Sunday, April 30, 2006

The weakness of Harding's latest critique: Part III

Trying to take Harding to task, I have set my cards on the table; you know what I think ECUSA's principal argument is in To Set Our Hope on Christ (hence "TSHC"), and what I take the real source of disagreement to be between supporters and critics of GC2003. We, the members of ECUSA are divided on our understanding of Christian ethics: are we obligated merely by divine will in itself apart from nature, or is divine will mediated by human nature, so that his commands always complement our nature? We cannot settle such deep disagreements about Christian ethics in time for GC2006 or even Lambeth 2008.

I. Realizing the unitive end of human sexuality
ECUSA's TSHC does not aim to do philosophical theology; its aims are more modest. Sections 2.25-32 argue for the holiness of some same-sex unions, going over the ground of my argument E1 (above) in greater detail; in so doing, they shed light on the nature of holiness.

Section 2.26 notes Christians permit sexual relations in marriage for either procreation or for "sharing themselves with each other" as persons, i.e. for unit, "life-long fidelity and self-giving love". Thus, Christinaity recognizes human sexuality has both procreative and unitive ends; further, it recognizes "the unitive end of human sexuality may be realized apart from the procreative end" (2.27). For instance, a heterosexual marriage of known infertile partners is genuine, and not invalidated simply from their infertility, insofar as they can realize the unitive end of their sexuality.

ECUSA seems to imply that given the deliberate realization of the unitive end in sex apart from the procreative end is permitted in heterosexual unions, failure to realize the procreative end of sex alone should not bar same-sex couples from unions. Not only that, sexual activity between same-sex couples in a union that realizes a unitive end is for that permitted, as it is for heterosexual couples in a union. There is no morally relevant difference between the two unions that would imply a disanalogy.

Note, for ECUSA, realizing the unitive end of human sexuality requires the union of the couple:

The Episcopal Church has called for all in relationships of sexual intimacy to the standard of life-long commitment.... (2.25)

Harding does not have much to say about the line of reasoning in 2.25-7.

II. Holiness in Same-sex Unions
One may ask what realizing the unitive end of human sexulaity has to do with the truly pressing issue, whether same-sex unions can be holy. As we have seen earlier, ECUSA's argument E1
(by my nomenclature) requires not merely the presence of the Spirit in same-sex unions, but something more, their holiness. Why, in other words, go through with the blessing of same-sex unions detailed in 2.29, with vows that "constitute same-sex relationships within a larger reality, that of a covenant to form a household together as part of the Christian community of faith...."?

The sexual desire manifest in same-sex unions achieving the unitive end is not mere cupidity, i.e. egoistic desire aimed merely at self-satisfaction. that sexual desire is love of the same sort with the desire that aims to be drawn into communion with God. That very desire for communion with God is the very same desire "that begins in self-giving of one to another and invites an offering of the self in return" (2.28) But such love can only be "God's love, which has made us members one of another in Christ Jesus," (ibid) i.e. a gift from God, and part of the great reconciliation God is effecting between both creation and God, and parts of creation.

Section 2.28 gives the core of ECUSA's case for the holiness of same-sex unions (E3):

(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.

The key idea in E3 is that those being reconciled in actual unions effected by God's love are being set apart for his purposes in the world and thereby made holy. I happen to think E3 is quite powerful, and it convinces me of the holiness of some same-sex unions. You might see E3 in connection to E1 by picturing "realization of the unitive end" as an effect of the Spirit.

What does Harding have to say at this critical juncture? Nothing that addresses E3. He says,

In 2.28 it is argued that the extension of love by same-sex couples to those outside their immediate pairing fulfills the procreative purpose of love. The authority for so redefining procreation is a report by the Standing Liturgical Committee and the House of Bishops Theology Committee. These are at the least unimpressive authorities for the radical changes being proposed.

Amazingly, he misses ECUSA's point altogether. He seems to be addressing that part of TSHC that follows "Such love has, moreover...." on page 28, section 2.28. Even so, he pictures ECUSA as redefining procreation, when the term ECUSA uses in the part of 2.28 he takes the trouble to address is "generativity," a term chosen in deliberate distinction from "procreation".

III. Refuting ECUSA
What would an effective refutation of ECUSA's argument look like? In effect, ECUSA has argued same-sex unions can be holy where their sexual love serves God's purpose of reconciliation. That is, rather cleverly ECUSA took the very sexuality of same-sex unions realizing the unitive end--what some critics would find most objectionable--as a place where holiness is found.

