Thursday, February 08, 2007

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:

Arg. I
(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.

Arg. II:
(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.

Arg. III:
(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.


At 1:49 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Is marriage a religious institution?

Maybe I’m just a whiner or overly sensitive, but I feel at times I am the only gay person that is not comfortable or satisfied by the term “civil union”. To me it feels like a consolation prize given as a means of pacifying gays. Truthfully, I hope that we gay men and woman will not stop our belly aching about the issue of “gay marriage” until our work is done, and we have all the same rights that we deserve. Whiney or not, I am saddened to see that even many gays are willing to accept second class citizenship. Our entire gay civil rights movement that is being courageously fought by a very few, has been about equal rights, not just some equal rights. This of course means marriage as well.
We should not be satisfied by civil unions. Unions to me are not equal. It is a concilation prize. It’s not about doing the right thing, it’s about politics. Even the politicians that are in favor of calling our civil unions marriage are afraid to speak openly about it, with the exception of a few impassioned politicians that have a strong sense of integrity and also what is right and what is wrong.

We cannot look to the bible for any answers regarding equal rights. Those laws were written at a different time and for uneducated illiterate people. They were also a very superstitious people that made many of their laws in regards to those superstitions. We therefore cannot be influenced by scripture. Beside we live in a country that has a law about separation between church and state. That’s the wonderful thing about our country.

Somebody please help me understand why marriage by many is considered a religious institution. For the sake of discussion I would like someone to tell me why atheists are then eligible for marriage? It seems to me that heterosexual marriages are afforded just about any opportunity and environment they choose to take their vows. Even those damned heathens.

Straight men and woman can choose a church marriage; they can get married underwater, on a mountaintop, by a justice of the peace or even by a ship captain. However, the most romantic and holy place I can imagine to pledge ones vows of love and fidelity, is driving through a drive-in chapel in Las Vegas, as one would order a family meal. I’m sorry, I’m only human and I got a bit choked up when mentioning that. I love happy meals. The best part is, no one even has to get out of the car, and the best man and woman are provided for one of the most important events in ones life; holy matrimony. How can one compete with that kind of service? I’ve heard that they even change your oil, but that may be just hearsay.

Has it dawned on anyone that the constitution of the United States says very clearly that all people shall be treated as equal? There are no clauses added to that, such as, except gays and African Americans. What was stated in that document then still rings very clear yet today and likely for many years to come. We don’t have to look too awfully far back into our history to find examples of how we ignored the constitution for selfish heterosexual Anglo-Saxon citizens so we could still own people. It wasn’t until the early part of the nineteenth century before woman were allowed to vote. Not so long before that, slavery was legal. It wasn’t until nearly fifty years ago that African Americans weren’t allowed to marry whites. If we are to learn anything from our nations history, we should then know that whenever we veer off from what that beautifully crafted document we call our nations Constitution for whatever convenient reason, it is eventually overturned and changed for reasons of being unfair and not following the principals set forth in that document Back to my original question, I am hoping someone can give me a valid reason to prevent any two people that love each other from having the right to marry. I have heard some reasons that make no sense to me. One being that if gays were allowed to marry it would have the impact of destroying traditional marriage. We only have to look at the statistics of the success of heterosexual marriages to discover that more than half end up in divorce. Gays did not cause that. Fidelity within marriage has a terrible track record as well. Therefore I would truly like to hear some reasonable argument posed that would make sense why gay marriage ought not be allowed. Thank you, Aaron Jason Silver; Fennville, Mi 49408

At 4:03 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


That is an awful lot of stuff. While I am sympathetic, I wish to point out that a gay union, as I argue in favor of, may just as well count as a wedding or marriage. Nothing logically prohibits it, so far as I can see, inasmuch as active procreative power is not required in the couple itself strictly for valid marriage.

