A response to David Runcorn’s appendix to the Pilling Report.

I respect David immensely and he has influenced my life and spirituality in ways he does not know. I consider his input into the Pilling Report to be one of integrity in seeking to comes to terms with life and faith knowing that this is an attempt by him to match his strong evangelical heritage with a changing cultural dynamic through a deep commitment to pastoral theology.

I really welcome his reiteration that the very complex area of human sexuality is far more than the use of key biblical texts. It sits within theology and hermeneutics. This paper will re-emphasize this and argue that hermeneutics is the key is opening a way forward to this debate.

Where we begin

‘The theologian is always beginning in the middle of things’ writes Rowan Williams, an assumption I share in the outset of this response. In terms of theological reflection I bring to any situation my history, my assumptions, my sociological and cultural heritage, which act like lenses as I begin the process of understanding and seeing where God is at work.

Trying to unpack any a knotty pastoral and theological issue as homosexuality is, saying we always begin in the middle at least brings some sense of vulnerability to any response.

To begin in the middle acknowledges that the task of theological reflection is concerned about the ideas, words, themes, metaphors that we inherit and which have been used in the past. It is about allowing them to create the possibility of a new reality and a new understanding by drawing on present experiences and being open to future realities. This avoids the charge of plucking words, ideas and narratives from the air and disbanding with traditions and informed wisdom from the past. It is a model and method of reflection that is canonically based, culturally informed and eschatologically sensitive.

Walter Brueggemann likens the act of reading scripture to ‘re-describing reality’. It is a call to our imaginations. Scripture is to capture our hearts and transform them. Yet so often we try to capture Scripture and try to transform it. By settling with a ‘standard’ reading we can become caught up in defending, at all costs, the ‘settled’ understanding. This equation works whatever side of understanding you take on the ‘key texts’ from the Bible on the issue of homosexuality.

If we learn anything about Jesus we know he did not bring much settlement - he often ‘midrashed’ his way through a large selection of OT texts often adding “you have heard it said..but I say to you.” So it is inherent to the Christian faith that the task of interpretation goes hand in hand with the task of engaging with our world. Scholastic reductionism where the settled meaning is not open to further interpretation is the worst use of words and language. Scripture in its use of language and metaphors brings with it the clash of meanings that create the potential for the new. We begin in the middle, inherit our past and are open to the future.

I think we can safely say that we are past the days of hurling texts at one another with the aim of inflicting critical damage. David quite rightly quotes R.T France that in a faithful reading of Scripture we must be ‘open the biblical evidence as a whole’. More acerbically, Anthony Thistelton writes in New Horizons in Hermeneutics that the biblical writings often

‘become primarily institutional mechanisms to ensure continuity of corporate belief and identity...’ affirming ‘...the community identity and life-style [the readers] already enjoy’ (p.8)

So with these warning in place I now join in with David in looking at a way forward in a biblical understanding of the current key issue, homosexuality.

Where we go

How we come to interpret these key texts is becoming a dividing line between what is seen to be truly ‘evangelical’ and what is considered to not to be.

The over simplification of two disciplines helps to see some of the tension. The task of biblical scholarship to keep ‘within the text’ and the task of pastoral theologians to apply the context to the text are often seen to be at odds with each other. The two ‘horizons’ emerge in seeming conflict. Yet both have questions to address: can we know the context of the past and is that reading of it applicable and correct for today? By over privileging the present in what ways have we succumbed to social and psychological theories which then inform our reading and understanding?

Paul Ricoeur offers a way forward in his theory of hermeneutics (a complex philosophy) in that truth and knowledge are found in an analysis in the words and metaphors we inherit. An exploration into truth is actually an exploration into who we are as well. He wrote

‘the object of hermeneutics is not the text, but the text as discourse, or discourse as text’ (Biblical Hermeneutics, 1975, 65).

How we engage with the text is as important as the text itself. And by this act of engaging with the text we expand our own horizons. It has the potential to change us and transform us as we willingly accept the discourse of ideas and meaning, being part of the journey to discover what the text is saying. The text we inherit, which we find ourselves in the middle of, is the text of Scripture (canon), the text of our culture and the text (hinted at by some of Jesus words and Paul) of a new creation.

The Pilling Report is about a beginning in the middle, more explicitly in the structures of the Church of England, of a process and discourse. If this is going to work then the differing sides of the debate must have this hermeneutic as a model. There must be honesty about where we are from and a vulnerability about where we go.  It will not work with either side (simplifying the position here) saying this is what we think and we will not budge.


Where we turn to

So to the texts as presented in Appendix 4. For brevity I will only focus on two key passages (Genesis and Romans). This offers a constructive theological dialogue rather than a  grammatical / linguistic analysis where others are far more able to offer biblical criticism than me, and incidentally have been rehearsed to the nth degree.

The attempt to include the narrative of Sodom, for instance, into this issue has been warmly rejected by many. To openly accept that same-sex relationships are nowhere supported by textual evidence in Scripture is an honest place to begin (§220, .p67 of the Pilling Report). The process of interpretation and then application is a task that needs to be revisited and reworked in every generation, as our own Evangelical history and heritage bears out. How we respond to the texts in the light of this is the more pressing issue. Scripture does have a view on what it means to be human and sexual and as Christians we must turn to it to see what it says. However in saying that Scripture does have a view on being human and on sexuality is different to saying it has only one view and for ever it will remain. What we do with those texts and the interpretation and any claim for informing the norm or challenging it, is the key issue.

Genesis 2 - human origin and vocation

To understand the vocation and identity of humanity we must see the two creation poems are the beautiful call of God to bring life into the world. The ‘image’ language in Genesis 1 is just as important to the narrative of humanity in the world as is, so often referred to, the ‘creation order’ of Genesis 2. This language of the ‘image of God’ - is important in several respects:

  1. humanity, both male and female are made in the image of God. There is no isolation here. The language of ‘image of God’ refers to both - not individuals.
  2. It is very much related to identity. Nothing else in all the creation story can be referred to ‘image of God’ - interestingly this is held in contrast to the OT prohibition of making images of God. The only OT image of God allowed is humanity created by God himself.
  3. There is the plurality of God in reference to ‘let us’ - a trinitarian understanding is given as the context of this creation. Out of the relational God a relation being is created.
  4. v 27 reads “God created ‘adam’ in his image, in the image of God he created them.”

The textual nuance here refers to a singular use of the word adam and the plural use of ‘them’ - reinforcing the one of a kind humanity but that this image is expressed in community of both man and woman.

  1. The language of image of God transfers to the NT and to Jesus himself in 2 Cor 4.4 and Col  1.15. This aspect of the new creation must not be ignored as Christ comes to form in us a new pattern of living together and a new way of being human.
  2. This ‘image of God’ anthropology this image of God is very much in the flesh. Our bodies matter. This is not just mental faculty or emotion that is being referred to. The embodiment of God’s image is very much part of this passage.


So in relation to this narrative human relating as seen in the eyes of Genesis 1 and then explored in Genesis 2 is expressing the relational God who has created man and woman, who both and together reveal the image of God.

The  coming together of man and woman as expressed in Genesis 2 is thus an outworking of the ‘image of God’ understanding of human relating. Marriage is the expression of man and woman together and at its most intimate expressing the creative beauty and truth of man and woman being made in the image of God and having that creative power themselves. They are “made for each other”.

This is translated into the eschatological hope of the NT where this image of God, in Christ is fully revealed and celebrated as the wedding of the lamb - the new humanity of God  - becoming wed as a bride for her husband. Two becoming one.

Drawing out any implications for sexuality will be hindered by some of the cautions that David Runcorn raises. Yet this narrative of the ‘image of God’ and human relating as expressed in marriage is an important one to think through. It becomes a chief metaphor of salvation and future hope. It becomes a key to unlocking God’s dream for humanity.