A conservative who could show why all sexual activity in a same-sex union is antithetical to God's purpose of reconciliation would be on route to a refutation. One way to do that would be to argue that a same-sex union cannot realize the unitive end of human sexuality--that would be a tough case to make. Another way would be to argue that the procreative end cannot be separated from the unitive end; i.e. all sex must aim at procreation. That strikes me as another tough case to make. Or one can pound the table and start shouting.

Another way to look at this: once the procreative end and the unitive end of sexuality are sundered, the way is open to understanding God as working reconciliation through same-sex unions.

The weakness of Harding's latest critique: Part II

Earlier, I suggested we understand ECUSA's argument around TSHC 2.0 and elsewhere for blessing gay unions as having two parts, E1 and E2:

(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.

I. A hypothetical opponent speaks up
Once the reader accepts E1(1), "the ball gets rolling" and the rest of the argument strikes me as rather difficult to resist. An opponent of blessing gay unions should, in my opinion, hold that
E1(1) is false. Sure, some gay unions exhibit effects of the Spirit--my opponent may well concede--but that in itself is insufficient to render the relationship holy.

The Spirit is at work in various relationships of uneven moral quality--even perhaps among the very worst recalcitrant sinners--moving them, say, towards repentance; still, the presence of the Spirit might not succeed in making the relationship holy. That is not to say, my careful opponent would interject, that holiness requires complete sanctification--surely sinful relationships can be holy, otherwise no human relationship here below would be holy. Rather, there are different conditions of human imperfection--e.g. one disposed toward sanctification, as in the contrite and repentant sinner, and another disposed toward damnation, as in the obstinate and hateful sinner.

My opponent would worry that a gay couple's relationship, regardless of how many fruits of the Spirit it exhibits, regardless of the presence of the Spirit in it, just cannot be holy. It is the wrong kind of relationship--and a gay couple confirmed in their relationship is courting disaster, and the church should have no part in enabling it.

I take Harding to be making a point like this when he writes:

Yet another set of ethical problems has to do with the destination of the ships. The ships can be well ordered individually, the can be proper in their relationships with each other and yet headed for a wrong destination. The shape of the argument presented in TSOHOC is that because the individual ships are well ordered and because the relationships between the ships are characterized by loyalty and decency and mutuality, the destination must be proper. This is yet again a form of question begging. How can it be shown that this form of human sexual relationship is God’s intention and teolos or destination for man and woman?

And it is a good point, obliquely raising the question What makes a relationship holy? or What counts as a holy relationship? Pace much of his commentary, he should be discussing the holiness required of us in our relationship with God and whether gay unoins can exhibit or are even consistent with such holiness.

II. A Reply
In cases of murder, bestiality, pederasty or incest I can point out the violence done. The last three cases are especially relevant, involving sexual sin. Their violence follows from their necessarily being exploitative--a daughter or son, a child, and an animal are not agents even capable of giving valid consent to sexual action with adults. In these cases, we have sufficient foundation to argue any such sexual act is a type of rape--an act whose violence I take to be self evident.

Where is there similar violence in active homosexual relationships? Typically, one answers in either of two ways: (1)They do violence by going against nature; (2)They do violence by going against the will of God. You see where I am going, I suspect. Answer (1) implies a teleology to sex organs; the very concept of such a teleology is incredible, and advancing it in the current climate of philosophy and science is a kind of bizzare special pleading, an atavistic return of the swamp thing. Though you may find some opponents of blessing gay unions saying "C'mon, can't you just see tab A was meant to go in slot B?", the heavy lifting is done by answers of type (2): the violence in homosexual activity is its defiance of God's will.

Again we return to holiness: what is God's will for our moral response to him? How in dedicating ourselves to God are we set apart as a result for his purposes?

III. On Holiness
And here is a very deep stratum of disagreement in ECUSA, deeper, I think, than disagreement over bibllical authority. One camp is content to read the divine will off Scripture, finding in it God's moral commands for us. There need be no reason for the particular commands God issues--the fact that he wills thus, even when he could have willed the contrary, is enough. What matters is not whether God has a reason or what his reason may be, but that God has commanded so. Our consequent obligation is simply absolute. I call this camp the Divine Command (Divco) camp.