I use the term "union" in preference to "marriage" not merely for rhetorical purposes, but because I think it more accurately reflects a necessary, constitutive end of marriage: union modeled after the eschatological union of Christ and the Church.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Closed said...


I think that this is helpful for your particular audience, however, liturgically speaking, we also need to deal with the "outward sign" of which you have here written in terms of "inward reality".

There is something to be said for the complex way Caelius, for example, or myself teases out how difference and sameness in outward sign while both pointing to and participating in the same reality--Christ's kenotic way and the perichoretic dance of the Trinity show us complementarily aspects of this One Great Mystery. We're not dealing simply with biblical realities, though I recognize your audience is specific here, but with a liturgical reality.

While it is important that as you have done hammer home the argument with "the other side", it's also important to listen carefully to how same-sex couples construct our descriptions of our relationships, which isn't simply about liberation, but about how God works in these. I think the Friend-friends model in John of Jesus-to-disciples is helpful as a corollary to Ephesians. I resist using the term marriage because it is bound up in some particular power dynamics and because it is associated with the man-woman relationship. I don't see my relationship as less, or not as potentially kenotic, but as in outward sign revealing another aspect of the Same Mystery. Our sameness says something about the oneness of the Trinity and of unity in the Body. The difference in an different-sex relationship shows something about the relationship of God-Creation/Christ-Church and of the distintive Persons in the Trinity as long as we refuse to homologize man or woman to one or the other in the participatory analogy (after all every man is a member of the Body and therefore "female" in relationship to the Man if we want to essentialize gender--looks kind of queer from here as you might point out) and focus rather on the way of relating, kenotic, as Christ relates to us.

Celibacy, I might add also is Marriage and we should and have considered how it is particular and distinct within that category of Relationship. Why can we not do this with same-sex relationships recognizing distinctiveness in terms of sign and equal kenotic potential? We as Anglicans are in a unique (besides the Orthodox) position to do so because we have two Sacraments and five Sacramental Rites and with Newman could recognize the sacramental principle in other signs--the Orthodox when true to themselves don't have a strict numbering.

With regard to no male and female, they would respond that this doesn't mean there aren't men and women any longer or that roles are obliterated, but that each in his/her own station has a place in the salvific economy. Augustine would say the woman is the image of God through the man, but not on her own, because only in a man has God fully shown us the image of God, on the other hand, a man is an image of God on his own. I suspect that is how "the other side" might answer as this is also bound up with WO matters.

*Christopher from Bending the Rule

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scotist, it'd be helpful if you provided some scriptural citations, esp. for point 4, "Here below, marriage should be modeled on R."

Proceeding from *Christopher's final paragraph, I predict some trads will oppose your argument with a variation of your third defense. That is, there's not a single relationship R between Christ and humanity: there are two, distinct, very-similar, but ever-so-slightly-different relationships, namely R(m), between Christ and males, and R(f), between Christ and females. We see traces of this supposed relationship taxonomy in the trads' position on women's ordination. Thus, they will argue, a marriage relationship modeled on R(x) can only obtain through R(m)-R(f), the way opposite magnetic poles attract, and not through R(m)-R(m) or R(f)-R(f).

At 5:27 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Let me confess right off that finding a sufficient outward sign in liturgical practice is the hard work here, and work that I have avoided commenting or speculating on at all: "sufficient" in the sense of a form of practice that will work for the congregation, including at extremes both the couple whose union is blessed and old-timers who have no visceral sympathy with the introduction of a new type of blessing.

For all that, it does not at all seem impossible. That is, there is plentiful biblical material from which to work, both concerning the idea of love as friendship (which has a powerful medieval articulation)and love as kenosis.

What I do not have a handle on is what one might describe as the current self-understanding of the lived reality of Christian same-sex relationships. I am sure though that there has been good published work on this.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

I can provide the support for (4) right away; the ur-text is Ephesians 5:28-33, namely (NRSV):

[28]In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29]For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, [30]because we are members of his body. [31]‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ [32]This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. [33]Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

This is quite a remarkable passage; note the reference in v31 to Genesis. That is, whatever is being taught here is meant to sweep all biblical teaching up and render it properly intelligible.