It must also be said however that any theological construct must be recognised as just that. The metaphor may well be used to express a truth but we must always be wary of extending that theological claim to other areas of life unless we can also see that in other texts in the NT.

The distinctive place for heterosexual marriage can be strongly deduced from this narrative. But what of same sex partnerships? Where can they fit in? Where can the longing for love and relating be explored in this metaphor? In my own opinion this needs further exploring. At present I can not see an extension of civil-partnerships towards marriage being scripturally or theologically defended.

Civil Partnerships help to bring some aspect of celebrating and cementing a relationship between two people of the same sex. In one degree it celebrates that human longing for community, companionship and intimacy (both sexual and non-sexual). How we faithfully work towards that in pastoral life is I think the challenge of the Pilling Report.

Romans 1.18-32

Paul is trying to make sense of a godless and disorderly world which will soon see the power of the gospel. This chaotic world is one in which reason itself has been abandoned. (a base mind (1.28)). Paul uses one expression of exchanging glory (doxa) for images. This thread of Paul’s teaching will come up again later in Romans 3.23 a verse which acts as the hinge swinging open the gate of God’s grace.  In this particular case in 1.23 the ‘glory of the immortal God’ has been exchanged for man made things. This glory given to humanity is like the image of God given to them as creation. It is the glory of God that is lost when idolatry is given into. And idolatry is where we worship the creature not the creator. This direction of life leads to uncontrolled desire. Uncontrolled desire leads to all sorts of sin and misguidance. This area of life in modern society needs to be taken heed of urgently as we have a culture so fixated on the creation of and the immediacy of satisfying that desire. This too is expressed sexually in modern culture.

What we do with our bodies thus becomes important. and leads into Paul’s other thinking relating to sexual practice. How we physically live as bearers of God’s glory/image is important.

The emphasis is no doubt on the unbridled lust and practice of a godless society. Work is therefore needed to show how this passage relates to current views of homosexuality. Does this passage relate to homosexual permanent faithful relationships?

If one sees that the passage refers to homosexual activity per se - then yes it does and it condemns it.

If one sees the difference between uncontrolled sex and homosexual faithful relationships then the understanding will be more nuanced.

The Gamaliel Principle - ‘By their fruit...’

David offers us a testing principle in seeing the fruits of relationships and faith. There are many ways in which this principle can be applied to many areas of church life and governance. What is the fruit of those Churches where decisions have been made to adopt some provision of ‘pastoral accommodation’ to same-sex couples? In the context of the Anglican Communion some of this fruit comes out of the way this issue has been handled globally or moved ahead without a consensus view becoming adopted. Perhaps this is more of a reflection on the way difference has been dealt with rather than this issue itself causing dissent.


There has been pain in which views and people have clashed over this difference. There have been hurtful things said and assumed.


ECUSA has seen division and energy spent in sorting out costly legal battles over property and ministry.


When these differences have been dealt with publicly often characterizations reduce the often sometimes carefully thought through positions.

Yet at the same time there are other signs of fruit that is bringing hope. Despite the deeply held differences there can be another way.

At the Faith in Conflict conference held at Coventry Cathedral in Feb 2013, Revd Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro Fairfax and Rt Revd Shannon Johnston, audio file and transcript met on stage to talk about the experiences of being on both sides of this debate.

One very moving quotation from Revd Baucum, whose church is from the conservative spectrum says:

“I don't preach against the Episcopal Church. You know, I differentiate. We have differentiated at a great cost. But I still love the Episcopal Church. I've grown to love Shannon. I do consider him a friend. I do consider him to be a brother. But a brother who I think has taken a wrong turn. It's not the same thing as ceasing to be a Christian.”

This is fruit that has grown in a way that is often overlooked or even unlooked for. Dealing with the differences is one fruit that perhaps we all need to learn to grow.

Dealing with it in a public way will either help us a Church speak out with a Gospel that speaks about reconciliation and maturity in honouring Christ in our sister and brother, even though we disagree with them. Or we will tread a different and damaging path that sees Christ’s Body being wounded and broken in the way we speak of one another.

In my own opinion, this is not a ‘line-in the sand’ moment. This is an expression of how we as the Church are called to engage with what and who is around and within us. We must be open to be changed. The hermeneutic that is as much about discourse as well as the text, which in the end becomes the text for us, is something that I think holds out a possible way forward. In that discourse we must hold out the potential for all of us to change.

67 thoughts on “A response to David Runcorn’s appendix to the Pilling Report.”

  1. ἀωακεφαλαιώσασθαι I understand to refer to God’s ultimate purpose to sum up all things in Jesus Christ. Hallelujah for His wonderful plan. Unto Him we must all bow the knee, and this submission is essential for His perfect order to come into being. The verb comes from κεφάλαιον, meaning ‘ summary’ or ‘sum total’ (Armitage Robinson, Ephesians, p.145), and not directly from κεφαλή.


    • And 5, Andrew? I’m trying to hear the view you actually have as distinct from others with which it might be confused.

      (Rely on Robinson, if you’d like, but in which text is the second letter an omega?)

      • Sorry, ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι, of course. ν is n, and ω is v on my keyboard, which may explain it..

        ‘And 5, Andrew?’ Sorry, I don’t know what you mean. Everything apart from the origin of the word was my view, as best as I could express it.


        • By 5, Andrew, I meant Ephesians 5’s uses of kephale etc. I ask, not to establish a meaning for kephale itself, but to understand the way you situate kephale etc in St Paul’s vision of what the risen Christ is doing in the Creation. There is a cosmic backstory to all of this, as you know and mention above, and so what I am inquiring about here is the way you relate that backstory of ‘anakephalaiosasthai’ in 1:10 to the ‘Great Mystery.’ If another text on the cosmic backstory is more interesting to you, your reply would be no less intriguing to me.

  2. I wonder, Andrew, how you understand the sense and meaning of another kephale in Ephesians, the ‘anakephalaiosasthai’ of 1:10, and how you relate both to the oft-discussed texts in 5.

    • Bowman
      Please see my January 29 and 31 posts. I would like us to agree the Hebrew text, transliteration and literal translation of Genesis 1-3 so that I can respond to an earlier post of yours.
      Phil Almond

      • Phil– The authors of the NT usually quote the Septuagint, so it seems that they accepted it as authoritative, Yet since the LXX is mostly a translation of earlier Hebrew texts, it seems that the latter must also be authoritative. As noted in my own archived posts, the two versions of our favourite texts have subtly different meanings. How then should we choose one over the other?

  3. Happily, Andrew, I saw nothing irrational– presented with an apparent claim that Jesus himself was the source of an understanding, Roger quite rationally asked about the canonical gospels.

    A ban… a view… irrational… No, Andrew, it seems, quite to the contrary, that a rational inference from nature has been embedded in texts that we view as authoritative. Post-Enlightenment readers seem to struggle with these and other texts where revelation speaks with a rational voice. Many refuse to hear one ‘r’ or the other when both are uttered at once.

    To honour the authority of such texts today, we must thoughtfully reconstruct what that inference actually was in its own horizon, and then, if we get that far, ask, at least, how it is applicable where we find ourselves in the post-Resurrection aeon that is our own horizon. A hermeneutical task with two or more horizons is not without risks. But as you and Roger both see, the alternative to honesty about them is to dishonour the text by treating it as a Rorschach inkblot, projecting our own desires and anxieties onto the surface of the words to arrive at a pseudo-reading. The presence of revelation is not the absence of reason, and it was the Holy Spirit’s choice that made it thus.

    • ‘To honour the authority of such texts today, we must… ask, at least, how it is applicable where we find ourselves in the post-Resurrection aeon that is our own horizon.’

