“Equal marriage”: Is There A New Christian Ethic for Sex and Marriage?

Last week’s Supreme Court judgment in the US, following swiftly after the Irish referendum, has made the legalisation of same-sex marriage major news again. As in England, the Christian voices have been divided. There are those, including me, who regret this and are aware of the major challenges they now face in bearing witness to marriage as they understand it. There are also Christians who welcome the extension of the good of marriage to same-sex couples and see it as simply sharing it with gay and lesbian people. Surprisingly little attention has been given as to how the latter group should now develop their sexual ethic given same-sex couples can legally marry. Are they simply extending the traditional teaching about sex and marriage to same-sex couples and what would that look like? Or are they – as seems to be the case with most secular supporters – simply welcoming the rectifying of an injustice which now gives gay and lesbian couples the same options to choose from in relation to structuring their relationships as straight couples have had for some time?

One of the criticisms often made of “revisionist” groups is their lack of a clear, consistent and widely-accepted ethic for same-sex couples. Various elements have contributed to this including perhaps a reticence to appear critical of aspects of gay culture and so perpetuate a sense that Christians were against gay and lesbian people. But most significantly there was the lack until very recently of the institution of marriage, which lies at the heart of a Christian sexual ethic, as a social and legal reality for structuring such an ethic. This is no longer the case so what might a Christian ethic of “equal marriage” look like? How will Christians, particularly those identifying as evangelical, who support the new form of marriage articulate such an ethic? How will they encourage people to live it? How will they commend it to the wider gay and lesbian world, parts of which have supported the changes to marriage law in theory as a matter of justice but are less than fully enthusiastic about embracing marriage in practice or viewing it as making a moral demand on their own lives?

This is clearly a massive area but five key areas merit some sort of attention – four traditionally understood as matters where the Christian vision provides moral teaching applicable for all people, the final being focussed on Christians.

First, the Christian tradition has said that sex (it has then argued about just what behaviour this includes) should be for marriage and so pre-marital sex is a sin, sexual immorality - a form of porneia (“fornication” in traditional language) to use the language of the New Testament vice lists. As a result, pre-marital cohabitation has also been viewed as wrong by Christians and was relatively uncommon in British society until the 1980s. When marriage was not an option for same-sex couples “pre-marital sex” was clearly meaningless for them. If they did not believe same-sex sexual behaviour was wrong they had to discern for themselves when it was right and could not do so by reference to marriage for no such institution existed. Now that it does exist, will we see Christians who support same-sex marriage also supporting the teaching that “living together” outside marriage and sex before marriage should not happen among same-sex couples? Will those who support same-sex marriage among the clergy be quite clear that the church must move to a position not only where clergy are permitted to marry a same-sex partner but they are required, whatever their sexuality, to legally marry before starting a sexual relationship or living together as a couple?

Second, Christians have also been very clear that extra-marital sex is wrong – the sin of adultery. One of the peculiarities of the legislation introducing same-sex marriage in England (I am not clear how this is working out in other jurisdictions) is that a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex other than one’s spouse is not classed as adultery (which only describes heterosexual unfaithfulness) and a ground for divorce. Are Christians who support the legislation clear that in the eyes of God, even if not in the eyes of the law, any sexual relationship with someone other than one’s spouse is adultery and this needs to be treated as seriously within a same-sex marriage as in traditional marriage? It is far from obvious that this is the universal or even the majority view given that many, particularly male, same-sex Christian couples have in the past seen this as a matter for the couple to determine themselves and, either openly or tacitly, allowed sexual freedom outside the relationship as advocated by the Reverend Malcolm Johnson for example. It is likely that such “open marriages” will be even more common among gay married couples generally than among gay Christian married couples and among straight married couples (where such a pattern is still relatively rare). There is a major question as to how to challenge this and how to support exclusivity in marriage is an important pastoral and missional issue for Christians who welcome same-sex marriage.

Third, a similar set of questions arise in relation to permanence. The church has for centuries accepted some marriages fail and permitted divorce in certain situations and in recent decades we have seen a sharp and damaging rise in marriage breakup both in society and the church. Nevertheless, there is a very strong tradition that marriages should be – and can be – lifelong, that they must be entered with that intention and commitment, and that divorce is an extreme last resort which should be avoided if at all possible, even in the face of marital difficulties. For centuries marriage between a man and a woman was very difficult to end legally and, despite the rise in divorce, there is still a widespread cultural expectation that marriage should be for life. In contrast, same-sex marriage has arisen only in our context of marriage (and wider relationship) breakdown. Do those Christians who support it have as strong a belief in its permanence? What – given that the church has often failed badly here in relation to opposite-sex marriage – can they do to help marriages be lifelong?

Fourth, marriage has traditionally been closely tied to procreation. This clearly is not the case with same-sex couples whose marriage is incapable of producing new life, but many same-sex couples want to have children. Elton John and David Furnish have two sons and recently married Stephen Fry, asked if he would like to bring up children, replied “We sort of talk about it and I suddenly think, ‘Oh my goodness I’m such an age now’, but actually that’s rather good, but we better get on with it if we do.” Should we continue to expect marriage to be tied to children and family for same-sex spouses or should Christians, even if supporting same-sex marriage, continue to hold to male-female parenting as the moral norm and so discourage this? Is it purely a matter of personal choice for each couple? If they wish to have children should they be encouraged to adopt or to use some form of reproductive technology in order to conceive? Many Christians have raised significant questions about both using donor gametes or surrogacy for opposite-sex couples – do the same questions apply in relation to same-sex marriages and are there further issues (beyond those raised by adoption) when creating a child to be brought up by two people of the same sex rather than the opposite sex?

Finally, and applicable only to Christians, there is the question of marrying a non-Christian. Although the church has been clear (not least because of Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 7) that a marriage between a believer and unbeliever remains a marriage and should be upheld by the Christian, it has also (not least because of Paul’s teaching in 2 Cor 6.14) strongly discouraged Christians from choosing to marry someone who is not in Christ. Is this also to be part of a Christian ethic for same-sex marriage?

Given the new and rapidly changing situation we are in, it would be unreasonable to expect immediate agreed-upon answers to all these questions from Christian supporters of “equal marriage”. It would, however, be good to see them being seriously and openly discussed and reasons being given if the traditional ethic must adapt for same-sex marriages.

While some questions are complex, there are steps that one would hope could be taken without too much controversy. For example, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement’s Statement of Conviction is famously non-prescriptive. In relation to sexual behaviour it simply says, “it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship”. LGCM’s history makes clear that this reflects the power of the gay liberation element in its origins and that, as one participant wrote, “the main problem in the Statement of Conviction debate revolved round the point at which it was proper to leap into bed with one’s friend” (Gill (ed), The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (Cassell 1998), pp. 12-13). Why not now amend that statement by replacing “in a personal sexual relationship” with “in marriage”? Why don’t other Christian groups supporting same-sex marriage adopt a similar statement? If that cannot be easily done it suggests that not only has marriage been redefined but the Christian understanding of the relationship between sex and marriage has also been rejected.

If same-sex marriage is accepted by Christians then any account of chastity and sexual holiness for gay and lesbian people needs to relate to marriage. If the tradition’s account of how to do this in relation to opposite-sex couples is not simply followed then we are faced with a major problem: either we do not have “equal marriage” but rather one marital and sexual ethic for gay people and one for straight people or we do have “equal marriage” and the inclusion of same-sex couples within marriage will therefore entail a reconfiguring of the tradition’s marital and sexual ethic much more widely.

121 thoughts on ““Equal marriage”: Is There A New Christian Ethic for Sex and Marriage?”

  1. Bowman
    Many thanks for drawing my attention to STEP. I would be interested in the evidence/examples/opinions that support your ‘more pernickety than Strong’s’ and ‘more useful and reliable than Strong’s’ please. I also look forward to your response to my 3 questions about Romans 8:1 in my 17 February 2016 post on this thread.
    Phil Almond

  2. “What God did for Jesus in the Resurrection he will do for the creation in the End.”

    Kenneth, I have very much enjoyed your comment of 27th December, but today I can only reply to it more briefly and alas narrowly than it deserves.

    Last summer at Google, Tom Wright related the new creation to the Resurrection in almost the words quoted above from my own comment. You can hear them from 10:29 to 11:03 of the link below.