According to the Divco group, there need be no special violence manifest in a gay union beyond its violating God's decree. Even the most loving gay couple, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit and the cardinal virtues in its relationship, does violence in their relationship sufficient to evacuate it of holiness. The couple, disposed to defying God's will, is courting the disaster of damnation--the church should not bless such a union, but do whatever it can to break it up. So far as I can tell, Harding belongs to the Divco camp.

But there is another group that sees God's moral commands for us as stemming from his immutable nature rather than from sheer acts of will--the Human Nature or Nat camp. Given what we are, our essence as understood by the divine intellect, only a certain range of sexual relationships are consistent with human happiness. Just as, so to speak, man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man, so man was not made for sexual relationships, but sexual relationships for man. Which types of sexual relationships are conducive to human flourishing?

For the longest time it was thought that of course only heterosexual relationships were conducive to human flourishing--and this seemingly natural recognition informed the reading of Scripture. Grace was seen as completing nature--God's decreeing against homosexuality on account of human nature.

But today we have empirical evidence of homosexual relationships in which the parties flourish--this is the fact to which ECUSA is so eager to draw our attention. Barring radical, philosophical skepticism or some form of metaphysical idealism, we are oblligated to adjuct our understanding of human nature. Indeed, the actuallity of flourishing gay unions implies a possibility for such in our nature. We turn out--against past expectations--to be the kind of beings who can flourish in homosexual or heterosexual relationships.

Thus, if God's commands on human sexuality are rooted not in his mere will, but in his knowledge of our nature, he would not issue a blanket condemnation of gay unions. Indeed, such a divine command would go against nature.

I think the authors of TSHC belong in the Nat camp rather than the Divco camp. For the Nat camp, being in a gay union is no bar to holiness. The kinds of things that would undermine holiness in a gay union would also do so in a straight union--physical or emotional abuse, promiscuity, dishonesty, etc.

But who is correct? Are we to see Christian morality as primarily a matter of divine command, or grace complementing nature? Harding to my knowledge does not bring the issue up; this fissure in ECUSA cannot be healed by reading more Scripture closer, or by attending to scientific research in genetics--serious theology is required.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The weakness of Harding's latest critique: Part I

Father Harding recently published a commentary on ECUSA's To Set our Hope on Christ (hence TSHC); it is worth a visit especially if you've asked yourself Well, what do the right-wingers find wrong with this effort? However, all things considered, I am afraid it is not a convincing critique. Harding does not give evidence of having a grasp of ECUSA's argument; a serious debate never gets going, and he ends up merely talking past TSHC's authors.

I. The Argument alluded to at TSHC 1.4
For instance, Harding understands the argument from fruits of the Spirit alluded to at 1.4 this way:

One of the key elements of the argument is set out, that people with same sex attraction and living in covenanted same-sex relationships show evidence of holiness in their lives including the virtues of patience, peace and self-control. If I am following the syllogism it goes like this: Mr. x who is in a committed same sex relationship gives evidence of possessing either a gift for ministry like being a pastor or teacher or a Christian virtue like patience or self-control. These are gifts given by the Holy Spirit. Therefore the Holy Spirit is blessing Mr. X. Therefore God is showing the church that the Holy Spirit blesses same-sex attraction and these covenanted relationships. This argument is a form of question begging and a spurious syllogism. [argument reconstruction in bold]

Harding is absolutely right to say the argument is a key element of ECUSA's case: all the more reason to get the argument right. Getting the argument right is partly a matter of seeing the form and stating the form clearly--something that Harding does not do above, or anywhere else in his commentary. Here is how I see ECUSA's argument (see TSHC, 2.0-1):

(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.

As you can see, the argument--call it E1--is valid. Behind E1 there is a second argument, call it E2:

(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.

So, from E1 and E2, one may infer given that there are same-sex unions exhibiting effects of the Spirit, the church may bless them. In effect, one has a clear argument for ECUSA blessing same-sex unions. Now go back and read Harding's attempt to give ECUSA's argument--no wonder he has a problem with it--indeed, part of the problem, I suggest, stems from his own obscurity.

II. Evaluating ECUSA's argument
The neat thing about valid arguments, like the one given by ECUSA in TSHC, is that if their premises are true, then their conclusions must be true. If the premises of the argument above are true, then it is all over for Harding; regardless of gaffes and omissions made elsewhere in the report, ECUSA will have a sound argument for blessing gay unions.