      Thankfully, in this matter of homosexuality, we have Paul’s inspired post-Resurrection repetition of God’s strong prohibition of homosexual actitivity, using the word ἀρσενοκοίτης, which must I think refer back to ἄρσενος κοίτην in Leviticus 20:13; and if anything, even extending it (the prohibition) to include lesbianism, which he describes as a vile passion in Romans 1:26.

      And ‘we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh.. and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.’ But we were washed and we were sanctified and made holy in His sight, being granted repentance and the remission of sins through Jesus’s blood shed on the cross. Hallelujah for His grace and His mercy and for the Spirit of holiness who convicts us all of our waywardness.


      • Andrew, this post of yours must have passed mine of February 15, 2014 at 8:48 pm in the night of the queue. ‘Homosexual.’ is not in scripture, and the still-evolving construct that the word represents presupposes the biology and psychology of the past century. Therefore, it appears to be difficult to make a case that St Paul opposed any behavior for being ‘homosexual.’ But of course my mind is open to one if you have one.

        • I am not sure I understand you, Bowman. There aren’t any English words in scripture, only translations. There is a Greek word ἀρσενοκοίτης, and the English translation of that according to the BAGD Lexicon is ‘a male who practices homosexuality’. Would you agree that Paul is opposed to men having sex with men? I thought everybody knew that was homosexual behaviour?

          Bemused, Andrew

          • Andrew, I’m sure that our readers did understand me if they read the Pilling Report or its Church of Scotland counterpart. Never mind.

        • ” ‘Homosexual.’ is not in scripture” On the contrary, just looking at one verse, 1 Corinthians 6:9, it is in the NIV, for one:

          Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders..

          Likewise Lexham, Good News. ‘Homosexuals’ or ‘homosexuality’ is in ESV, HCSB, NASB, NKJV, and others.


          • The right English word may not yet exist.

            In the 1970s, “homosexual offenders” was a euphemism apt for family bibles, but today ‘homosexual’ implies a tangle of ideas about neurobiology, the self, etc that cannot possibly have been the understanding of St Paul and the Corinthians.

            If there is actually no ‘equivalent’ in the target language for a construct in the source text then the words for that construct will not in fact be translated, though some may go out on a limb.

            But this is far from the main problem.

          • What do you think it means, then? Would you agree that it refers to a man who has sexual intercourse with another man, playing the active role, if I may put it like that?


  4. Fides quaerens intellectum, Andrew, “faith seeking understanding.” An irrational revelation would be contrary to the nature of the Logos and useless for teaching human beings, and so St Paul, the CEEC, Fulcrum, and both you and Roger, among other inquiring villagers, do very well to explore the relations among all revealed credenda. We are able to do this despite all the changes of time because behind the appearances of things Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

    Meanwhile, even in the Hebrew Bible, the presence of revelation is not the absence of reason. Yoram Hazony’s Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture builds on the work of several Jewish scholars to present the Hebrew Bible as a text that engages philosophical questions usually associated only with Greek philosophy. Has he opened a way back into a metaphysic native to the text itself? Though I doubt that he discusses tow’ebah directly, I can use that as a test case. Thanks, yet again.

  5. And, I should have added, by the introduction of a complementary partner.

    By the way, this new system has a blue box for direct replies to particular posts. I’m sure that you will want to use it often 😉

  6. Thanks for your post Andrew. I was simply responding to your concluding piece, ‘Jesus is the same, yesterday today and forever. Why would He change His view on homosexuality?’, and asking where in the Gospels we see a record of his views on the subject. Of course you are right to then refer to his servant Paul, but that is where I think we differ in terms of understanding what the apostle meant in his statements on homosexuality. Did he have a concept of faithful, committed gay relationships as we understand these today? Are his words a blanket condemnation? Or are they to be comprehended in their 1st century contexts of, for example, Roman sexual abuse of slaves and children?

    And Phil, your query, ‘when in your view did man become kephale of woman?’ is a good one, and it sent me back to Anthony Thiselton’s paper on 1 Corinthians 11 and his tackling of the multiplicity of views held on the meaning of the Greek (see Thiselton-on-kephale.pdf).

    I feel understanding ‘kephale’ as ‘source’ here meshes better with the overall sweep of Scripture than the insistence on ‘head’ as implying pre-eminence. In that case, I see 1 Corinthians 11 as referring back to Genesis 2 and the metaphor of woman being taken out of Adam’s side. As Thiselton puts it, ‘If we use the term “head,” its multiple meanings from context to context as serving a polymorphous concept must always be kept in view.’

    And Bowman, many thanks for your reference to Hans-Georg Gadamer and his relevance to our overall discussions. Here we all need his ‘fusion of the horizons’, in which there is both the ‘distancing’ of critical study and an ‘openness’ toward the written Word. In this engagement we need to acknowledge the ‘pre-judgments that we bring with us,’ making up ‘the horizon of a particular present’, as well as wrestling with the horizon of the given text and context.

    • ‘Thanks for your post Andrew. I was simply responding to your concluding piece, ‘Jesus is the same, yesterday today and forever. Why would He change His view on homosexuality?’, and asking where in the Gospels we see a record of his views on the subject.’

      Sorry, yes, what I meant was that I see the law of Moses as given by God on the mountain, and therefore identical to Jesus’s view. If He saw homosexual practice as abominable then, why not now?

      Paul says what he says about homosexual practice, not about a particular form of it. The clear emphasis in all three passages is on the fact that it is males with males, rather than with females.

      By using the word ἀρσενοκοίτης both in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1, it is hard to escape the connection with Leviticus 18 v 22:
      καὶ μετὰ ἄρσενος οὐ κοιμηθήσῃ κοίτην γυναικός βδέλυγμα γάρ ἐστιν
      and Leviticus 20 v 13:
      καὶ ὃς ἂν κοιμηθῇ μετὰ ἄρσενος κοίτην γυναικός βδέλυγμα ἐποίησαν
      where the two words are side by side: κοίτη – a bed, marriage-bed, sexual intercourse etc; ἄρσην a male. Used in Genesis 1:27 – ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς – he made them male and female – and Romans 1:27 – ἄρσενες ἐν ἄρσεσιν τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην κατεργαζόμενοι males with males working shame. Which makes me think that there is almost certainly a reference to the holy order of the creation, and its overthrow.


    • Thiselton on ‘source’: ‘the paucity of lexicographical evidence remains a major obstacle to this translation.’ (1 Corinthians, p. 820 – http://womeninthechurch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Thiselton-on-kephale.pdf)

      Actually, the evidence does not exist, so far as I can see. There is one case in Herodotus of κεφαλαὶ referring to the sources of a river, and one in Callimachus of κεφαλή referring to the mouth of a river. It’s never used in this way by the koine geographers Strabo or Pausanius. What else is there? There is the Orphic Fragment:

      Ζεὺς κεφαλή, Ζεὺς μέσσα, Διὸς δ’ ἐκ πάντα τέτυκται·

      but this can very well be translated, as by Kouremenos, Theokritos (a Greek, note) in ‘The Derveni Papyrus’ [2006], p.135:

      ‘Zeus is the head, Zeus the middle, and from Zeus is everything fashioned.’

      The main evidence that used to be cited was the entry in Liddell and Scott. But after the statement in 1997 by P. G. W. Glare, the then editor of the Liddell and Scott Supplement, that:

      ‘The supposed sense ‘source’ of course does not exist and it was at least unwise of Liddell and Scott to mention the word. At the most they should have said “applied to the source of a river in respect of its position in its (the river’s) course.” [in Wayne Grudem: The meaning of κεφαλή, and evaluation of new evidence]

      it is untenable to employ that any longer.