    Some do believe that nothing of this aeon will be present in the next aeon except human beings; perhaps you are among them. But nobody has argued for the polar opposite view that non-human creatures of the present aeon will be in the next aeon apart from human beings; certainly I have not. Tom Wright is arguing that Adam’s vocation of stewardship and praise will be fully realised by those in the aeon to come. He has a good case for that, and your reading of Romans 8 does not thus far seem to contradict it.

    You and I both wholeheartedly agree– again, Merry Christmas!– that the eternal Son voluntarily assumed human nature in time, including the experiences of temptation and death. The eternity of the Son is consistent with his incarnation (St John 1). My own view of how the Son is related to his human nature is that of Act V of the Council of Chalcedon.

    In a fuller reply, I would try to relate the Adamic vocation and the new creation to the account of salvation in your comment. But it is hard to excel Tom Wright in this, and other duties are calling me just now. If something in the link does not make scriptural sense to you, comment again and I will try to respond.

    Again, warm thanks Kenneth for posting your thoughts on this. I do not know how the village got through two discussions of the resurrection of Jesus without any direct attention to the basic concern that you have raised: how does Wright’s creation-inclusive presentation of the gospel compare with the heavy emphasis on particular election that we have heard in the past?

  3. Merry Christmas, Phil!

    Actually, your position on Original Sin is unclear. The reason is that the words Original Sin, already slippery five centuries ago, are now being applied to non-Augustinian accounts of the human fault that God judges. Because you have neither (a) affirmed that St Augustine’s now-abandoned construal and reading of Romans 5:12 is true, nor (b) joined other evangelicals in defending a new formulation of the human fault on the basis of other texts, nor (c) adopted some Eastern understanding of the human fault, it is not clear to me what you mean by Original Sin. Lest there be any doubt, I myself reject (a), respect (b), and test (c). How do you appraise these options, and (more interesting) why?

    “More explicit.” I agree with your statement below. But alas your statement could mean (a), (b), or (c) above, so despite agreeing with your statement, I may not be agreeing with you about much. Until I know what you think, there is no way that I can.

    [1] “We are all faced with the just legal condemnation of God merely by being born, because of Original Sin and our own sins. This is an objective fact, known by God to be true, whether we recognise it or not, whether we believe it or not, whether or not we think it is fair. And the greatest primary need of us all, as I see it, is to be acquitted, as an objectively true fact, known to God to be true, from that guilt and condemnation.”

    What God knows is objectively true. God is the judge in condemnation and justification. He knows every case.

    [2] “we are all faced with the just legal condemnation of God merely by being born, because of Original Sin and our own sins… whether or not we think it is fair. And the greatest primary need of us all… is to be acquitted… from that guilt and condemnation.”

    Fairness is commutativity. A thing cannot replace another thing at its origin, for if it could, they would be the same thing, and that would not be replacement. Therefore, no origin can be fair or unfair, just as it cannot be blue or dry or salty.

    However, provided that it is not understood in a commutative sense, reference to justice in this context is not a category mistake. Justice in a retributive sense makes sense here.

    [3] “we are all faced with the *just* legal condemnation of God merely by being born, because of Original Sin and our own sins… And the greatest primary need of us all… is to be acquitted… from that guilt and condemnation.”

    “Greatest” and “primary” seem redundant. I suspect that you mean “most important and most urgent.” I agree, of course.

    [4] “we are all faced with the just legal condemnation of God merely by being born, because of Original Sin and our own sins… And the… need of us all… is to be acquitted… from that guilt and condemnation.”

    “That” sets “guilt and condemnation” equal to “just legal condemnation.” “We are all” has the same referent as “us all.” Eliminating redundancies–

    [5] “The… need of us all… is to be acquitted… from…the *just* legal condemnation [= guilt and condemnation] of God merely [for] being born, because of Original Sin and our own sins…”

    The clause “The… God” refers to the last judgement mentioned in the scriptures and in the Apostles Creed, neither of which is uncertain.

    [6] “…merely [for] being born, because of Original Sin and our own sins…”

    No Christian doubts that God judges “our own sins.”

    Because no Christian today believes in the transmigration of souls, the thought that “our own sins” might have caused our “being born” is unintelligible.

    [7] “…merely [for] being born, because of Original Sin…”

    In this causal statement, the causation is unclear. Do you mean to say that God judges every baby for being a baby, for being born, for all the sin that he will eventually commit, or for all the sin that all the babies shall have eventually committed? The vagueness is in the undefined cause–

    [8] “…because of Original Sin…”

    Phil, what do you mean by Original Sin? And where in scripture do you hear resonance with your chosen definition?

    The Eastern fathers, Gerald Bray (explicitly in his God Is Love), and I all disbelieve that Romans 5:12 describes a guilt biologically inherited by each particular human being from Adam. Offhand, I can think of no other verse in the canon that could directly mean that God judges each person who survives childbirth for being Adam’s descendant. Can you?

    Instead, the same fathers, Bray, and I all agree that none of us are born in Eden. Rather than being born into Adam’s communion with God in Eden, human beings are instead “born into Adam’s broken relationship with God” (Bray, God Is Love) beyond the flaming sword. With us, I think that you, by following Thomas Schreiner’s exegesis of other verses, agree.

    Those Eastern fathers generally go on to see our relationship with God as marred as mortality induces sin (cf Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22). Whatever their intended span of life, Adam and Eve are shown living as carefree immortals in Eden and as anxious mortals in the world outside it. Because our nature was not made for this struggle to maintain life, we are vulnerable to the addictive Eight Evil Thoughts that St Gregory adapted into the Seven Deadly Sins well-known to the West. As all who have a human nature struggle to escape the consequences of mortality, so *apart from Christ*, none** who have a human nature escape these sins or the judgment they bring from God. Although this account seems to make sense, I am testing it against other parts of the canon. Phil, is this, by your definition, Original Sin?

    Apart from all this, I hope that you are enjoying a blessed holiday season.



    ** Orthodox Christians would affirm that the Theotokos did escape both sin and judgment, but, unlike Roman Catholics, they would deny that she did so *apart from Christ* by means of an *immaculate conception* of her own.

    • Bowman
      Sorry about the delay in replying to your December 27 2015 post.
      You said in that post, ‘Actually, your position on Original Sin is unclear’.
      Clearly I need to try to set out my convictions about what the Bible says about the condition in the sight of God of all of us as soon as we are born (with the exception of course of the Lord Jesus Christ) without using the term ‘Original Sin’, and set out the Biblical grounds of those convictions.
      But before I do that, in order to take our discussion/disagreement (if it is a disagreement – you will appreciate that I am pressing you to establish whether it is a disagreement) a step at a time I would like to return to a phase in our discussion, around September 27 2015 ff, where I tried to focus on the ‘juridical’ element of the doctrine of salvation (and, by implication, on the ‘juridical’ element in our condition before God from which we need to be saved).
      The question(s) I want to put to you (numbered below), involving some repetition of earlier posts, relate to Romans 8:1
      In Nestle-Marshall this reads (re-arranging the superscripted words)
      ‘Then [there is] now no condemnation to the [ones] in Christ Jesus’

      Question 1: Do you agree, in the light of this verse, that it is true that the ones who are not in Christ Jesus are faced with condemnation?

      In my 27 September 2015 post I referred to Strong’s definition of katakrima (the greek word translated as ‘condemnation’ in Romans 8:1) as ‘penalty; punishment following condemnation, penal servitude,’; and Strong gives the word origin as katakrino defined as ‘to give judgment against; I condemn, judge worthy of punishment’.

      Question 2: Do you agree that Strong’s definition and comment is right?

      Question 3: Do you agree, given the rightness of Strong’s definition and comment, that the condition of those who are not in Christ Jesus includes a juridical element, since ‘penalty, punishment following condemnation, bring a charge, give judgment against, judge worthy of punishment’ speak clearly of a law-court/legal/trial situation?

      Please note that in Question 3 I am not asking you at this point to agree that those who are not in Christ Jesus (and those now in Christ Jesus before they were in Christ Jesus) have been in that juridical condition since birth. Nor am I asking you to agree that the condition of those not in Christ Jesus is solely a juridical one.