And given that it is framed or "set up" by the strong language of Ephesians 5:1-2, namely

[1]Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, [2]and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,

it seems like Paul or his student(s) is being deliberate in vv.28-33 about the doctrine he promulgates.

What doctrine exactly? That marriage here below is to modeled after the relation between Christ and the church in the world to come.

That is an opinion I take from other commentators; I am not making it up myself by any means.

About your anticipation of a conservative response, I would have a number of replies to make. First and foremost, I could concede a relation R(m) between males and Christ. That does not seem to affect the gist of the argument, inasmuch as provided marriage here below is to be modeled on R(m)--and that seems to be a credible or plausible way of taking Ephesians 5--the paradigm for marriage would be a relationship R(m) between men, not between a man and a woman.

Second, consider what the objector would have to say: R(f) models marriage but not R(m). That would do the trick, yes, but it is ad hoc, and no longer based in Scriptural text. In that case, the conservative would have left biblical theology for something else: biblical theology plus speculative theology. Fine--then the terms of the debate change, and I get to do speculative theology too along the lines of "To Set Our Hope on Christ" and Hefling's latest. Or else I criticize the conservative for the hypocrisy of a self-serving double-standard while ostentatiously insisting that I, for my part, will remain faithful to Scripture.

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Jon said...

What reply would you have if the conservative agreed with the argument but insisted that R is a non-sexual relationship (there being no human marriage in heaven according to one interpretation of Jesus' reply to the Sadducees on that subject) and therefore men and women can be in a union like R with a person of the same sex the union should be celibate? Heterosexual sex then being justified on the grounds that it can at least theoretically result in children.


At 11:00 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

That is good, and indeed I will concede right away that in the Pauline school and elsewhere, especially a little later in the patristic church, to abstain is always--ceteris paribus--to take the higher, nobler road. Indeed, the early Fathers are suspicious even of married, heterosexual sex, generally seeing it as permissible only as the sole available means to reproduction.

But that has never been the Anglican view, which in the prayer books has consistently subordinated the procreative end in married unions to the unitive end. That slight difference leaves a door open in the prayer book tradition to blessing gay unions.

Reformation and Restoration Anglican theology is more influenced by Lutheran and Aristotelian than Neoplatonic and Stoic lines of thought, contrary of course to the Apologists and Fathers (though the Platonists are still represented, certainly)--and this is a very good thing. Ironically, early Christian antipathy to sex and wary attitude to heterosexual activity seems deeply rooted in Plato's own tortured homosexuality.

Anyhow, to be briefer in reply: Yes, R is most likely non-sexual in a physical sense. My argument does not require that you get diddled by Jesus. Rather, IMHO R eminently contains all the satisfactions allegorized in the Song of Songs for instance and savored here below in sexual desire and activity in its actuality, which may consist in no more than an immediate, infused intellectual vision of God with absolutely no necessary physical component. As Aquinas notes, a body is not necessary to the beatific vision. He's probably right.

So, while here below two women or men could be in a union modeled after R without sex, it is not necessary that they be celibate. Even as procreation is not necessary for making heterosexual activity permissible--heterosexual activity is permissible merely for its achieving the unitive end in love--so it is with homosexual activity: it is permissible for achieving the unitive end in love.

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scotist, thanks for the Ephesians reference; I vaguely remembered it but was too lazy to search <g>.

There's a potential trap for the opposition in that passage. Its overall tone, and the analogy of Husband:Wife <—> Christ:Church, seem to imply that in each of those relationships, one party is assigned a dominant, protector position. I can therefore envision some trads making a counterargument something like this:

(1) In Christ, every man is the equal of every other man; and every woman, the equal of every other woman.