    • Roger
      Thanks for your reply. Though I understand you to be unwilling to agree that the man is kephale of the woman in Genesis 2 (pre-Fall), (I agree that is the right view) unless that is coupled with the view that kephale has no implications of male pre-eminence (or authority or leadership).
      In your 5 February post you said, ‘All this is not to ignore the texts in Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy, etc., but to see their apparent contradiction of the broad sweep of the new creation as having 1st Century cultural contexts’. I take this to mean (please correct me if I am wrong) that your view is that Paul’s exhortation to wives to be subject to their own husbands in Ephesians 5:22-24 is a temporary accommodation to 1st century cultural contexts, rather than normative for the Church for all time (until the Second Coming). The ‘apparent contradiction’ being, in your view, that Paul is exhorting 1st century Christian wives to be subject to their own husband’s authority, and this is contrary to ‘the broad sweep of the new creation’ in which such subjection to male authority disappears. (Let’s be clear that the ‘male headship’ view which I hold is not an excuse for ‘bullying’). If I am fairly and correctly summarizing your view, I now point out that it has two flaws. Firstly, it means that Paul is making his ‘1st century cultural context’ exhortation to Christian wives ‘because a man is kephale of the woman’ (5:23 Nestle-Marshall), that is, because of a pre-Fall very good fact of the man-woman relationship. It is very implausible that Paul would write in that way. Secondly, he exhorts both wives and husbands to model their relationship on the relationship between Christ and the Church, which is one of the paramount features of the ‘new creation’ of which you speak! The husband-wife/Christ-Church analogy is tightly coupled. Presumably you would not say that the subjection of the Church to Christ has merely ‘1st Century cultural contexts’.
      Phil Almond

      • Andrew and Phil, I wonder whether I might respond to your two latest posts to me in one reply as I feel, broadly, that we have two different emphases in seeking to be faithful to Scripture.

        Can we say that there are two approaches emerging in our discussion?

        1. A hermeneutical approach that takes the text faithfully at face value, arguing that statements in the Bible are for all time (until Jesus’ Second Coming, according to Phil with respect to kephale in the husband/wife relationship), unless that conclusion is contradicted by Scripture itself (as with Peter’s vision prior to his encounter with Cornelius).

        2. A hermeneutical approach that takes the text faithfully in its setting and seeks a fusion of the two horizons of the original context and contemporary contexts. This observes such injunctions as women needing to cover their hair when Christians gather (1 Cor. 11:5) and their need to be silent amid their gathered brothers and sisters (1 Cor. 14:34) and sees these as having first century contexts: the first to avoid confusion with prostitutes; and the second to bring order into the early church, beset at times by an over-awareness of a new and exciting emancipation among female Christians.

        Today, I live peacefully when I see my sisters in Christ with their hair uncovered and when I hear them speak their wisdom among God’s gathered people.

        Surely, too, the injunctions to masters and slaves in Ephesians and elsewhere were culturally conditioned, although a number of Christians in the slave trade debates argued that such texts were ‘for all time’. May we not see elements in the words to husbands and wives as also culturally conditioned, not least in the command to ‘be subject to one another’ (Eph. 5:21) and in the manifesto of Gal. 3:28? The Holy Spirit does not cease to fashion our understanding at the end of the Book of Revelation, but continues, I suggest, to influence (see John 16:13) the out-workings of an eschatology, inaugurated through Christ’s death and resurrection.

        We are not so different here, as all of us seek a faithful interpretation of God’s Word, discerning where it spoke specifically into an ancient situation for that time alone and where it goes on speaking its ever up-to-date message.

        • Dear Roger, I do appreciate your generous and conciliatory tone, but no, I don’t believe there should be room for two integrities, with equal validity, sitting side by side in peaceful co-existence. I would prefer to continue to try to persuade you to change your mind and see the necessity for holding to the traditions of the apostles, as we are commanded to. (1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6) Let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Hallelujah, His Spirit is moving to prepare a bride for Himself without spot or blemish.

          I agree with you that it is not easy, with all due respect to Wayne Grudem and John Piper and their complementarian viewpoint, to justify keeping the instructions of 1 Timothy 2, but not those of 1 Corinthians 11 and 14. So we do practice the woman’s head covering, and I think the Brethren and others are probably right to insist on women’s silence in the formal assembly of the saints – although then I think there should be other opportunities for women to minister in prophecy and open prayer, as 1 Corinthians 11:5 seems to show. Reading Origen’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:34-38 increases my confidence that this was the practice of the early church, and I see no reason to change it. Have men and women changed our nature, and our place in God’s order?

          When do you think the instructions given concerning women’s ministry and Christian marriage in 1 Timothy 2 and 3, Titus, 1 Corinthians, Colossians 3, and 1 Peter 3 – when do you think they should have been abandoned? Do you believe the supposed special cultural conditions that pertained in 1 st century Ephesus and Corinth still existed when the canon was established? Why were these letters included in the canon if no longer relevant? Most important of all, perhaps, is it not obvious that Paul gives his reasons from creation and the circumstances of the fall, not from the prevailing culture. I don’t see how you can defend saying ‘to avoid confusion with prostitutes’ etc when the bible says nothing of the kind, but rather that man was not created for the woman, but woman for the man, and, ‘because of the angels’. Hallelujah, praise God for His perfect order, given to us for our good and for our protection.


          • Thank you once more Andrew for your carefully reasoned response. You conclude with, ‘Hallelujah, praise God for his perfect order, given to us for our good and for our protection.’ I too praise God for his perfect order, the co-partnership of men and women depicted in Genesis 1 and 2, and the retrieval of that rich equality in Christ’s new creation (as in Galatians 3:28). I rejoice that women no longer need to cover their heads or be silent in the gathered Christian community, and that God is calling, through his Holy Spirit, many gifted women into roles of church leadership.

            You also write, ‘I don’t believe there should be room for two integrities, with equal validity, sitting side by side in peaceful co-existence.’ However, at least two integrities do exist, as is seen among theologians who equally honour Scripture yet reach differing conclusions, and our lives are enriched by the debate between them.

            You cite Origen as exemplary in his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14. Although I am no expert on the early church fathers, I wonder whether Origen’s theology and practice is more widely true to Scripture, especially with respect to sex and gender. Sarah Coakley, in her ‘God, Sexuality, and the Self’, although valuing Origen’s perspectives on the Holy Spirit’s work, also notes in his ‘De Oratione’ the importance of distinguishing between ‘the sexual and procreative theme in its metaphorical force’ and in ‘its normal human physiological functioning’, where he then adds,

            ‘Thus Tatiana, the woman to whom…this work is addressed, can be trusted with this approach because she is ‘most manly’ (andreiotate) and has gone beyond ‘womanish things’ (gynekaia)…’.

            Added to this strongly male-centred view, Origen, later in the text, ‘advises against praying at all in a room in which sexual intercourse has taken place’.

            Once more we are back to cultural context. Origen was clearly a man of his time, being influenced with regard to sex and gender by Plato’s dualistic views as much, it seems, by the Bible’s celebration of sexuality and married intimacy.

            Your question – ‘Why were these letters included in the canon if no longer relevant?’ – is a good one, although my questioning is not with the overall text of the Pauline epistles but with certain culturally-bound particularities. In the latter case, may it not be that they were included because we need to see that God reveals his ways in context, adjusting the message, at its more particularizing level, to the preconceptions, prejudices and understandings of the era, and yet at the same time offering traces of new treasure to be explored and embraced? The latter, as in the case of slavery, may take centuries to be valued and put into practice.

          • Roger, I was not looking to Origen so much for support in the matter of interpretation, as for evidence of early church practice. He is arguing against the Montanists – who apparently were promoting the idea that women should be allowed to prophesy in the assembly. By inference, it would appear that that was a new idea. If that was already the tradition, why would Origen single them out to argue against?