      Phil Almond

    • Even better than Strong’s, Phil, is the word study feature of the STEP Bible linked just under the byline of Patrick Gilday’s Lenten posts on Romans. If you click that, you will find a Greek text of the passage– this one is Michael Holmes’s edition for the Society of Biblical Literature– in the right column. Just to the left of that is a column with the ESV translation. If you then click the English *condemnation* in that column, a box will open on your right that enables you to explore the Greek word behind the English one, *katakrima*. Also supplied are links to every occurrence of the word in the NT, to the LSJ definitions (Liddell, Scott, Jones; more persnickety than Strong’s ;-), and to several related words. For the sort of discussion that you enjoy, I think that you will find that these tools are more useful and reliable than Strong’s.

  4. Dave– Yes, let a thousand flowers blossom, a thousand schools of thought contend. And let our example inspire others to make comments are concise, related to the OP, and on new threads. Obviously, I struggle with my own ideal. But is there any doubt than exchanges of brief messages on fresh topics are easier for a newcomer to join?

    Phil– Can your understanding of original sin be separated from biological descent from the historical Adam? It would be more convincing to persons who acknowledge the history of human evolution if it could be.

    Tricia, Richard– You both seem to agree that the lexeme ‘marriage’ must refer to the same thing inside the Church and out of it. Tricia wants the Church’s scriptural sex-based metaphor of Christ and his Church to govern access to the social benefits of marriage in civil law that governs all sorts of non-Christians. Richard wants the state’s provision of equal access to those social benefits to all to further imply equal access to the Bible’s sex-based metaphor. Both of you seem to advocate imposing the framework of one sphere on another sphere that is different in kind (and is shown to be different in kind in scripture). Can either one of you show how the metaphor in Ephesians 5 is the same kind of thing as hospital visitation privileges, land tenure, testimony in court, inheritance rights, etc?

    • Bowman,

      I don’t think that the church must believe that the state’s legal definition of marriage is a correct one, only that it exists and people finding themselves in that state will walk through the door. At that point a discussion about what is and isn’t a marriage is probably not appropriate.

      Whether or not a same sex legal marriage is in any way related to marriage as described in Ephesians 5, isn’t the point. I think that even if we call them “Legal Marriage” and “Biblical Marriage” the church still needs to accept both of them and rejoice with those who are of one type and not necessarily the other.

      However I don’t think the church really does believe in the sex-based metaphor, at least not at any practical level. For one thing if it did then it wouldn’t mind if a couple decided to forgo the legal niceties in exchange for sexual intercourse, a promise to each other and moving in together. Surely a joint mortgage is enough commitment? On the contrary, the anglican marriage service is merely a front end to a legal wedding that might also happen to take place in a church.

      For another thing, nobody has ever asked me if I’ve consummated my marriage, or even suggested that I should. Why wouldn’t they be concerned about this if it’s important?

      • Thanks, Richard, for your swift reply. Would anything be wrong with a church with members who think it just that all citizens, including homosexual ones, have equal access to the benefits of civil registration of relationships– hospital visitation privileges, joint land tenure, testimony in court, inheritance rights, employer-provided benefits to spouses, etc– but who also recognize that the dynamics between childbearing husbands and wives are at their best a natural metaphor for the relation of Christ and the church? On the face of it, Caesar records many kinds of contracts between citizens, including ‘marriage,’ but he makes no metaphysical claim in doing so because he is not the Creator and therefore cannot do this. Meanwhile the metaphor ‘husband : wife :: Christ : Church’ would have been discoverable in the Creation by those who believe in the Resurrection even if the scriptures had never mentioned it. When we recognize the difference between the Two Kingdoms, the justice claim in the state, and the mystery claim in the Church both seem more secure. In our social contexts, the cost of muddling the two is clear; the gospel value of doing so is not.

        Your comments seem to me to reflect the muddle. The Church’s discipline give a shape to a life of faith and does not require every detail that properly matters to lawyers, just as Caesar does not need quite the clarity that an *intentional* discipline does. * If someone as intelligent and motivated as you are cannot make practical, intentional sense of the Church’s teaching, then the muddle has failed.

        (1) Debates about the ‘right’ definition of ‘marriage’ have been a dead end in both spheres from the start, so of course I would not engage any couple about that in church.

        (2) Ephesians 5 acknowledges a natural analogy that exhibits realities about both of its terms. For couples who aspire to bear chidren, it presents Christ and the Church as exemplars. For those who seek to understand Christ’s presence to his Body, it offers an earthly analogue from common experience. These are too central to Christian faith to ignore, but of course they have nothing to say about such civil matters as eg whether a partner should inherit her deceased partner’s house or be evicted from it.

        (3) In our societies, churches should distinguish with greater care between the civil status that matters to insurance companies, probate judges, etc * and the ‘state of life’ on which Christians (cf the Fulcrum statement) base their sexual and familial discipline. In practice, conservative churches equate the two, for the time being, while liberal churches separate the two insofar as they welcome unmarried couples who practice stability and fidelity. Interestingly, any church would encourage a couple expecting children to lawfully ‘solemnise’ their relationship.

        (4) If Caesar were to decide that a joint mortgage will henceforth entail such rights as hospital visitation privileges, next of kin rights, land tenure, inheritance rights in other property, a certain tax schedule, etc then, yes, a joint mortgage would be doing at high cost (and high credibility) what a marriage record does at low cost and uncertain credibility. This would be just to same sex couples, but possibly unjust to poor families.

        (5) Churchways vary from hither to yon, of course, but I can think of congregations in several places in which nobody would dream of asking about consummation, but almost anybody might ask you (more likely your wife) whether you are trying to have children “yet.” Consummation simply removes a ground for annulment in jurisdictions in which this is theoretically possible. A willingness to have children, if that is God’s will, fulfills a creation mandate.

        In some places, muddling a demanding ‘state of life’ with a rather easy legal procedure, may be confusing the faithful more than it helps them.

        * In the West, where the Church reshaped barbarian custom into a civil pattern somewhat influenced by Roman law, the ‘legal niceties’ you mention register and permit a physical relationship, but do not constitute it (hence the quibbling about consumation in the new statute). At the time of Christ, Roman jurists regarded couples as married ‘ad manus’ if the woman had spent three nights under the roof of the man. Today, Pennsylvania judges, among others, regard such couples as married under the common law after about a month. And the wily judges of Virginia still presume, as they did in the C17, that an unregistered couple has whatever marital status both say they have, and are forbidden to hear contrary evidence in court. These examples suggest that although Caesar finds it easiest to deal with couples who have registered their relationships, he can mete out pretty good justice even if they haven’t.

    • I agree, but that last paragraph implies that, if Christian marriage as understood by the Church is different from secular marriage, as understood by the State, those married in Church should sign a different register to record that they have entered a different institution. Otherwise there is confusion and lack of clarity about our position. If the two world-views are to co-exist there needs to be clarity about which one applies in which context, otherwise the tension becomes unbearable and a threat both to the unity of the Church and its relation with the State and civil society.

      • Yes, Kenneth, you are quite right; Richard and Tricia might agree as well. Since even a pattern that has served our societies tolerably well for several centuries is messier on the ground than in our arguments, I will concede that any clarification of discipline, however sound in itself, risks misrepresentation.

        What is to be done? Well, first we must retrieve the discipline from the institution. That requires of us a conjunctio oppositorum– both a much more robust affirmation of the justice of making the material civil rights incidentially associated with marriage by man equally available to all citizens, and also a much more robust affirmation of the Father’s creation mandate as the ground of the Church’s sexual discipline today. We might strongly prefer that justice had been done in another way, but I think we have to acknowledge that some justice has been done. (The right analogy, by the way, is not the abolition of slavery, but the repeal of the Test Act.) We might also wish we could avoid emphasis on procreation in our discussions of discipleship and sexuality, but this evasion seems foreign to the scriptures. (That is, I do not believe that the middling course of commiserating with homosexuals about homophobia and insisting on man/woman difference is either right or helpful.) If we get that far, then the greater hazard is not that our societies will not understand where God has drawn the line, but that serious Christians who not only have a recreational understanding of sex, but who live in a Patriphobic age will not know how to make sense of the mere idea of a creation mandate. We should welcome dialogue about that, of course. The right strategy for that challenge will determine the right practice.