(2) But this means that, in a male-male or female-female relationship, there can be no dominance of the kind we see between Christ and the church.

(3) Without such dominance, there can be no marriage, at least not one modeled on Christ's relationship with the church.

Personally I wouldn't dare make that particular argument to (let's say) my wife, daughter, sisters, or mother. But others might — how would you respond from the scriptural POV?

At 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Scotist! Frequent reader, first-time commenter.

I speak first, as one who supports same-sex unions, and second, as one brought up in the sort of Biblical theology you're trying to do here. If you've never read Richard Hays, I'd suggest him as a supple practitioner.

From that perspective, two objections, besides those already made, come to mind:

1) The Ephesians passage you cite quotes Genesis 2's definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman. R should indeed be our guide for envisioning and redeeming that union in our current place of tension between the old creation, where we have marriage, and the new creation, where we won't. But claiming that an Ephesians passage which defines marriage as one man and one woman also allows for same-sex unions is specious on its face.

2) The case you are making here conveniently side-steps canonical Scripture's uniform disapproval of homosexual activity. And even if you could cleverly re-read all the clobber passages to say they aren't talking about same-sex activity, you will still find no indisputable examples in canonical Scripture of a positive homosexual relationship. Pro-gay interpreters of Scripture must meet the same standard that anti-slavery and gender-egalitarian interpreters of Scripture met. They must find, throughout the Bible, at least a consistent pro-gay thread to set against the anti-gay ones. They need an Exodus or a Junia. Your argument doesn't provide any such thing. And don't even try bringing up Jonathan or the centurion's doulos. Equally plausible non-gay readings of those exist, and they are the ones we're prepared to accept.

Just to be clear: I rather like your argument. I think you're making some very important moves here, especially when you try to make the new creation rather than the old one normative for Christian ethics. And I think you're exactly right that the Anglican right will never accept a Scriptural argument that doesn't meet their standards of Scriptural argument, and right to work on arguments that can meet that standard. But I also fear that objection 2) defines the acceptable playing field in such a way that the likes of you and me can't win. That's no reason not to keep trying, of course, but it's made me wary of attempting body-blows like this one.

At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hm. Blogger doesn't seem to like Safari. My 1:05 pm comment was meant to come under the name of "marketsquare", and to link here.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Closed said...

I think in the end, as others have acknowledged, this cannot be settled by Scripture alone. In fact, neither was the abolition of slavery or WO because many of those passages can be read many ways just as David and Jonathan, or the Centurion and his pais or the Ethiopian Eunuch or the Isaiah passage on Euchuchs, so ethics is required, and the eschtological or "as it was in the beginning" or how it is in the end (the Alpha and Omega being one, which is God and how God relates) is a good starting point--after all, we have the Episcopal bishop of Vermont demanding slaves submit at the eve of the Civil War because the bible says and there is much to support his argument as Evangelicals like Wilberforce acknowledged. It's the difference between a biblicist and liturgist way of dealing with sign, metaphor, participatory analogy. And on that score I'm largely pre-modern and poetic in orientation that simply because David and Jonathan may not have had sex (or even if they did) does not mean their relationship and way of relating doesn't give meaning to my relationship with my blessed friend as our union rite made clear use of this passage, the Cain and Abel passage, and Christ's calling us his friends in John.

I must say that the Scotist's argument from Ephesians is not as easily smashed as one might suppose, if we begin with the eschatological. Paul makes clear he is speaking first of the Christ-Church relationship and not the man-woman relationship, which can participate in the Christ-Church relationship to the degree it is Christorelational. Just because Genesis 2 is there does not necessarily mean that this is the intent for the whole or is the only possibility--friendship after all has deep roots in the tradition and is as much a participatory analogy in John as the man-woman relationship is in Ephesians. The difference in all of this is folks who read Genesis descriptively and those who read it proscriptively. I read it as describing what would concern the greater part of the population and how we indeed were to go about fulfilling the command to be fruitful and fecund, which would in nowise exclude that there might be a minority sort and condition. As Aquinas himself points out, not all are required to procreate to fulfill the command.