    • Roger and Phil, speaking of ‘horizons,’ I wonder whether the many relational passages in the johannine gospel and letters are necessary to articulate the whole horizon around both the literary analogy that Phil has been pressing and the historical counterargument that Roger has offered in reply. On one hand, the pauline text does not seem to have been written to differentiate the subtle qualities of relation to which both sides of these discussions return, though we might agree that he writes as though aware that there are some. On the other hand, such qualities are obviously central to the gospel and letters, which explore the relations of the Persons and the believer and more nearly approach the Church’s final understanding of them. Whether the discussion is philological, about what the canonical scriptures ‘say’ and why, or historical, about what the C1 pattern of teaching ‘was’ and why, it is reasonable to think that the johannine witnesses could be helpful in understanding the horizon of the analogy, and probably unreasonable to expect conclusive understanding without them.

  7. Roger
    To start to point out what I believe are the flaws in your recent post, I wonder if you could answer the following question:
    Passing over for the moment what you believe kephale means, when in your view did man become kephale of woman?
    Phil Almond

  8. John puts a finger on the ‘culture wars’ when he quotes Anthony Thistleton’s rejection of the use of the scriptures as a sort of storage tank for the mores of the early modern ethos. As that order of things falls away from a world being re-ordered by capital, the resultant change in our societies splits Christians into those who rally in resistance around the ‘storage tank’ from fellow Christians enabled by change to recognise some unexpected space between the way the Bible ‘carves nature at the joints’ and the way our societies have recently done it. A priori, there is reason to sympathise with both the impulse to resist the commercial erosion of received values and the impulse to be more faithful to the earliest Christian witness.

    Nor are the latter a united front. There is tension between those who map the Bible’s own categories onto emergent phenomena, and those others who search for those phenomena in the ancient text. Neither enterprise is unreasonable, but neither alone has been altogether successful.

    Hans-Georg Gadamer, who gave some thought to this tension in all interpretation, used to point out to us that responsible reading requires a dialectic of both moves. “We should not settle for a reading that leaves us with either a mute text or a reader in bad faith with herself. Rather, the reader should continue the back and forth movement of ‘hermeneutic’ (< Schliermacher < Gr Hermes) until the two horizons have fused." Surely the scriptures deserve such persevering respect.

    I have not yet seen such a fusion of horizons in our debates here. We will be closer to the apostolic witness when we can account for the relationship between the Resurrection, the sexes, and the celibacy exemplified by Jesus and St Paul, which neither the 'storage tank' nor the 'sexual revolution' have fully accommodated. Such an account is best enabled by the self-aware study that John describes above.

  9. ‘And Andrew, referring to the last sentence of your most recent post, where has Jesus expressed his view on homosexuality in any direct sense?’

    Roger, why are you looking for this? Do you not see the epistles as authoritative for the church? Jesus Himself chose and appointed Paul to be a teacher to the Gentiles, so it seems to me that to argue with him is to argue with the Lord also.

    Forgive me pointing this out again, but the new Fulcrum web-site still contains the CEEC Basis of Faith, which includes the following:

    1.3 The Bible as the Revelation of Grace – We receive the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the wholly reliable revelation and record of God’s grace, given by the Holy Spirit as the true word of God written. The Bible has been given to lead us to salvation, to be the ultimate rule for Christian faith and conduct, and the supreme authority by which the Church must ever reform itself and judge its traditions.

    So long as this is their own commitment, then surely it is wrong to ask them to act against it?


  10. Bowman, Phil and Andrew, thank you for your ongoing debate on the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 and certain NT texts, together with spin-offs concerning literal meanings and canonicity.

    Phil and Andrew, it will be no surprise to you if I introduce complementary views on this material.

    1. I see Genesis 1 and 2 as proclaiming the profound reality that men and women are co-image-bearers, co-partners and equal before God and one another. Men and women need each other, and also men need other men and women need other women.

    2. Genesis 3 begins to show the distortion of relationships between men and women, the former showing a proclivity to bullying and the latter to subservience.

    3. This distortion begins to be corrected in Christ as we journey toward a new heaven and earth.

    4. We see this new creation expressed in Jesus’ honouring of women; in the prioritizing of women in the resurrection accounts; in the emergence of women leaders throughout Acts (Barbara Brown Taylor’s ‘Gospel of the Holy Spirit’) and in Romans 16; and in the inclusive credo of Galatians 3:28. All this is not to ignore the texts in Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy, etc., but to see their apparent contradiction of the broad sweep of the new creation as having 1st Century cultural contexts.

    And Andrew, referring to the last sentence of your most recent post, where has Jesus expressed his view on homosexuality in any direct sense?

    • Do we see ‘the emergence of women leaders throughout Acts?’ There are women in the upper room, but when it comes to a decision to be made, Peter addresses the men specifically: Ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί. Lydia provides hospitality (Acts 16:5) and Paul and Silas return there before leaving, as one would expect. Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God more accurately to Apollos, privately (‘taking him aside’.) Remember that he knew only the baptism of John, so it seems reasonable to suppose that they would have explained to him about Jesus’s baptism. It was a one-off, so far as we know. It’s a far cry from a woman standing to teach in her own right in the assembly of the saints, as is proscribed in 1 Timothy. There is no contradiction. Finally, there are Philip’s daughters who prophesied (21:9). Praise God for that. Does it make them leaders? Not at all. Did they prophesy in the assembly? Probably not. Did they give a word of direction to Paul? Not so far as we know: that privilege was given to Agabus. So where are the women leaders? There are none. There is one married couple who ministered together. That’s it, so far as I can see.


      • Thanks for this Andrew. Yes, you’re right in pointing out that I overstated the case for women leaders in the text of the Acts, although the importance of women to Jesus is still seen in the continuing record. It’s interesting that the account shifts from ‘Aquila and Priscilla’ to ‘Priscilla and Aquila’, and Philip’s daughters’ ‘gift of prophecy’ must have had its expression somewhere. Why not among gatherings of the early Christians? And Paul’s list in Roimans 16 appears to include prominent women who were assumedly contemporaneous to the time of the Acts of the Apostles.-

        • Thanks Roger. You ask why Philip’s daughters would not have prophesied in the assemblies. Well, because it seems to have been prohibited by the apostles – 1 Corinthians 14:34-38. And some if not all early church fathers understood it this way: eg Origen on 1 Corinthians: ‘if the daughters of Philip prophesied, they did not speak in the churches – we do not find this reported in the Acts of the Apostles…the Gospel also mentions Anna a prophetess.. Yes, but she did not speak in the church’ [in Judith Kovacs ‘1 Corinthians, interpreted by early christian commentators].

          I don’t see why being named by Paul shows that a Christian is a leader. Are leaders of greater value than brothers and sisters who serve in other ways? Three of the faithful women who ministered (διηκόνουν from διακονέω) to Jesus out of their substance are named, but they were not leaders.


  11. The matter is clear because the teaching of the New Testament on the subject is clear and can not be gainsayed. Of course, we are no longer under the law, and don’t have to keep all the commandments of the law which was given to Israel, but there is a force in תועבה tow’ebah, which goes beyond the matter of ordinances to how God Himself views the matter. If it was an abomination to him, then why not now?

    Now I do realise that there are one or two instances where the word is used of something which is allowable now to Christians: first of all, in Deuteronomy 14:3, of eating unclean foods (unless this could possibly be referring to eating food sacrificed to idols, leading into distinguishing between clean and unclean – just a thought). I would say that this is something which God has specifically changed, for the purpose of the gospel, in the first place so that Peter could stay with Cornelius and tell him about Jesus. I think it may be a permission rather than a change in God’s heart about it: see Isaiah 66:17, also Genesis 7:2, which suggests that it may be an eternal thing, with a temporary dispensation under the grace of the gospel.