    • Bowman
      I reply, somewhat indirectly, as follows: When Paul speaks in Romans 5:12-21 of ‘one man’ (5:12), ‘Adam’ (5:14), ‘offence of the one man’ (5:15), ‘one sinning’ (5:16), ‘judgment of one to condemnation’ (5:16), ‘by the offence of the one [man] death reigned through the one [man]’ (5:17), ‘through one offence’ (5:18), ‘through the disobedience of the one man’ (5:19) it is very clear that the Apostle is referring to Genesis 3. It is also very clear that when he writes ‘For since through a man death [came]…..’ and ‘For in Adam all die….’ (1 Corinthians 15:21-22) he is referring to Genesis 3. It is also very clear that in 1 Corinthians 11:7b-9 he is referring to Genesis 2. Equally clearly, Paul must have believed that Genesis 2 and Genesis 3 are true. Similarly, when Jesus said ‘Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?’ it is very clear that Jesus was referring to Genesis 1 and 2 and clear that he believed that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are true.
      With respect to the Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 verses alluded to above, Paul asserts, on the basis of the truth of Genesis 3, some highly unwelcome conclusions about the human race: that we are all under the reign of sin and death and condemned in the sight of God, in need of the great salvation which God and Christ offer to all. These conclusions are unavoidable given what Paul says in Romans 5:12-21.It is just not possible to understand or interpret him in any other way.
      Whether Genesis 1-3 are true literally or true figuratively is an important debate but what matters for this debate is that they are TRUE.

      Phil Almond

        • Bowman
          Thank you. As you will have realised, my reply tries to emphasise that those who believe that the Bible is trustworthy have no option but to believe that the doctrine of Original Sin is true (‘it’s the exegesis, friends’), whatever their views on what I would call the generally accepted understanding (GAU) of the chronology of life on earth and of the fossil record, in which the literal/figurative issue of Adam is a key part.

          To avoid misunderstanding, I point out that, at the moment, I see no satisfactory way that belief in GAU and belief in a wholly trustworthy Bible can be simultaneously held, as I posted in the old fulcrum. I realise that this is a very important pastoral issue for those Christians who believe that GAU is as certain as the rotundity of the earth. I also realise that I am thereby disagreeing with numerous devout, earnest, faithful, conservative exegetes some of whose writings I have otherwise found very helpful and edifying e.g. Packer, Warfield and (I think) Bray.

          I possibly weary you all by asserting again that the doctrine of Original Sin is the essential overarching, sombre, realistic, true diagnosis of the human condition in the sight of the Lord God Almighty. Against this background we are urged to recognise that the riches of God’s kindness and his forbearance and longsuffering lead us to repentance, to embrace the wonderful salvation he offers to all by submitting in repentance, faith, love, fear and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ in his atoning death and life giving resurrection.

          Phil Almond

        • No, Phil, there is nothing wearying about your comments about ‘original sin.’ There is no Christianity anywhere– East or West, liberal or conservative– that does not have some account of the flaw in human nature from which Christ saves us. We badly need a discussion about what that is, what we do about it, and how to talk about these things in the C21. So why doesn’t this happen?

          (1) Prejudice. When serious Christians– including many evangelicals– are reacting against the purely juridical understanding of salvation, their minds blank when they hear the words ‘original sin.’ They do not believe in their own perfection, but they associate that label with a whole complex of unthinkable thoughts. This is why I look forward to seeing how Richard puts this into his own words.

          (2) Timing. Before one can discuss ‘original sin,’ the heart must catch up to the mind. George Fox was right: worldly happy-talk makes perfect sense to normal people through much of their lives, and only God can decide when we will feel the pervasiveness of the cruelty around us, our own deep complicity in it, a fresh impulse to change in him, and his warning not to reject it. Through the years when persons are still learning how the world goes round, even serious believers are not profound spiritual critics of it and may have a certain unthinking callousness that they will later regret. Most require some maturity to experience the crisis in which talk of ‘original sin’ makes intuitive sense.

          • Bowman
            Thank you for this post. If ‘prejudice’ as stated by you inhibits discussion of original sin, to counter that prejudice is something I would want to do. Therefore it would be helpful if you enlarged on what you mean by ‘purely juridical understanding of salvation’ and ‘whole complex of unthinkable thoughts’.
            Phil Almond

          • At the week’s end, Phil, I will try to put the prejudice I see into a few words. I am glad that you are willing to combat it.

            In the meantime, you may want to google Donald Fairbairn’s article, Patristic Soteriology: Three Trajectories. It’s a free download from JETS, and parts III, VI, VII, and VIII speak to the point. Fairbairn is not opposed to ‘juridical’ soteriology– he’s a traditional evangelical who believes it– but he does point out that the language of ‘adoption’ and ‘participation’ in that soteriology can be richer than it has lately been. For evangelicals interested in exploring this, he proposes SS Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Cyril as a trajectory of exemplars. Some of my Reformed friends have found that they can quite easily fit covenant theology into this framework, with what advantages you can surely guess.

            To some villagers, this– in fact, our whole conversation– must all sound hopelessly archaic. But this time has not a little in common with late antiquity. We really do seem to faced again with childlike societies that wonder things like– What is a god?; What is worshipping a god?; Why would one do this?; Why can there be only one of them?; If a god is invisible, then how do you know that there is one?; If someone is visible, then what makes him a god?; Why do religious people follow different rules? etc. To me, theosis first came as a sophisticated Patristic answer to Reformation questions about sanctification after justification. But I find that at least some people who cannot get their heads around ‘original sin’ can get the simpler idea that, if you want to escape what your heart shows you is dead in the world and to be part of the new creation that Christ inaugurated, then renounce evil and unite with Him.

          • Phil, the chief prejudices seem to be beliefs in universal social ‘Progress’ and personal responsibility for it that are widely respected but hard to square with properly radical understandings of the Fall and the defect in human nature. So far as I can see, people absorb these from social practises that embody them (eg reading the newspaper), and only after the fact rationalise them by quibbles about science, the Bible, free will, etc. I am not sure how to combat such a vast complex of tacit social understandings directly, but obviously in Christ one can bear witness to a way of living that is free of the illusion of the age. If one is energized by that freedom, it will be attractive to others.

          • Bowman

            I am still occupied with reviewing the whole Bible and some Romans Commentaries (Cranfield chapters 1-8, Moo, Schreiner, Murray, Lloyd-Jones’ sermons) focussing on Salvation, Gospel, Law, Justification, Good Works, Spirit, Flesh, Sanctification, Day of Judgment, Tom Wright, seeking the strongest views from all sides to stress test my convictions. So I am not yet in a position to give my thoroughly researched and tested views on some of the vital and profound issues raised by your recent posts and Donald Fairbairn’s article. Although, as you will have gathered, my stated convictions about Original Sin and the wrath and condemnation of God, about God’s sovereignty in predestination, about God and Christ’s genuine sincere invitation/command/exhortation to repent and turn to Christ (how the last two can be simultaneously true is one of God’s secrets) are ‘stakes in the ground’ and are unlikely to be overthrown by even the strongest counter arguments. But I offer the following observations on your posts and Fairbairn’s article, stressing again (excuse me) that I am discussing what the truths of Christianity are and what those who regard themselves as Christians and believe that Christianity is in some sense true, believe are the truths of Christianity. I am not discussing who are the Christians.
            In your August 28 2015 post you said ‘There is no Christianity anywhere– East or West, liberal or conservative– that does not have some account of the flaw in human nature from which Christ saves us’. I agree with that. But it is also obvious to me (does anyone out there disagree?) that when we examine the different ‘account(s) of the flaw in human nature’ held by liberals, conservatives, East and West there are, whatever shades of meaning and emphasis and qualifications may enter into how those accounts are stated, only two accounts. In the first account, all humans enter the world as guilty sinners in the sight of God, spiritually dead, and facing his holy wrath and condemnation. In the other, whatever is true of all humans, this first account is not true. At the back of this irreconcilable difference of accounts (excuse me for saying again) is a fundamental difference in who God and Christ are, what they are like, what they have said and done etc.
            You then go on to say ‘We badly need a discussion about what that is, what we do about it, and how to talk about these things in the C21’. Well, you and I are having that discussion. But perhaps we are having it in the wrong place. What I lack is a list of serious discussion websites where these vital matters are debated in a thorough and candid way. Have you a view?
            You then go on to say
            ‘So why doesn’t this happen?
            (1) Prejudice. When serious Christians– including many evangelicals– are reacting against the purely juridical understanding of salvation, their minds blank when they hear the words ‘original sin.’ They do not believe in their own perfection, but they associate that label with a whole complex of unthinkable thoughts. This is why I look forward to seeing how Richard puts this into his own words.’