The deeper problem is Scotist is coming from the neo-Platonic and Patristic approach which was suspicious of sex period in many senses and its understanding of participatory analogy which falls out in Aristotelian shapings and in modern readings which glorify and idolize heterosexual married sex and sexuality. Modern readers like Hays and Wright conveniently sidestep the history of Christianity which as a whole has been wary of sex and concerned to bridle desire toward Christorelationality.

I think the older suspicions coupled with an emphasis on ascesis rather than a singular focus on procreation are more sturdy and prevent making an idol of heterosexuality. Others disagree. For example, Eugene Rogers, James Alison, Elizabeth Stuart, Charles Helfling, are just a few of the solid thinking on the pro-side from a number of "ins". So under such conditions, those who would rent our communing when cogent arguments can be made for both sides in many forms and shapes begins to look quite strange. Under such conditions forebearance and mutual upbuilding would be the Christorelational way, similar to the eating of meat sacrificed to idols or not.

At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Personally, I tend to agree with the overall thrust of your comment. To address just one point specifically: I'd also take Genesis 2, and indeed much of the Biblical material on marriage, as descriptive rather than prescriptive. But that's a whole 'nother argument, one that I'm not sure Scotist's chosen method here has room for.


At 5:31 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

In Galatians, it is not just as you say in (1), but even more: every male is the equal in Christ of every female. That is, Christ has undone what was described in myth as the curse of the wife's subjection resulting from the fall in Genesis. The wife's subjection was a symptom of sin, and it is no surprise to Paul perhaps to find it among Gentiles.

Strictly speaking, the curse is already undone, just as the Kingdon is already here; there is no reason to see humanity in the grip of sin-based patriarchy after the Cross and Resurrection. So, for instance, Eph. 5:21: "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ."

But just as the Kingdom is not yet consummated, so we find sin-based patriachy gratuitously surviving.
Paul never calls for violent revolution in anything, and nowhere would call on a wife to divorce a husband demanding patriarchal privilege, or vice versa: a husband to divorce a wife who required he be a patriarch. As with Philemon, how to bring Christ into pagan culture so as to eventually at least transform it?

In effect: The wife's subjection to th emale is rooted in here recognition of Christ in him. But inasmuch as Christ is in her as well in virtue of Baptism, et al, he should be in subjection to her as well. he howver must come along to see what he owes to her in Christ, just as the slave owner in Philemon must come to see what he owes his slave in Christ. I fear Paul is very much always a gradualist: never ever scandalize the faithful to the point of endangering their faith, even if they are wrong. He seems to apply this principle to eating meat sacrificed to idols, slavery, and patriarchy.

Butremember, Paul's gradualism is always only an instrument to the Gospel: spreading it, preaching it. If we rejected his gradualism, we would contract a burden--just how then do you intend to preach and spread the Gospel, and have th ehearers of the word grow into its fullness? Paul's gradualism need not be seen as an a priori obligation.

Thus, the conservative, I would claim, is wrong from th eget-go, from the initial premise (1).

At 6:05 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Thanks for your comment.

Hays' book is interesting, but his discussion of homosexuality is rather flabby, and the way he uses his late, gay friend Gary is positively odious, IMHO.

On (1): The term "definition" is nowhere used in Genesis; nor is any equivalent. They cannot prove that is what Genesis was up to, i.e. defining marriage, from the text: sheer eisegesis.

More importantly, Christians should look to Christ and the NT for the key to interpreting Genesis, and not simply go the other way around, letting Genesis be the focal text around which all other texts must move. If they do this, they will read it in a way consistent with what I need for the argument.

On (2): None of the clobber texts provide the kind of logical clarity that can resist the argument, and if the argument goes through then a suitable re-interpretation would follow.