    The example at the link you sent, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 is interesting, and makes me wonder if this is something to be avoided even today. Since the original divorce was through finding something unclean in the woman, then this seems like it may be close to the exception of Matthew 19:9. Given the traumatic nature of divorce: the tearing asunder of what has been so intimately joined together, and the time needed for reintegration of the personality and so on, and the shame associated with a moral fall, this may speak against rejoining what has previously been joined and then rent. But not to rule anything out under grace and in love..

    From a fairly cursory examination of the other 110 or so instances of תועבה tow’ebah, it seems to be used most often of idolatry, including especially the worship of foreign gods, which is no doubt as abominable to the Lord now as then. Jesus is the same, yesterday today and forever. Why would He change His view on homosexuality?

    In peace,


    • I’ll think, Andrew, about the metaphysics of tow’ebah, but in the meantime a relatively narrow and shallow question– taking Leviticus 18:22 in its own context, might it not be most parsimonious to read it as a reference to an act of willful effeminacy by a man (cf 1 Cor 11:14)?

      • The commandment is to the man who lies with a man as with a woman, is it not? So it is addressed to the one playing the active role, rather than the female one. So I don’t see a case for the primary emphasis being on the danger to the latter. And even if it were, what difference would it make, since both roles are needed for the act, and it would still be viewed as an abomination? It is quite striking reading through the laws against incest in Leviticus 18, with acts named that are repugnant to us, and then coming to the homosexual act, and it being described specificaly as an abomination. It is hard to escape the conclusion that it is viewed as worse than incest.


        • Sorry to have been obscure, Andrew. My admittedly narrow and shallow question is simply: what is the disvalue that Leviticus sees in the proscribed act? Three have been proposed as ’emic’ to the world of the Holiness Code– rape of defeated enemies, recreational sex avoiding conception, and cultivated effeminacy in men. The first of the three mentioned arose from modern learning; the second and third have been traditional teaching for many centuries. The C19-21 idea of a person constitutively and so involuntarily attracted to the same sex (ie ‘homosexuality’) seems to be different from all three. If there is a reason why Leviticus is more likely to have been understood in the Bronze Age as proscribing homosexuality than the other disvalues, then it would be interesting to know it.

  12. Close, Andrew, though those who make the ‘category error argument’ that ‘marriage is marriage because it joins persons of opposing sexes’ are usually stressing the indispensibility of the opposite sex to human wholeness. But since St Paul strongly commends celibacy, arguably above marriage, that cannot be the whole story, even for evangelicals.

    Evangelicals in SSM make arguments like this one–


    I myself take a traditional ‘moral law’ view of Leviticus etc, so I find it too simple to be right. But the ‘moral law’ view does not in itself settle the matter since one then has to interpret the ‘old law’ as part of the whole of revelation, which leads us back into the present controversies. Zeal is commendable once the matter is clear, but God wants an intelligent and discerning devotion.

  13. Bowman. Sorry – I should have realised that you have already said that you do not agree with the translation of Genesis 1:27 in the Hebrew text I suggested as common ground. Have you any other issues with the text, transliteration or literal English? Or would you like to suggest a different site for these? Are you able to agree to the other three points please?
    Phil Almond

    • Phil, what do you mean by ‘just as much inspired?’

      Personally, I rely less on ‘inspiration’ than on canonicity as understood today. Or, to put it another way, I share Martin Luther’s view that the apostolic proclamation (eg the Apostles’ Creed) was inspired by God, so that other works of that pattern and authority were justly recognised as also inspired. The emphasis is not that of the Swiss view of inspiration that included even the pointing of the Masoretic Text, nor that of the Roman ‘constitutional’ view of the canon that makes the scriptures a product of the Church. What I generally seek in scripture is the Resurrection faith.

      • Bowman
        It will take two long to unpick where we agree and disagree about the Bible. Forget my question about inspiration. Perhaps you could respond to my 3 other questions please.
        Phil Almond

        • It seems, Phil, that we both see allusions to the narrative or temporal priority of the ‘adam to the woman in in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 and 1 Timothy 2:13-14. We may differ on whether the ‘adam was changed by the loss of his rib and the depth of his sleep.

          • Bowman
            Thanks. You have answered 2 of the 3 questions. What about my question re the Hebrew text and transliteration and literal translation of Genesis 1-3, please?
            Phil Almond

  14. Bowman, if I understand you, you are saying that if a man can be fully in the image of God (as both Genesis 2 and 1 Corinthians 11:7 make clear), and so can be whole in himself without necessarily being joined in marriage with a woman – then this opens the door for homosexual relationships, since then we would no longer have the necessity for finding one’s missing half, as it were.

    What you are missing, I think, is that as Christians who believe the bible, as evangelicals do by definition, we simply submit our own thoughts to God’s thoughts as revealed in the scriptures. Homosexual practice is an abomination to him (see Leviticus 18:22 in particular), and so it must be to us too.


  15. Bowman
    Before I respond to your latest post, could we please just make sure that we are agreed on certain things:

    Do you agree that Genesis 1-5 on
    is an accurate text and literal translation?

    Do you agree that in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 Paul is referring to the Genesis 2 account of the creation of man and woman and the Genesis 3 account of the Fall?

    Do you agree that in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 Paul is referring to the Genesis 2 account of the creation of man and woman?

    Do you agree that 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians are just as much inspired as Genesis 1-5?

    Phil Almond

  16. Perhaps unfortunately, Phil, you are not as far off-topic as you think. Can we know that, when an NT text asserts the temporal priority of ‘adam to ‘the woman,’ it is thereby positing distinct and opposed essences of masculinity and femininity, and that the former can fully exist without the latter? (Obviously, this is to say nothing for the moment about the narrative and wisdom passages on the relations of women and men.) Such simple essentialist ontology seems to be undercut on one hand by the actual sequence of events in Genesis 2, and on the other hand by St Paul’s careful qualifications to his use of kephale, which we have all discussed before. The sequence and the qualifications lend support for the view that masculinity and femininity are understood in scripture generally as ‘the two sides of the same (human) coin,’ distinct but indissolubly related. And that view is supposed, not only by Jody’s argument for OW, but also by the arguments of others that SSM is a category mistake. So if we were to conclude instead that, in the Bible as a whole, masculinity is understood as an essence that wholly transcends the ‘community’ to which John refers, then we might possibly reconsider OW but must surely reconsider SSM. I do not think that you would wish that result, but neither do I see how you could forfend it, especially if you maintain that Ephesians 5 is about agents for sexes rather than persons in marriage. So although the temporal priority of the ‘adam had some significance in the NT that we should discover if we can, the essentialist points made in the ‘culture wars’ debates of our own day are not close to it. Nearer to it, I believe, is the Church’s tradition that masculinity and femininity are reconciled in Christ.

  17. ‘Which made sense to Jews long before St Paul mentioned it to his readers. His citations were surely not meant to be an easy propositional shortcut around the narrative inspired by God. To understand what he was trying to say, we must retrieve the story-sense of the story itself’.
    Bowman, were Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:12-13 and 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 not also inspired by God? ‘Trying to say’? We should pay attention to what he does say, which makes it clear that the one formed by God in Genesis 2:7 was of male gender.
    Phil Almond

  18. Surely, Andrew, you’ve earned the welcome, but it is a pleasure to read your posts.

    John wisely used ‘community,’ thinking I suppose of Genesis 1:27, in which God, having built his temple, puts his image ‘male and female’ into it.

    Genesis 2:4-17 seems more interested in the primordial relation of humanity to the earth than in either the image-in-temple before it, or the differentiation and correlation of the sexes after it.

    Those who use ‘androgyny’ to discuss St Gregory’s view of that passage (which you have) seem to mean only that the sexes were not differentiated and correlated there until the woman was introduced to the rib-donor, who recognised himself in her. (And, after all, if the sexes were already differentiated and correlated, then when the Lord saw that it was not good for the ‘adam to be alone, why were animals tried first?) Though Jody also avoided the a-word– is it really so exciting?– that ‘community’ in the image seems to be what she too meant. In honouring its sequence of events, she honours the sacred story itself.