            In response to my post of 1 September 2015, requesting clarification of ‘purely juridicial understanding of salvation’ and ‘whole complex of unthinkable thoughts’ you pointed me to the Fairbairn article and gave a view on the ‘chief prejudices’.

            Fairbairn notes:
            ‘I should add that in this article, I will not deal with the issue of how salvation is achieved,
            and thus I will not address the atonement, the relation between faith and obedience, the interaction of divine action and human action in salvation, or the like. My subject in this article will be simply the question of what salvation actually is, according to each of the three patristic patterns or trajectories.’
            You are probably aware of the story (I don’t know whether it is true) of the conversation between a Salvation Army young lady and a Professor of Theology:
            Young lady: ‘Are you saved?’
            Professor: ‘Do you mean “am I saved?” or “am I being saved?” or “will I be saved?”’

            I have always assumed that the point the Professor was making is that his answer to all three questions is ‘yes’. A Christian is saved and is being saved and will be saved. It is the point I have tried to make (possibly more than once – sorry) that salvation is a process, a process punctuated by events, events which include (not necessarily all in this order): predestination to life, regeneration, justification, adoption, gift of the Holy Spirit, baptism which unites us to Christ, resurrection, glorification.

            Evangelical theology, being based on what the Bible says, rules out completely a ‘purely juridicial understanding of salvation’ if by that is meant (following the definition of ‘juridicial’ in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary) ‘purely relating to judicial proceedings and the law’. But I do agree that evangelical theologians, pastors, teachers and pew-fillers (I am one) need to be continually on their guard lest they give or are content with that misleading impression. That danger can arise because justification has been generally regarded (and still is by me, subject to completion of the stress-test mentioned above), as Packer noted somewhere long ago, as the foundation blessing of the Christian life; and if most of the hymns we sing and sermons we hear (often evangelistic in intent) are about the cross of Christ (less frequently about his resurrection), his death as a penal substitutionary atonement, bearing the punishment we deserve, redeeming us from the curse of the law, there is a potential danger that sanctification, the call to be holy, the command to be transformed, the purpose of God for his chosen that they be conformed to the image of his Son, the command to mortify by the Spirit the deeds of the body, the need to endure Christ’s refining fire, to be conformed to his death, can be lost sight of and the impression can be given that these things are optional extras. Articles 12 and 17 stress some of these as essential to salvation.

            Relying on my memory, Packer went on to say that while justification is the foundation blessing it is not the highest blessing; adoption is the highest blessing. In saying this Packer approaches what Fairbairn rightly stresses, that, in the words of Bray (my emphasis)

            ‘The true heritage of the Reformation, and especially of Calvin, may therefore be defined as a theology of the divine persons, whose attributes express both their distinctiveness and their unity. The incommunicable attributes constitute the absolute, divine essence, which is his unity: the communicable attributes come together in the pattern of divine relations by which we see the model of the divine society, and experience, by our adoption as sons and daughters of God in the image of Christ, the reality of fellowship in the inner life of the Holy Trinity.’ (Doctrine of God page 224).

            Of course, just how often this potential danger becomes a real danger in evangelical churches the world over is difficult to say. But I agree with Fairbairn when he calls for this aspect of salvation to be re-emphasised.

            Provided….two things: Firstly, it continues to be recognised that salvation also includes the things that the Bible includes:– in shorthand and not comprehensive – peace with God; reconciled to God; no more hunger or thirst; no more tears or sorrow; pleasures for evermore; faultless in his glorious presence with triumphant joy; he will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing; eat of the tree of life; hidden manna; white stone; new name; morning star; sit with Christ in his throne; holiness; reign for ever and ever; like him for we shall see him as he is; see his face and his name in their foreheads; the slaves of him will do service to him. Secondly, so long as this aspect of salvation is not divorced from what Fairbairn calls ‘the issue of how salvation is achieved’ that is, a right understanding of ‘the atonement, the relation between faith and obedience, the interaction of divine action and human action in salvation, or the like’.

            Going back to your posts. If I put together your August 28 2015 post and your September 4 2015 post you seem to be saying that serious Christians – including many evangelicals – are prejudiced against original sin because of ‘beliefs in universal social ‘Progress’ and personal responsibility for it that are widely respected but hard to square with properly radical understandings of the Fall and the defect in human nature’. I agree with your point that the witness of our lives as Christians should (and how often do we fail) attract others to Christ, but I would also argue that serious Christians, ‘including many evangelicals’ are confronted by Romans 5:12-21. The truth of the doctrine of original sin does not depend on Augustine having correctly translated verse 12. As I have commented in another post (31 July 2015) ‘As Schreiner points out in his Romans commentary (page 288), death and condemnation are traced again and again to Adam’s sin (verses 15, 16, 17, 18, 19)’. Everybody agrees this is a mystery. Everybody agrees that it is a dreadful truth. But it is a truth, an exegetical fact that is, as Warfield said of the doctrine of predestination, ‘a dreadful fact that stares us full in the face’ – a fact that cannot be avoided if we believe that the Apostle Paul wrote the truth.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil, enjoy your studies! Will you read any of the fathers?

            Fairbairn’s main contribution in that article is his suggestion that evangelicals enrich their standard ‘juridical’ account of salvation with the ‘theosis’ theology pioneered by SS Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Cyril (as distinct from the other stream that flows from Origen through the Cappadocians to SS Maximus and Gregory). He does not suggest pulling up your stakes; he suggests a second way of approach that has the advantage of foregrounding things too often postponed indefinitely.

            The discovery of St Augustine’s error at Romans 5:12 has not led evangelicals to pull up the stake of ‘original sin’ and toss it away, but it has led some to stop assuming that some other views are incompatible with his ‘juridical’ one. Unfortunately, some systematicians are less transparent about their thinking on this point than one would wish. Among the Reformed, Henri Blocher and Michael Bird are commendably clear. But Fairbairn, as a patrologist, is the clearest of all. I hope you find his work interesting.

          • Bowman
            Thanks for your post of September 17 2015. These are my comments.
            In my September 15 2015 post I tried to make the point that evangelical (and Anglican – see Articles 9, 17) theology, although, following the Bible, is clear that we are all faced with God’s just condemnation, and therefore need to be delivered from that condemnation (and this essential element is ‘juridical’ or ‘forensic’), yet evangelical (and Anglican – see Articles 12, 17) theology, also following the Bible, is equally clear that ‘salvation’ includes equally important and essential ‘non-juridical’ elements, including ‘experience, by our adoption as sons and daughters of God in the image of Christ, the reality of fellowship in the inner life of the Holy Trinity.’
            I have two questions at this point: firstly, your phrase ‘standard ‘juridical’ account of salvation’ suggests that perhaps you do not accept that evangelical theology’s doctrine of salvation (at its best, whatever distortions or misunderstandings of it are sometimes held) does include these essential ‘non-juridical’ elements. Is this so? Secondly, it seems to me that Fairbairn’s ‘so that we could share in the deepest personal relationship there is, his own relationship between the persons of the Trinity’ and Bray’s ‘experience, by our adoption as sons and daughters of God in the image of Christ, the reality of fellowship in the inner life of the Holy Trinity’ are saying the same thing. Do you not see it that way?
            Turning to your second paragraph: it depends on what we each mean by ‘original sin’. Put it this way. In his post of 26 July 2015 Richard W (I don’t know whether he would describe himself as an evangelical) said ‘In many ways I can agree with article 9….’ and went on to clarify his view. When I stated in detail my convictions about original sin in my 31 July 2015 post, Richard candidly replied, ‘Phil, you asked: “Are we fully agreed on these last four convictions?” Speaking for myself, and in a spirit of honesty and brevity, no, I’m far from agreed’.
            I believe the ‘last four convictions’ are inescapable because of what the Bible says, especially Romans 5 verses 15-19. Do you not agree? It would be helpful if you could indicate where in the Bible ‘other views’ are set out which are true and can be held while at the same time holding to the truth of my ‘four convictions’.