Although Harding complains about both premises of E1 (call them E1(1) and E1(2)), I think he would be wise to grant E1(1). It rests on a hermeneutical principle seemingly given by Jesus himself: by their fruits you shall know them. Jesus has a decent point; if there are effects, E, that could only come from the presence of one cause, C, then given the presence of E, we may
infer the presence of C.Will he fault ECUSA for taking Jesus at his word? Harding omits any mention or discussion of Jesus' principle, the principle ECUSA employs.

Instead, he makes three criticisms, none of which work. First, he says,

The problem with the argument can be shown if any other condition besides same sex attraction is inserted as a place holder. The rector is a gifted communicator of the Gospel. The rector is engaged in an illicit affair with a member of the congregation. Communicating the Gospel is a Holy Spirit gift. Therefore the Holy Spirit is blessing the rector and therefore the Holy Spirit is blessing the illicit relationship.

Think reader, think--can you spot what is wrong with Harding's first criticism? Take a moment.

Time's up: ECUSA's argument does not concern finding gifts of the Spirit in an individual, but in a relationship; i.e. in same-sex relationships recognized as such within the Christian community. Harding's try at a counterexample misses this point--his case concerns an individual, a rector. Whether or not the rector is blessed by the presence of the Spirit, it is another matter to say his illicit relationship is blessed. Harding fails to explain why we should accept the passage from indiviudal to rector--a passage that ECUSA does not contemplate.

The sloppiness we found in Harding's attempted statement of ECUSA's argument is evident again in his "counterexample". Alas! Unclear about the structure of ECUSA's argument, he just cannot seem to mount a relevant counterexample.

Harding's second criticism:

We are all a mixture of holiness and sin. God surely blesses sinners and even uses them to advance His cause. To argue from this fact to a thorough-going revision of the sexual ethic of the church is to build a staircase with many missing steps. Of all the types of Christians that there are it seems to me that Reformation Christians should be the least surprised that great goodness and great human weakness, cupidity and sin can exist in the same person.

It is hard for me to see any evidence of disciplined thought for a conclusion in that mess of bromides--what is he trying so hard to say? He should be trying to address the truth of the premises in ECUSA's argument; none of those premises are contradicted by anything Harding says here.

On to Harding's third criticism:

[1]An additional problem with the claim to have seen evidence of the gifts of the Spirit is that no reference is made to the Ten Commandments but only to gifts of ministry and lists of virtue. [2]But the whole sweep of the Bible is that holiness consists in keeping the Word and Law of God. [3]Neither lists of gifts of ministry nor Christian virtues can be an adequate definition of holiness apart from God’s foundational holiness code revealed at Sinai. [4]When Paul writes to the Corinthians to complain about their lack of holiness, he points to their violation of the natural law and the law of Moses by virtue of sexual immorality. [5]The approach here again begs the question. [my brackets above]

Again, note the lack of discipline in Harding's writing. Just what is he criticizing? Ostensibly premise E1(2) above. Well let's see how he does. In [1], is he implying that a statement X which claims to find evidence of fruits of the Spirit but does not refer to the Decalogue is false? I do not want to read him that way, because such a reading is obviously mistaken--but then what is the point of [1]? [2] is right, but how is this at issue? All sides would agree with Harding's [2]. Struggling to make a relevant point, he seems to say in [3] ECUSA is mistaken for thinking virtue lists define Sinai holiness. An insipid point: who is saying virtue lists define holiness? Neither E1 nor E2 rest on such an assumption. Likewise, [4] says nothing to contradict any point in ECUSA's argument--ECUSA nowhere denies natural law or the Decalogue. Finally, I would love to know exactly what question Harding alludes to as begged in [5]--can you find a statement of the question he means?

I conclude Harding has no case against E1 and E2. We get a faulty attempt at a counterargument and alot of heavy gesturing without much serious cognitive content.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A note on the Anglican right's emphasis on complementarity

Here is a brief piece I wrote as a comment over at Jake's place; it criticizes a line of reasoning used by Marty Minns and others on the Anglican right to deny the permissibility of blessing gay unions: in short, the partners in gay unions lack the biological complementarity whose presence is a necessary condition for marriage or a blessed union. It might be useful to trace Minn's emphasis on complimentary design back to an origin, indeed one of great prestige: Karl Barth.