    Which made sense to Jews long before St Paul mentioned it to his readers. His citations were surely not meant to be an easy propositional shortcut around the narrative inspired by God. To understand what he was trying to say, we must retrieve the story-sense of the story itself.

    Since the fathers mentioned actually excelled at that sort of reading, and are free of modern preoccupations, it is often wise to consult them. I’m glad that you looked up St Gregory; given your interests, you may be gladdened by whatever investigations in St Maximus you have time to make.

  19. Thanks, Bowman, for the welcome. Reading what John said again, it would appear that he hadn’t realised that ‘them’ is singular in the original. I very much agree with Phil that it is wrong for translators to mislead readers in this way. ‘Him’ is right, so long as we can prove that the first adam was a man and not an androgynous being.

    Jody Stowell put forward this view explicitly (http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/articles/conference-speech-church-in-all-its-fullness/#comment-83): ‘This creature is not specifically Male..’ Also: ‘..there is no male without female and no female without male..’, which if true would preclude the first adam from being a man. This is the view which I maintain is heretical, for the following reasons:

    1) Paul said that Adam was formed first, and then Eve. It is obvious in the context of a discussion about men and women that he is talking about a man (male).

    2) It is hard to conceive of an androgynous adam as human – indeed Jody refers to (it?) 8 times in her conference talk as a ‘creature’. It is this adam who received the command not to eat of the tree. After the fall, could the man Adam – or Eve, for that matter – be held responsible for instructions given to this other unsexed being?

    3) Christ is the last Adam, and is compared directly to the adam who became a living soul in Genesis 2:7 (see 1 Corinthians 15:45). Christ was a man, and so the comparison would lose some of its force, to say the least, if the adam was not.

    4) It would be difficult to make sense of 2:18 – a helper opposite to him – if he is not a male to whom a female would be opposite.

    5) If the first adam is androgynous, and is made in the image of God, then this opens the way for an androgynous God.


    • Seeking to return to the core of John’s response to David Runcorn, let me first thank you John for your reasoned and reasonable words. In several places you point to your ‘own opinion; and this tentative approach is helpful in the light of Ricoeur’s ‘hermeneutic of discourse’. Here, you offer an invitation to discussion that avoids the rigid ‘either/or’ of polarization. As you say, we thus have ‘a possible way forward’ within a discourse that ‘holds out the potential for all of us to change.’

      And it is that change which is at the heart of David’s and others’ bid to allow the Spirit’s fruitfulness to be seen in all our lives, including those of our gay sisters and brothers. Here, the Gamaliel Principle needs to be heeded.

      In the context of this debate, Bowman, you ask, ‘how does sanctified reason engage the world the texts are about?’ and here we are addressing not only the biblical texts, but also the texts of contemporary culture and the texts of the new creation.

      Sanctified reason, I suggest, engages the world that the texts are about in the area under discussion by looking for

      1. Compassion, asking do gay Christians who are committed to each other live compassionate lives, seeking to love God, neighbour and themselves? We only have to look back at numerous contributions to Fulcrum’s Forum to answer yes.

      2. Beyond this foundational God-given love, are the other fruit of the Spirit discernible? Is there joy in the lives of those who are gay? Are they peaceful as far as homophobic attitudes around them allow? Are they learning to be long-suffering and patient, not least amid the prejudices shown by some of their sisters and brothers in Christ, etc.?

      3. In the light of Jesus’ words, “Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40), surely gay Christians, in seeking to follow Christ, are ‘for’ him and his people.

      4. Once more, it’s worth reiterating that there is no record of Jesus condemning homosexual people in their being and behaviour. Why is that? Was he simply unaware that such sexual proclivities might exist? Did he not know human nature well enough to think of these possibilities? Or, is it quite simply that he did not condemn gay orientation and practice within loving, committed relationships? His priority lay elsewhere – railing against hypocrisy, judgmentalism and religious oppression.

      In fairness, with respect to the Spirit’s fruit, the same range of questions can be asked of straight couples and, of course, the degree of Godly living will inevitably vary. So may we not be over scrupulous in our assessments of one another, rejoicing in any evidence of the Spirit’s work in the lives of all God’s people.

  20. I know we are off-thread but since the issue of the gender of the one formed by the Lord God in Genesis 2:7 has been raised again, perhaps the moderators will allow me to briefly restate two of the three reasons why I think it is exegetically certain that the one formed was of male gender (the other reason, based on the Hebrew words used, is perhaps too long to be repeated here.)
    Firstly, in 1 Timothy 2:12: when Paul writes (following Nestle-Marshall literal) ‘but I do not permit a woman to teach nor to exercise authority of(over) a man’ all I am asking all of you to agree to is that by ‘woman’ he must have had in mind a human being of female gender and that by ‘man’ he must have had in mind a human being of male gender. So when he says in verse 13 ‘For Adam first was formed, then Eve’ the point of that statement would be entirely lost if by ‘Adam’ he had in mind an androgynous being; clearly, to make sense of verse 12, by ‘Adam’ he must have had in mind a human being of male gender and by ‘Eve’ he must have had in mind a human being of female gender.
    Secondly, in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16: however we understand this passage, when Paul writes ‘woman’ in verses 3,5,6,7,10,11,12,13,15 he had in mind a human being of female gender; and when he writes ‘man’ in verses 3,4,7,11,12,14 he had in mind a human being of male gender. So when he writes ‘man’ in verses 8 and 9, where he gives the reason for what he writes in the preceding verses, verses 8 and 9 would make no sense if ‘man’ was an androgynous being. By ‘man’ in verses 8 and 9 he must have had in mind a human being of male gender.
    Of course my argument here depends on 1 Timothy 2:13 and 1 Corinthians 11: 8-9 being references to the creation account in Genesis 2. But does anyone disagree with that?

    Phil Almond

  21. I am not a Biblical scholar but I have studied this area for some years now and had several articles published on Anglican Mainstream. A recent piece, ‘Gay Rights and the Holy Spirit’ subtitled ‘Hard Thinking by a Christian Liberal Democrat,’ is a rebuttal of an essay by Sir Andrew Stunnel, a past president of the Liberal Christian Democrat Forum, who argued that gay rights should be regarded as following on from civil rights and equality for women.

    The rebuttal is not a short read at just over 4,000 wds but I would like to think it might be helpful. It can be found at http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2013/11/27/gay-rights-and-the-holy-sprit

    The key text which throws much light on the public change in attitude towards homosexuality in spite of the appearance of AIDS is ‘After the Ball: How America Will Conquer its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90s’ by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen (1989) It is a political campaign manual for homosexual rights activists. Other key works are ‘Eros and Civilisation’ by Herbert Marcuse (1955)and ‘Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: the Indoctrination of a People, by Judith Reisman and Edward Eichal (1990).

    Dare I say it, without a detailed knowledge of these texts comment on the gay rights issue, no matter how biblically erudite, will continue to miss the mark. Kirk & Madsen have played the roles of Hans Anderson’s trickster tailors in the Emperor’s New Clothes to perfection. Marcuse as Lenin’s apostle of hate carrying ‘Critical Theory,’ Political Correctness and the Sexual Revolution (really a rebellion against Agape and reason) into the West is another key figure.

  22. Welcome back, Andrew, and thank you so much for engaging John’s essay. Brief replies for now–

    John says: “The textual nuance here refers to a singular use of the word adam and the plural use of ‘them’ – reinforcing the one of a kind humanity but that this image is expressed in community of both man and woman.” His choice of ‘community of both man and woman’ seems meant to rule out the view that either sex is quintessentially human, the other being a mere variation of it. Whether his intent in ‘community’ is conveyed in ‘androgyny’ depends on how broadly you use the latter. In an evangelical context, ‘heresy’ presents definitional problems of its own, but I do not see a case for it here.

