphold asymmetry in R. That is, Christ's being is not morally neutral or indifferent for the purpose of the argument. He gets to do things in virtue of being God that are not permitted to us, like standing in R to many men and women (if you have any doubt, go and read some more Aquinas). None of the mere men and women however stand in R to many, but only to One--to Christ. Their standing in R does not license marrying a plurality. Thus, the argument does not in fact sanction polygamy. But that line of objection is so tempting, you can count on it being made. Wait for it to be made, and then bring down the sword.
Fourth, the way I have put it above, the church for the purpose of R consists of its members. It is not something over and above and in addition to its members--giving it such status would be to engage in a fruitless piece of ad hoc metaphysics. Thus, where the church is pictured as a singular entity, it is not meant that we should think Christ enters R with the singular entity and not with the members of that entity. But even if some recalcitrant should hang on to a metaphysical view of the church as an entity unto itself with respect to R, the argument can still be run. Concede R, and change the argument to talk about S instead--that is, in virtue of entering into R with the uber-entity-church, Christ also enters into S with the members of the uber-entity-church, and marriage here below is meant to be modeled after S.
Finally, the argument as stated does not mention women. There is a shortcoming, at least prima facie, as has been pointed out cogently on several occasions. But only prima facie; I would suggest adding Paul's maxim that we are no longer male or female in Christ. What is permitted for men with respect to the parameters of marriage should be likewise permitted to women wherever possible. We should come to see two things: (1) see that maleness is not normative humanity. Aquinas was wrong to assimilate humanity to being male, and to go on to picture females as defective males. That view, predating Aquinas of course, has done the church inestimable damage, and continues to tear at its flesh. And (2): what matters for union in Christ is being human; for Christ assumed not maleness, which is not an essence of itself of course, but humanity, which embraces at least both maleness and femaleness within itself.