But Barth cannot be right--e.g the fruition of genuine humanity cannot require of a male that he relate in marriage only to the Other as female, as that would deny full humanity to Christ. Barth and the bevy of wingers he has inspired run the risk of crypto-docetism: Christ's humanity only seemed genuine. Insofar as we acknowledge a full humanity in Christ and his life as norm, it is simply anti-Christian to tack on additional elements to the pattern of Christ's life and call them essential for Christians.

It is much more plausible to say humanity attains its fruition only in relation to an Other--but then there is no reason to presume a priori that the Other for every male must be female, and for every female, male. It may be that for all we know, to allude to Aristophanes, that the Other human to be taken in marriage for one is of the same gender.

It seems to me that the question of what constitutes a suitable Other human in relation to whom one may grow into fruition in biblical terms is already settled --it cannot be another mere human; it can only be the Incarnate human. Anything less is idolatry: putting a human in God's place, assuming Jesus is God. The eschatological marriage talk in Ephesians, Revelation, and elsewhere makes this point: earthly marriage is a transient estate imaging an ultimate relation to Christ in the world yet to come. In other words, it is wrong-headed or worse to seriously think marriage is a matter of the fruition of one's humanity--we mistake a transient Image or Imitation and what it effects in us for the eschatological Reality and what it effects in us.

How could Barth have made such an awful error in theological reasoning, especially given his Christocentrism? It is a lesson in humility, indeed, an ironic and even tragic one. We see it repeated among Christians today as if it were theolgically secure. Winess the Southern Baptist Convention's R. Albert Mohler, Jr. He says:

What Paul makes clear is that homosexuality is a dramatic sign of rebellion against God and His intention. Those about whom Paul writes have worshipped the creature rather than the Creator. Thus, men and women have forfeited the natural complementarity of God's intention for heterosexual marriage and have turned to members of their own sex, burning with a desire which in itself is degrading and dishonorable.

Mohler cites evangelical theologian CFH Henry as having continued Barth's line of reasoning, giving a more solid biblical foundation:

Carl F. H. Henry, perhaps the most significant figure in the development of evangelical theology in the last half-century, rightly rejected Barth's extra-biblical theorizing and "fanciful exegesis" of the relation between sexual issues and the imago dei. Nonetheless, he agreed on this essential point: "The plurality of human existence is not optional; man cannot properly be man without speaking of male and female." The revolt against this divinely established order is one of the most important developments of this century, and it looms as one of the defining issues of the cultural revolution.

Note well: man [Henry means "human"] cannot properly be man without speaking of male and female. What of Christ? What of ol' Adam--are we to understand he lacked humanity until Eve was created? That he could not be what he essentially was? What now of Mary, who on one line of tradiotional thought, knew only God--are we to see the humanity Christ picked up from her as impaired? Or are we to regard her humanity as defective? To dodge heresy, the claim needs to be qualified, and Henry's "speaking" understood in a weak way, emptied of its polemical content. What is tragedy from the pen of Barth is farce from the mouth of Minns and the pen of Henry--if you are on the Anglican left and need work, here are a couple stalls to clean.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Biblical Authority and the AAC Talking Points

In time for debates sure to come at GC2006, the AAC has issued a set of talking-points about homosexuality and Scripture. It is a fragmented effort without an explicit, single line of argument, as it aims primarily at supplying ammunition for conflict where scholarly scruples will likely be in low supply: hit hard and fast to score big. Nevertheless, a close look at some of their points might offer an understanding of where the AAC's leaders think the main issues are.

I. the AAC
Worst of all, ECUSA's leadership, they say, has undermined the authority of Scripture, an authority Episcopalians have traditionally given primacy:

[A] The crisis in the Anglican Communion is centered on the authority of Scripture, and it is a crisis that affects each and every Episcopalian.

[B] Richard Hooker emphasized the primary authority of Scripture, with tradition and reason supporting the Word of God. The tripod or three-legged stool illustration that assigns equal authority to Scripture, tradition and reason was a misrepresentation of Hooker and developed in the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Quote [B] seems like a straw-man to me; ECUSA's theologians do acknowledge the primacy of Scripture, but that alone does not say much, and certainly does not say what the AAC's authors have in mind. Scriptural primacy for the AAC's authors seems to mean the Bible simply speaks for itself. For instance, the memo uses such phrases as these, attributing powers to Scripture proper to persons, i.e. personifying:

The Bible condemns
The Old Testament outlines
Genesis records
The Bible acknowledges
Scripture uses an analogy

It seems the AAC's authors take their trope too seriously; strictly and literally, Scripture does none of those things, though let me be the first to admit it would be wonderful if Scripture did. Personification in the AAC's document is not an innocent trope; it masks decisions about interpretation to which the memo's readers are likely not privy. That is, it masks a tendentious reading into the text what the AAC's authors want to find there.