I do not need to indulge Greek or historical/critical exotica in this case. Or even the interesting cases of Jonathan/David and the centurion's sex slave.

More importantly, the thread throughout the Bible that I can draw on to parallel Exodus and Junia, et al is already right before your eyes.

Throughout the Tanakh and esp in the Prophets YHWH reveals himself in the symbol of husband to Israel, symbolized as bride. This fits perfectly with the NT figure of Christ and Church. Starting from the Eph. revelation of the meaning and import of the Christ and Church symbol--its eschatological significance--go back and read the OT YHWH/Israel marriage symbolism: my argument is there all along.

That is, one will see the Father seeking a special relationship in the Word, analogous to the NT's R, with Israel, which of course includes males. Case closed. Face it: this thing is finished. The conservatives do not have a leg to stand on.

At 8:19 PM, Blogger Closed said...


I think Paul is a gradualist unless he recognized that the gradual approach was turning an entire people away from the Gospel of Christ, then I think, like Luther, Paul gets downright in your face as he does in Galatians or 1 Corinthians 11.

As for subjection, in the Benedictine approach, C and I both vowed along with stability, fidelity, and lifelong conversion, a vow of obedience--from the Latin to listen to--to one another in mutual deference. It's a difficult vow sometimes, and I wonder given the one-way approach the traditional marriage vows take if the vows themselves don't encourage one-way submission and domination by men? I think our marriage rites need reforming.

Thank you for your remarks on Hays and others'--this story of Gary shows up in the work of the Episcopal biblical scholar Edith... in Pennsylvania, but I can't remember her last name, you blogged on her once or twice--use of his friend Gary. I first of all find it a specious bit as it argues from one case study, doesn't acknowledge how Gary's perceptions of himself might have been shaped by hanging around the likes of Hays and churches who promoted that position or in not being able to find a healthy gay lifestyle because of ghettoization and lack of church support, and is absolutely to my mind unethical in its use from a researcher point of view.

Desire and the shaping of our desire is complex, and always to some degree from the outside, and all of us who are gay have had our desire and our sense of self shaped by heterosexism from the moment we came into this world, so simply saying, look! see Gary didn't like what he saw and recognized his own brokeness which we already shaped him to perceive is circular and self-confirming without having to ask any questions about one's own desire and its brokenness or how one might have helped Gary see his own desire as incapable of coming to God through life with another man. James Alison and Sarah Coakley are both excellent on discussion of desire and its shaping. The question should begin with how does Gary begin to see himself when from the beginning God loves him...that is the place for the gay person to see themselves and respond from that place to consider what that might mean ethically...

I still think your argument cogent and hope you make it available in a systematic way to our leadership. I was thinking the same thing that God's relationship with Israel was as Bridegroom, that this is a key grouping of texts and a relationship completed in Christ.

I think however no matter what is argued, this is why I think Scripture arguments alone won't settle this nor will systematic, ethical, etc. arguments, we're dealing with what Mark Jordan calls an "ideology" in The Ethics of Sex:

If we begin to suspect that a Christian church’s teaching on sexuality is deliberately self-contradictory [and ours is: contraception is a radical contradiction to what has been received] in the way ideology is, we ought to hesitate before responding to it. Whether in churches or other institutions, ideological discourse is immune to logical refutation because it is already self-contradictory. If you cut off one argument, a contrary argument will spring into its place. Ideology is always ready to mobilize entirely new reasons, because its purpose is precisely to defuse its opponents by engaging them in an endless and essentially wasteful discourse. Responding to ideological discourse requires a rule, not just of suspicion, but of inversion: we should attend not to what the discourse says, but to how it operates… (150-1)

I would say we should attend to what it says and how it operates, exposing its inconsistencies in logic and its rhetorical strategies.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Yeah--Hays and Edith Humphreys I think.the first half of Hays' book is quite interesting. The guy I feel like I really have to read and write some on is Robert Gagnon. I have heard conservatives bring him up when push comes to shove, as if the mere mention of his name were an incantation.