            (Incidentally, as you are probably aware, Blocher has some interesting comments on Augustine’s translation of 5:12 on page 71 of his ‘Original Sin – Illuminating the riddle’)

            Phil Almond

          • Phil, as I read your comment, it asks two basic questions.

            (Q1) What is the difference between a ‘juridical + personal’ gospel (eg Fairbairn) and a ‘juridical (with adoption)’ gospel (eg Bray)?

            The ‘juridical + personal’ soteriology necessarily ensures that union with Christ will be in the foreground of both teaching and practice just as it is in scripture. Belief in adoption has not reliably influenced faith and practise in this way. Unfortunately, with the exception of Lutherans, especially in the US, Anglicans in the 4-point tradition (eg Bird, perhaps Bray), and some careful Wesleyans, evangelical proponents of a ‘juridical (with adoption)’ gospel have usually neglected union with Christ in practice and teaching and often even in theology.

            (Q2) Is there scriptural support for non-juridical trajectory that would be compatible with your beliefs in wrath and spiritual death? Union with Christ is well supported in scripture (see, most recently, Grant Macaskill’s survey of the NT evidence). While also believing as you do, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley all taught doctrines of union with Christ that are developed enough to have been compared recently to Orthodox theosis (eg Cabasilas). These are non-juridical; they are compatible with your belief in wrath and spiritual death.

          • Bowman
            Thanks for your 26 September 2015 post.
            Replying candidly, but I trust fairly: while your response no doubt embodies implicit answers to my three questions I don’t see explicit direct answers in it. I hope you will not be offended if I explain what I mean.

            Question 1: Do you or do you not accept that evangelical theology’s doctrine of salvation, although it is clear that we are all faced with God’s just condemnation, and therefore need to be delivered from that condemnation (and this essential element is ‘juridical’ or ‘forensic’) does also (at its best, whatever distortions or misunderstandings of it are sometimes held) include essential ‘non-juridical’ elements, such as (quoting from my 15 September post) sanctification, the call to be holy, the command to be transformed, the purpose of God for his chosen that they be conformed to the image of his Son, the command to mortify by the Spirit the deeds of the body, the need to endure Christ’s refining fire, to be conformed to his death, and, I add in this post, the doctrine of union with Christ?
            Question 2: Considering Fairbairn’s ‘so that we could share in the deepest personal relationship there is, his own relationship between the persons of the Trinity’ and Bray’s ‘experience, by our adoption as sons and daughters of God in the image of Christ, the reality of fellowship in the inner life of the Holy Trinity’: why do ‘….share in the deepest personal relationship there is, his own relationship between the persons of the Trinity’ and ‘…the reality of fellowship in the inner life of the Holy Trinity’ not mean the same thing?
            Question 3: In my 31 July 2015 post I gave my view that
            1 Because of the sin of Adam, we are all born with a faulty corrupt inclined to evil nature, because of which we cannot please God.
            2 This nature remains in the regenerate who have received the Spirit of God and these are exhorted to walk in the Spirit and put to death the practices of the body (“put ye to death therefore the (your) members on the earth” (as Colossians 3:5 puts it)).
            3 Because of the sin of Adam we are all faced with God’s holy wrath and just condemnation merely by being born.
            4 We are born spiritually dead towards God.
            Do you agree with: all of these statements; none of them; some of them (which please)?

            Just in case we are at cross-purposes I would like to briefly define what I mean when I have used the term juridical as being an essential element (but not the only essential element) in the Biblical doctrine of salvation. Strong defines the greek word katakrima in Romans 8:1 (‘Then [there] is now no condemnation to the [ones] in Christ Jesus) as ‘penalty; punishment following condemnation, penal servitude, penalty’. Strong gives the word origin as katakrino defined as ‘to give judgment against; I condemn, judge worthy of punishment’. In Romans 8:33-34 we read ‘Who will bring a charge against chosen ones of God? God [is] the [one] justifying; who the [one] condemning (katakrinon). Assuming Strong is correct I deduce from this: that the words ‘penalty, punishment following condemnation, bring a charge, give judgment against, judge worthy of punishment’ speak clearly of a law-court/legal/trial situation: that those who are not in Christ Jesus are still under condemnation; that God’s ‘justifying’, whatever else if anything it does, does remove condemnation, does acquit.

            Also, as I see it, the juridical view, as defined by me above, and the truth of union with Christ are both true; they are not competing alternatives.

            You know far more about Eastern theology and the views of the Fathers than I do. But I have got to say that I have gained the impression that Eastern theology rejects the juridical view as having any part in the Biblical doctrine of salvation, and, I also have to say, candidly, that I have gained the impression that you likewise reject it. Please correct me if I am wrong in either or both of these impressions.

            Phil Almond

          • Yes, Phil, thinking it possible that someone somewhere might be reading this, I simplified your questions in answering them. On the original questions–

            (Q1) Yes– the hybrid that you describe is a worthy evangelical ideal, and probably both Fairbairn’s and Bray’s ultimate objective. No– although I am sitting at this moment in America’s evangelical heartland, it is not likely that I would find what you describe being practised in ordinary evangelical churches within a hour’s drive of this tablet.

            (Q2) Maybe. Obviously the words you quote sound similar. But there are hazards in comparing any patrologist to any systematician and they are relevant to a Fairbairn-Bray comparison. Their agendas are surely compatible– Fairbairn is opening several lines of attack against the liberal historical narratives about scripture and the early church; Bray is conserving the Western consensus (cf Blocher), both by rearguing some disputed points and by broadening the scope of it. But the (ev)angel is in the details.

            (Q3) The ‘spiritual death’ theme running through your four points is not clear enough for me to apply it to this context. For exotic example, when St Nicholas Cabasilas says (BNF Parisinus Graecus 1213) that the Theotokos overcame the effects of the Fall by singleminded devotion to God, he assumes the standard Byzantine anthropology (gnomic will) that resolved the Monothelite controversy, I assume that you would deny that anyone but Jesus has lived without sin, but I am unclear about the scriptural basis on which you would do that.

            My personal experience of grace has been, like St Paul’s, centred in the Resurrection. That has opened my mind to some lines of thought not native to the English Reformed stream of evangelicalism.

          • Phil, I hesitate to altogether confirm the notion that the Greek fathers, their Byzantine heirs, or the Orthodox Church today have rejected the ‘juridical’ trajectory root and branch. Beware: villagers here in Fulcrum can discuss this calmly, but debates over this elsewhere can be quite heated.

            Fairbairn is right to point out that many early fathers taught hybrids of two or more of his trajectories. Still, none will dispute that the Greek fathers and those after them preferred medical metaphors for the Fall to legal ones, and that the Latin church cultivated the legal one in a form unknown in the East. Nor will anyone deny that, although both West and East have had dialectically proficient scholars down the centuries, ours have mostly been schoolmen building systems and theirs have mostly been monastics interpreting texts interpreting texts interpreting scripture. According to one’s interests, these differences can seem great or small, but they are real.

            The temperature rises when someone, often Catholic, suggests that, really, the medical metaphor just boils down to the legal one, and that only the inconsistent usage of the monks has concealed what a little systematic thought makes plain. Or when someone else, often Orthodox, suggests that the legal metaphor is fine as far as it goes, but that most of lived life in Christ is better understood with the medical one, as some practical experience of serious fasting and all-night vigils would reveal fairly quickly.

            The pot boils over when it comes to Mary. Is Catholic teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary (immaculate conception, assumption) a clearer exposition of Orthodox teaching on the Theotokos (all-holiness, dormition), illustrating perhaps the superior clarity of the papal magisterium? Or is it a radically mistaken distortion of patristic teaching on her Son, one that shows that Rome is as liable to error as any other church? Any answer depends on what you first decide about the relation of the legal and medical metaphors for the Fall.

            Personally, I do not reject the juridical metaphor; it has Judaic roots, the Greek fathers sometimes used it, and it addresses something real about souls. But by their fruits ye shall know them. It is the thread through the Articles, but also through everything that the Reformers rejected.