    Phil referred to ‘man’ as used in the AV at Genesis 1:27. Whether King James’s men thought that ‘man’ was as inclusive as their precedents, or understood ‘anthropos’ to be masculine only, or had some other reason for their choice I myself have not tried to discover. The divergences between the MT and LXX in Genesis have been investigated by others, and I linked to those results the last time we discussed this, but like Phil, I have lost access to all that for now.

    I won’t engage Horowitz on Marcus on Genesis on the sexes here, but will mention as in the past that St Maximus the Confessor is the one traditionally thought to have completed St Gregory’s own trajectory in his discussion of the other Cappadocian Gregory at Ambigua 41 where he relates Christ’s mediation to the two sexes. Perhaps you know of a complementarity theorist who has engaged it?

  23. Bowman, I didn’t read John as saying that the first Adam was androgynous, which seems to me to be heretical. Did he actually say that?

    Thank you for the reference to Gregory of Nyssa. His theory is in ‘On the making of man’ (NPNF 2-05), Section 16-17. I am not sure that he is saying that God created a physical androgynous being first. In 16.9, he distinguishes between two natures in man: the rational, which is divine and androgynous; and the irrational, which is bodily and gendered. I think he may be saying that the soul was created first (Genesis 1), and then the body (Genesis 2). In this he would be following Origen, who, according to Maryanne Horowitz, made a Philonic distinction between man created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and man ‘formed’ from the earth (Gen 2:7). ‘In the first account, God created an invisible immortal essence – man’s soul; in the second account,God formed from the ground and from Adam’s rib corporeal beings.’ [Horowitz, The Image of God in Man, Harvard Theological Review 1979, p.193]. Here is Gregory:

    “for in the compound nature of man we may behold a part of each of the natures I have mentioned,—of the Divine, the rational and intelligent element, which does not admit the distinction of male and female; of the irrational, our bodily form and structure, divided into male and female: for each of these elements is certainly to be found in all that partakes of human life. That the intellectual element, however, precedes the other, we learn as from one who gives in order an account of the making of man;”

    which might be in accord with Origen’s theory.

    I am not sure if there is a distinction to be made between an original hermaphroditic adam, and an androgynous one, but Horowitz says that both Augustine and Luther dismissed or vigorously refuted the hermaphrodite theory. Then she says ‘Later Christian scorn for the hermaphroditic interpretation contrasts with a very favourable attitude expressed in Gnostic circles in the early Christian era. Marcus, who prayed to the ‘Mother,’ wrote that ‘humanity, which was formed according to the image and likeness of God (Father and Mother) was masculo-feminine.’

    I don’t see a divergence between the Greek and Hebrew in 1:27 – ἄνθρωπος is rather similar to אָדָם in that it refers to men in general, including women, but is also sometimes used of men in particular (and never of women in particular). It is thus gender inclusive, but not gender neutral.


  24. In posts to thread ‘Womens Ministry and Homosexuality: Questioning the Connections’ September and October 2011, I argued that the person whose creation is described in Genesis 2:7 was of male gender. This is proved both by the Hebrew text and by what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2.
    It is frustrating that the points I made there, which are quite conclusive, (whatever early fathers might have said) are now lost from view. Because this issue is of crucial importance in the disagreement about the ordination and consecration of women.

    Phil Almond

  25. Thank you again, Phil, for introducing us to scripture4all, and a happy new year to you!

    Let’s look– http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Hebrew_Index.htm

    Seeing the word ‘human’ just under ‘adam’ at Genesis 1:27, I feel sure that it must be scripture4all’s literal English translation for the Hebrew word just above it. And it is not a controversial choice. St Jerome chose ‘hominem’ which had roughly the same meaning.



    In using ‘men’ in v 27, King James’s men may have been thinking of the Septuagint’s ‘anthropos’ as we could see here–


    For at that point, among others in these early chapters, the inspired Hebrew and Greek texts seem to diverge a bit.

    St Gregory of Nyssa among other ancient fathers followed the Hebrew in translating v 27, and so whatever we think of it, John (like Jody) has followed the Church’s earliest tradition in his exegesis. In fact, since St Gregory discourses at length on the androgyny of the ‘adam of v 27, John (like Jody) is well within precedent in noting that this ‘adam was as yet without gender.

    But if some prefer to follow the Greek text of the Hebrew scriptures, they are in the good company of St Paul, as you have pointed out before. (If anyone can explain why the Jew preferred the Greek and the Hellene preferred the Hebrew, please do enlighten us.) It has pleased the Holy Spirit to inspire a text in two languages, and we can only be grateful for them both.

    Meanwhile, since we have scripture4all open, is it not fascinating that Genesis 2:5-7 puns ‘adam on ‘adamah (earth) in a chapter so concerned with water and life? The aquatic second chapter deserves far more attention than it gets.

  26. John, thank you for directing our attention to the hermeneutic behind the readings that David advances in his essay. I find your quotation from Paul Ricoeur particularly suggestive.

    I wonder– at what point in our ‘discourse’ and how does sanctified reason engage the world the texts are about? Some might say, especially about Romans 1, that some prior inquiry into the will of Israel’s Creator God is presupposed in the scriptures themselves, and that our ‘discourse’ not only includes but depends on readings of both the discovered world and the dialogical text.

    Concretely, some might say that the text itself knows only sexual reproduction and sexual sin, and that any new sexual category enters our discussion by way of analogy– recognition that God is similarly at work in it furthering his known creative purposes. For example, Anglicans accepted that artificial birth control could be licit for married couples because they agreed that non-procreative sex furthered God’s creative intention for the relationship between husband and wife.

    Inferences like that require confidence that what we see in the world is seen with sanctified reason. In the case of birth control, reason had only to recognise a means within God’s creative design because his telos for marriage was described in scripture. In the present case of homosexual activity, if it were obviously indispensible to the wholeness of the natural order known in scripture, then one could bless it with relative confidence. However, if an altogether new telos for sex is being proposed, then the question arises whether reason is ever sanctified enough to enable recognition of an altogether novel divine intention.

    That question is less an ethical one than a hermeneutical one. We see it elsewhere in the reticence that we have (or do not have) in seeing God’s hand in election results, deadly plagues, mechanisms of nature, consequences of actions, etc. Jonathan Edwards famously concluded that the typological reasoning in scripture shows the regenerate soul how to recognise antitypes in the natural world, but this remains controversial. Hence my question– at what point in our ‘discourse’ and how does sanctified reason engage the world the texts are about?

    • The Hebrew seems to be אֹתוֹ which is the sign of the accusative and is singular and masculine, so on the face of it ‘him’ must be correct.

      I think the counter argument is that, unlike in English, the gender of a Hebrew word does not necessarily correspond to the gender of the thing which it designates. הָאָדָם ha’adam, it is further argued can mean a ‘human being’ rather than specifically a (male) man. It just happens (so it is said) that the word is of masculine gender. Therefore the object, אֹתוֹ, of בָרָא (bara – He created) is masculine only because it is agreeing in gender with הָאָדָם. The best way in English (it is argued finally) is that the best way to convey this gender neutral sense is with ‘them’.

      But this is supposition. הָאָדָם continues to be used of Adam even after Eve is taken out of him, so it is hardly gender neutral. The LXX has ‘κατ’ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν’ – according to the image of God He made him. In the light of 1 Corinthians 11:7 it seems to me that Adam was made in the image of God, and then Eve was taken from his side. Genesis 1:27 encapsulates the entire process of creation. The ‘them’ translation doesn’t even allow for this possibility, which makes it hard for the reader to make sense of what Paul says.


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