Your point about ideology and self-contradiction is probably right, i think. It makes me rather anxious to contemplate alternatives to arguing on the opponent's chosen ground. We might simply trust to the witness of the Spirit in a kind of pacifist resistance, but this seems like a counsel of last resort.

Also, your earlier point calling for my line of reasoning to be more explcitly ensconced in a Christocentric reading of Scripture sounds exactly right to me. That's a big project--desire for union with God--but if something like it could be completed and connected cogently to practical applications in sexual ethics, I would think it would be very persuasive. To some.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Jon said...

How would you answer someone, such as a RC, who insisted that it wasn't proper to separate sex from the possibility of procreation? In one of your previous posts you seem to see no difference between the possibility of procreation and the sex which in fact leads to pregnancy. If you don't think there is a difference, why is that distinction inappropriate?


At 10:09 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

It seems to me most important to keep God's revealed priorities straight, so far as we are able. he seems to have revealed that it is most important for him that all things in creation be restored to unity with the Father, and the Father has chosen the Son, Christ, as his instrument for this ontological reconciliation in the Spirit.

The point is not so much to dissolve difference in unity, to efface or dominate any created individual, but to attain a unity in difference which actualizes each individual's end in community with the Trinity.

So far so good. So far as I can see,procreation serves the end of unity. It is a creaturely imitation of divine procession, a means of maximizing the constellation of intensifying difference in unity. Or: procreation constitutes the real, concrete possibility--whatever it will finally happen to be--of ultimate community with the Trinity. Given God's absolute power, there are other ways, but God is not, he seems to tell us, interested in those other ways--he has ordained this way.

For all that, procreation is not equiprimordial with unity, and unity does not serve procreation as procreation serves unity; there is an order of priority here where unity comes first. However many humans there might have been, even just one--which in an absolute sense is certainly possible--the order to unity would remain. the prder to procreation finally passing away.

Thus, it seems the contingency of the procreative end is built into the created order, whereas the unitive end remains binding for us, come what may: actual insufficiency here is just the meaning of Hell.

Sex serves the unitive end per se; in it, a creature participates in the unity of the Godhead, and human creatures in a special way proper to them. That is, given the human capacity for self-referential articulation evident in our interior lives and culture,we can participate in the unity of God in a special way: at least, deliberately, with forethought for our telos and its proper ultimacy. It makes sense then to set this type of unity apart, that is to make it holy, to make it sacramental.

In Aristotelian terms, the procreative end is a proprium of human sex--(relatively) unique to it but not built in to the "essence". The unitive end is essential--a defect there is an intrinsic privation, an evil, where what ought to be present is missing.

Well, hopefully this might go some way toward answering your objection. It is couched in Platonic/scholastic terminology, but for all that I think a RC would understand, if not agree.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Getting the RC to agree is important to defending your argument in favor of SSU's. As long as there is room for the RC to reasonably disagree, there is room for any conservative to disagree on the same grounds.


At 3:05 PM, Blogger Closed said...

Jon, this is true, but this is a separate argument from the biblical argument made here. Once we move into the RC arguments, we can get into systematics and philosophical underpinnings--it's a different argument and one that a number of RC ethicists and theologians have offered decent responses to the official position.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

I must concede both Jon's point about the urgency of convincing our RC brothers and sisters, and Christopher's point about Curran, et al already having begun such a process.

It seems to me that the Episcopal Church is like the Lord's slave girl, testing what was taken to be a discerned teaching on human sexuality for the benefit of the wider Christian community, which in turn gets (with exceptions like the UCC) to watch from the sidelines.

The problem for RC ethicists around sexulaity is how little they can draw from their otherwise extensive tradition, as their traditional understanding of sexualilty is rooted in a truly tragic misunderstanding of maleness and femaleness. Aquinas' take on women, for instance, is almost completely worthless.