          • Bowman
            Thanks for your replies though I have to confess that I have not understood all the points you are making and I am not sure which set of my questions you are answering (those in my 25 September 2015 post or those in my 27 September 2015 post).

            In this post I will just comment on what to me is the central issue: the essential (as I see it) ‘juridical’ element in the Biblical doctrine of salvation (acknowledging that there are those other ‘non’juridical’ elements which are also essential).

            You posted (28 September) ‘Personally, I do not reject the juridical metaphor; it has Judaic roots, the Greek fathers sometimes used it, and it addresses something real about souls’. I wonder if ‘I do not reject’ is followed by an unstated ‘but’ which prevents you from saying ‘I accept’. You give three reasons for not rejecting the juridical ‘metaphor’. I bow to your superior knowledge for the first two. I am not absolutely sure what you mean by the third – ‘it addresses something real about souls’. If I were to use this phrase I would be pointing to the fact that as a sinner I know I deserve God’s condemnation and punishment, know it not just because it is a doctrine I believe and which is true but also know it in my soul. That is why I am somewhat uncomfortable with ‘metaphor’. ‘Reality’ would be my word – the reality which Peter knew when he exclaimed, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord’.

            But what puzzles me about the three reasons you give is that you do not mention what to me is a much stronger exegetical reason which I tried to highlight in my 27 September post: the katakrima word group in Romans and what, according to Strong, these words mean. I mentioned Romans 8:1 and Romans 8:34. Katakrima (condemnation) is also used in Romans 5: 16, ‘And not as through one[man] sinning the gift; for on the one hand judgment [is] of one [offence] to condemnation, on the other the free gift [is] of many offences to justification’ and Romans 5:18, ‘So therefore as through one offence to all men to condemnation, so also through one righteous act to all men to justification of life’. I do not see how anyone can deny that these verses, if Strong is right about the meaning of katakrima, say that the condemnation under which we all stand is because of Adam’s sin, nor that ‘condemnation’ is a legal term and, for us all, a terrible just legal reality which can only be cancelled by the atoning death of Christ.

            I mention briefly some (not all) further points in support of this essential juridical element:
            ‘For truly I say to you, until pass away the heaven and the earth, iota one or one point by no means shall pass away from the law, until all things come to pass’ (Matthew 5:19)
            ‘I never knew you; depart from me the[ones] working lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:23).
            ‘Everyone doing sin does also lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4).
            ‘For [he] who keeps all the law, yet stumbles in one thing, he has become guilty of all’ (James 2:10).
            The importance of ‘law’ throughout Romans e.g. ‘….for through law is full knowledge of sin’ (Romans 3:20b)
            Paul speaks of the 10 commandments as ‘the ministry of death’ and ‘the ministry of condemnation’ (2 Corinthians 3: 7 and 9).
            It is clear from Daniel’s prayer that the exile was God’s judgment because ‘…we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets’ (Daniel 9:10)
            God is called ‘The Judge of all the earth’
            We must all appear before the tribunal of Christ.

            As ever I recognise that Christians (known to God to be Christians) can be astray or go astray in their doctrinal convictions and that, conversely, a person can believe intellectually all the elements of the Biblical doctrine of salvation without necessarily being a Christian. I recognise also that in coming to Christ and growing to Christian maturity we may become convinced of different truths at different times.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil, there is no doubt that SS Irenaeus, Athanasius, and especially Cyril were familiar with the passages you mention, but they were chiefly concerned to underline the differences between the failure of the Law to save the Jews and the happy success of the Christian’s participation in Christ. In their view, we have such attributes as sonship and righteousness, neither by our own sheer effort nor by a merely forensic imputation, but rather through participation in the One who has them by nature. It is just because our holiness is His holiness that no accusation of the Law can stand against it.

            And how does this participation come about? By faith. Were we to adopt the usual Protestant language for Cyril’s teaching, we should say that both ‘justification’ and ‘sanctification’ are ‘by grace through faith in Christ apart from works of the Law.’ In this, the patriarch anticipates the present Reformed consensus (cf Kelly Kapic ed Sanctification).

            Since Cyril is better known for the christology adopted at Chalcedon, it is natural to wonder whether his ‘justification’ doctrine, which is so dependent on participation, has any relation to Christ’s “two natures in one person.” Indeed, it does. Against the idea that Christ indwells believers as a guide to our own efforts, Cyril argues that it is actually the humanity of the Son that wins every battle.

          • Phil, there is no doubt that SS Irenaeus, Athanasius, and especially Cyril were familiar with the passages you mention, but they were chiefly concerned to underline the differences between the failure of the Law to save the Jews and the happy success of the Christian’s participation in Christ. In their view, we have such attributes as sonship and righteousness, neither by our own sheer effort nor by a merely forensic imputation, but rather through participation in the One who has them by nature. It is just because our holiness is His holiness that no accusation of the Law can stand against it.

            And how does this participation come about? By faith. Were we to adopt the usual Protestant language for Cyril’s teaching, we should say that both ‘justification’ and ‘sanctification’ are ‘by grace through faith in Christ apart from works of the Law.’ In this, the patriarch anticipates the present Reformed consensus (cf Kelly Kapic ed Sanctification).

            Since Cyril is better known for the christology adopted at Chalcedon, it is natural to wonder whether his ‘justification’ doctrine, which is so dependent on participation, has any relation to Christ’s “two natures in one person.” Indeed, it does. Against the idea that Christ merely indwells believers as a guide to our own efforts, Cyril argues that it is actually the humanity of the Son that wins our every battle, we receiving the benefit of this by our participation in him.

            Cyril likely never heard anything like the juridical soteriology of later Western tradition. If he had, would he have said that it is wrong? My guess is that, no, he would have deemed it to be true as far as it goes, but also incomplete and roundabout. Real, but not the central reality.

            (a) A juridical soteriology normally treats only the cross as salvific. This opens the gap between gospel-Christians and pauline-Christians that plagues today’s Church (although there is no similar gap between the gospels and the epistles). A soteriology of participation in the whole life, death, and rising of the incarnate Son closes that gap.

            (b) Wondrous as it is that the believer is forgiven the Fall through appropriation of the grace from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, still more wondrous is his eternal sonship through immediate participation in the true Son. Juridical soteriologies generally feature a prominent break between a ‘justification’ that remits the guilt of original sin and a notoriously unclear ‘sanctification’ that struggles against actual sin. If Protestants have differed with Rome on the former, they have quarreled among themselves over the latter. A soteriology of participation acknowledges both realities, but treats them as aspects of a single salvific participation.

            On reflection, we should be able to list some advantages unique to a juridical soteriology. In fact, I think that we should try to do so here. But even so, the two together are better than either one, which is Fairbairn’s point.

          • Bowman

            This post just comments on your

            “A juridical soteriology normally treats only the cross as salvific. This opens the gap between gospel-Christians and pauline-Christians that plagues today’s Church (although there is no similar gap between the gospels and the epistles). A soteriology of participation in the whole life, death, and rising of the incarnate Son closes that gap”.