II. Anglicanism on Biblical Authority
In rejecting papal authority and accumulated Roman Catholic tradition during the Reformation, the Church of England committed itself to the authority of Scripture. But elevating the authority of Scripture did not imply for the CoE, at least by the time of Hooker, that the "bare reading" of Scripture by individual Christians constituted a norm for establishing dogma. The reading of Scripture required a context; an individual's reading of Scripture was subject to mediation from the wider community of the church. So-and-so reading Romans may claim it means X. But that reading of Romans is subject to critique from those who know the relevant ancient languages, the history of the period, how the early Church read Romans, etc. The Holy Spirit inspires the church in its reading of Scripture--but the proper reception of that inspiration requires cultivating an understanding of Scripture's context.

Thus, the CoE early on rejected two roads to Christian dogma--one by RC-tradition and papal authority, the other by the bare reading of Scripture. In doing so, the CoE made a circumspect appropriation of Scripture as an authority: our doctrine of scriptural primacy implies that whatever is required of Christians for salvation be justified from Scripture and what is equivalent by contraposition, that what cannot be justified from Scripture should not be required of Christians for salvation. More may be required of Christians than can be justified from Scripture of course, but not as a matter of their salvation.

Note that Anglicanism's understanding of the authority of Scripture does not require its literal inerrancy. First, for a "literal inerrantist" there would be the problem of establishing the literal sense of Scripture; hence the need of clarifying Scripture's context, appreciated even by Hooker and for us, clarifying its context is only more of a difficulty. However, even supposing we could pin down a literal meaning, there remains the question of whether what is said is an error.

It may well be that Anglicanism is committed to Scripture providing inerrant information about what is requred of us for salvation, and so Anglicans cannot avoid attributing some sort of inerrancy to at least that part of Scripture which reveals God's will for our salvation.
Notice what I have conceded opens the door back up to the literal inerrantist. For it is at least logically possible given all I have said that an Anglican insist that the literal inerrancy of the entire canon follows--since all of it reveals God's will for our salvation. Nevertheless, the same door leaves a way open to the more selective Anglican. For it is also logically possible that one admit Scripture contains errors in those parts which do not lay out what is required for our salvation. E.g. we are right not to require circumcision of Christians, pace the OT.

It has been said here and there that ECUSA's dispute over GC2003 really comes down to how the different parties understand the authority of the Bible--well, yes. But within the Anglican framework, how one understands biblical authority is determined--or at least should be determined--by one's understanding of salvation. Of course, how can we understand salvation, given the primacy of Scripture, without recourse to Scripture?

III. Stepping outside the circle
Our reading of Scripture may be informed by what is true outside of it. For instance, To Set our Hope on Christ made the point that some gay relationships exhibit the same effects of the Spirit we find in some straight relationships. That would be impossible without the Spirit's presence, yet the Spirit would not be present in an intrinsically wicked relationship, both of whose members were to be condemed. Thus, experience plainly defies grim expectations for gay relationships based on what was the traditional reading of Scripture on homosexuality:they did not exhibit features we would predict from relationships among candidates for damnation. Experience checked scriptural interpretation--experience thereby called the traditional reading into question.

Going back to Scripture, some found the meaning of scriptural text more equivocal on homosexuality than previously thought. In this way, our reading of Scripture is informed by what is outside the text. That is, our reading should be one that proceeds from having made
contact with mundane reality.

What will defeat the approach of the AAC is not its misunderstanding of biblical authority in Anglicanism; as we saw, it is perfectly consistent for an Anglican to hold the Bible errs on homosexuality, presuming the Bible condemns it, provided homosexuality is not a matter of human salvation. Rather, the AAC's reading of Scripture implies that God issued an arbitrary eternal decree against homosexual couples (n.b. citing statistics and "cured" couples misses the point). God, the God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, would not issue such a decree.