Rather than turn back to the older Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysics to see if something better could be done than Aquinas did, they have instead for the most part taken on contemporary philiosophical frameworks: existentialism, Kantianism, phenomenology. OK, but that's just more work to finish: e.g. reconstructing dogma on phenomenological lines, say--and that has been a big RC occupation.

Worse: such reconstruction, even if needed, leaves open the possibility of a fruitless row between, say, Aristotelian and existentialist understandings of Incarnation.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

In short, there is something to be said for a historically informed biblical approach so far as possible neutral between feudin' philosophical frameworks.

Even if RC brethren from differenct schools of thought turn up their eyes.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Closed said...

Yet another reason why I'm Anglican--I can be a Neo-Platonist in philosophical approach. It's sad that Thomism became the official RC position when there are so many riches there and to my mind Aquinas is just one way of trying to get at the Mystery revealed to us in Christ.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Marshall Scott said...

Fascinating reading from end to end. Scotist, I'm surprised you didn't also cite Genesis 1:26ff, in which "image and likeness" applies equally to male and female. If so, then your relationship with Christ R applies equally. Indeed, if we understand the passage as descriptive rather than prescriptive, there is no real argument for the "complementarity" that is often associated with it.

At 4:59 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Thank you Marshall, for both the kind words and the sound theological point.

At 6:33 AM, Blogger Gordon said...

A great and enriching read, Scotist. I have an appreciation for Aaron's response about the terms "marriage" or "gay unions."
I see the wording of it as insignificant if the legalities apply to both homosexual and heterosexuals.
It's a personal preference thing. I support my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in gay marriage activism even though I like "partnership" or "union" better. The important issue to me is equal rights for two people who are in love and want full recognition and legal benefits.
West Palm Beach, FL

At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Wonderful to have someone with the razor-sharp mind of a philosopher taking on the sloppy, emotional thinking of the opponents.

At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How would you answer objections from scripture like this:

I hate to just list links and demand they be answered, but there's no other way of doing it.

At 6:07 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

That's fine, anon.

It will require another post, and that may take a few days.

The basic strategy is simple enough: stick to Christ. Suppose he is the way, the truth, and the life as an axiom, making it the cdenter of the interpretation.

At 3:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your defense of point 4, you continue...

So, while here below two women or men could be in a union modeled after R without sex, it is not necessary that they be celibate.

However, it wouldn't be too hard for a conservative to reply that, while a union modeled after R could possibly involve sexual intimacy, that would only be true if said sexual intimacy wasn't of a type condemned by scripture. And then out would come the "clobber texts," and down would go your argument.

The fact is that any approach that does not take on the "clobber texts" directly, and neutralize them according to the heumenetic practiced by conservatives, has little or no chance of succeeding.

At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How would you respond to this post

At 7:33 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

anon criticizing (4):
The problem I have is with the slipperiness of your use of "directly". Let me give an example:

Conservatives either take the clobber texts directly apart from the centrality of Christ or consistently with it.

If the hermeneutic practiced by conservatives takes the "clobber texts" directly apart from the centrality, they have displaced consideration of Christ from its only proper place in Christian moral theology, and we are no longer doing Christian moral theology. We are doing something else, which from a strictly Christian point of view is idolatrous. But I can hardly agree with the idea that conservatives are Idolaters. I suspect neither can you, though given your convenient anonimity how can one be sure?

If they, on the other hand, take the clobber texts consistently with the centrality of Christ, then my argument follows. That is, they will first consider Christ, including the place of Christ with respect to us in Colossians and Ephesians inter alia. Then they will turn to the clobber texts and interpret them accordingly. In that case, I have no trouble.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

anon throwing down the gauntlet on behalf of Siris,

I have lifted the gauntlet and accept the challenge. God willing, we shall meet of the e-field of battle.


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