            To try to make my point I have taken the liberty of re-titling, slightly modifying and expanding Article 17 as follows:

            Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and condemnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season; they through Grace repent and obey the calling; their sins are forgiven; they receive the gift of righteousness and are freely justified by Christ’s blood and are thus delivered from condemnation; they are reconciled to God by the death of his Son; they be made sons of God by adoption; they are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son; they are united with Christ in his death, quickened together with Christ in his resurrection, seated with him in the heavenlies so that their life is hid with Christ in God; they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who sheds the love of God abroad in their hearts; the Spirit takes share in the weakness of them and supplicates on their behalf with unutterable groaning; they are pruned by the Father to bear more fruit; they are comforted by the Father, by Christ and by the Spirit; their fellowship in the Spirit is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ; by the gracious work of the Spirit they be made like the image of God’s only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; their vile bodies will be changed and fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body; their works will be tested by fire on the Day of Judgment; if their works are burned up they will suffer loss but they will be saved yet so as through fire; if their work remains they will receive a reward; both will be saved to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.
            This is my attempt (could be improved of course!) to set out what God’s wonderful salvation for sinners is, and the gracious work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to accomplish it.
            It is a plan which will succeed in the sovereign love mercy and grace of the Holy Trinity for all those whom the Father has given to Christ. It is a plan which we are commanded and exhorted to co-operate with by, for example, obeying Christ’s commandments, doing the Father’s will, working out our own salvation with fear and trembling knowing that it is God who works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure, confessing and repenting of the sins that we commit; by the Spirit continually putting to death the deeds of the body; figuratively cutting off hands and feet, plucking out eyes, which offend us, laying down our lives for the brethren, patiently bearing and rejoicing in tribulation, imitating Christ in his humility, patience, compassion and pity, suffering with Christ, enduring the Father’s chastening and Christ’s refining fire. (And the rest).
            This, as I see it, is the Biblical view of salvation. It is also, incidentally, whatever may be the situation in America, the view of salvation which is generally believed, taught, embraced, by all the conservative evangelical churches in the UK with which I am familiar, either by direct experience or reliable repute. (Possibly with the exception of my view of 1 Corinthians 3 which some might restrict to those commissioned to teach and preach and lead).
            Would you say that this view, as described above, ‘treats only the cross as salvific’? As I see it the work of the Father is salvific, the work of the Spirit is salvific, the teaching and commands of Christ in the gospels are salvific, Christ in his resurrection, in his ascension, in his ever-living intercession is salvific.
            It does seem to me that you struggle to accept that a soteriology which insists that deliverance from God’s condemnation of us all, because of original sin and our own personal sins, is our primary need, and insists that this need can only be met by the salvific event of the atoning death of Christ, personally appropriated by faith, can also equally strongly insist that this great deliverance is the experiential beginning and not the end of salvation, which end is brought about by the other gracious non-juridical events and processes described, carried out by the Triune God.
            Contra your ‘This opens the gap between gospel-Christians and pauline-Christians that plagues today’s Church (although there is no similar gap between the gospels and the epistles)’ my view is that the biggest ‘plague’ of today’s Church, especially in the liberal West, (but, it would appear from your informed view, also in Easter orthodoxy) is the widespread reluctance to accept and act upon in warning and evangelism what both Jesus (in the gospels) and Paul and John and James and Peter make clear is the most important diagnosis of the fallen human condition – our just, legal and terrible condemnation before God the righteous judge.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil, I have long suspected that everything is better in England, and now, after reading your last comment, I can be sure of it. Not only are all evangelicals there teaching Article 17 lucidly, but they are doing so with a vivid personal eschatology, equal attention to the several mysteries of Christ’s ministry, and equal thanksgiving for works of the three Persons. The grass is greener on your side of the pond.

            By way of contrast, consider a recent Christmas. After a eucharist and sherry with the Cowleys by the Charles in Cambridge, I flew to Norfolk for my sister’s celebration. And there, among all the Christmas carols sung in her conservative Presbyterian church, I heard a rather morbid sermon about hell and a prayer for deliverance from fire. This was a Christ- was- born- to- die- on- the- cross sermon like the one that inspired a thread a few years ago in old Fulcrum. (Who there heard a sermon like that? And where?) Outside a few teenaged girls in their holiday best attire laughed and shouted together to the departing worshippers in the parking lot, “Merry Christmas, everybody! Go. To. Hell!” Now I know that you don’t mind a bit of infernal warmth in a presentation of the gospel, but for all the reasons just mentioned above, you would have quite properly hated it.

            Later on, the preacher was introduced to me. Curious to see where he would place himself on the Reformed spectrum, I asked him about Richard Gaskin’s research on the Westminster Standards. He affirmed that he was indeed a rock-ribbed Westminster man, but was not sure about revisionist interpretations of the Standards. (Gaskin, revisionist?) I could say more, but I think that you can see his point on the line. And indeed you can see my point here– I’d like to hear, not less about the Law, but much more about everything else.

          • Phil, in my last post I should have typed the name of Richard Gaffin, the longtime professor at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). I hope that my typing error has not sent you looking for an obscure, because nonexistent, Reformed theologian. Should you find your way to Gaffin’s work, you may like what you find.

          • Bowman

            Thanks for your post. One point (living up to my reputation as a pernickety pedant): I didn’t say ‘all evangelicals’ but ‘all the conservative evangelical churches in the UK with which I am familiar, either by direct experience or reliable repute’ – I can’t speak for the others. It would need someone much better informed than me to do that!

            Much more seriously, though, I do hope and pray that God in his mercy and grace will revive all the hearts of those who name the name of Christ to make us all more faithful to the revelation he has given us, both the terrible diagnosis of our lost condition (wrath and juridical condemnation) and the wonderful redemption he has worked out and is working out and will work out for those who in his grace submit to Christ in repentance, faith, love, obedience and fear, to the end that the Triune God may be glorified and many more, presently outside the Church, may hear and embrace and obey the voice of stillness that Elijah heard.

            Phil Almond

          • Bowman
            Thanks for pointing out that you intended to say ‘Gaffin’.
            I have come across an account of some of his views (I don’t know whether it is accurate) on


            which includes the assertion

            ‘As has already been noted above, Richard Gaffin is an outspoken proponent of the eschatological justification according to works view’ and various quotes from him. Included in the comments on this website you will see some observations from me.

            As I have said, this is an issue that I am looking into as carefully as I can. Here is no doubt in my mind that this is a vital live issue.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil, it is a pleasure to again be reading scripture with you, albeit at a slower pace than formerly.

            I’ve followed the link that you supplied, and find that, although that OP did strive for balance in presenting the views of the Hypothesis, Gaffin, and Wright on Romans 2:13, we should probably not distinguich Gaffin’s application and Wright’s quite as the blogger does. They differ from the Hypothesis in integrating the work of the Holy Spirit into their accounts of justification, and differ from each other in offering applications for two different pastoral concerns– assurance in retrospect, and judgment in prospect.

            Richard Gaffin is concerned for the soul that looks *backward* on a life in Christ that has been, thus far, dauntingly unfruitful. Given all that St Paul says about the empowering help of the Holy Spirit, is that unfruifulness reason to suspect that the Holy Spirit does not dwell within and that assurance is ungrounded? Even with justifying faith in Christ, such a soul may dread coming to the eventual judgment emptyhanded. Gaffin’s counsel is that the Spirit’s influence on the pattern of the soul’s life will be evident enough to mark her as Christ’s own for ever.

            For example, there could be a soul whose life is, in God’s providence, so confined that it affords boundless temptation but few opportunities to do good works. The Spirit’s signature on her resistance to temptation will be legible on the day of judgment. And thus, despite being judged according to her works, even she can have assurance of having been justified by faith. Like Wright, Gaffin emphasises the Spirit more than the Hypothesis does, but in his own way is concerned to retrieve the interiority of union with Christ within the framework of the WCF.

            Tom Wright is concerned for souls who look *forward* to the benefit of election, but not to doing the actual work in the world of the elect. Such souls are justified by faith in Christ, and are fortified by the Spirit against sin, but like the servant who buried his talents, they see their personal deliverance from wrath as the whole story. Of course that deliverance is immensely important, but in the Bible-view of things, it is a rather smallish subplot in the saga of God using an elect people to put the world to rights. The seed of Romans 2:13 exfoliates in chapters 8 and 12-15.

            As Luther said, we should be “little christs” doing good for those around us, but can instead become curved in on ourselves. It’s like someone unable to get a job because of a bad record who is one day hired by a generous employer, but who, when he gets to the workplace from 9 to 5, only reminds himself that he has been hired, thanks his mercful boss, takes his pay, and goes home. Having been so preoccupied, maybe damaged, by his seeming ineligibility for employment, he has forgotten the larger scheme of things in which the whole point of a job is that one produces goods or services of value. He needs to be reminded that the performance review will be about actual satisfaction to the firm’s customers and contribution to its profits.

            So all agree that we are justified by faith in Christ. In addition, Gaffin and Wright follow St Paul in emphasising the work of the Holy Spirit. In so doing, they emphasise different perspectives in time. Gaffin protects assurance with the reminder that in *retrospect*, the Spirit’s influence on the choices and struggles of even an immature and fruitless Christian will be apparent in the last judgment. Wright protects the *prospect* of the last judgment as, not just the acquittal of the justified, but also the mending of the creation. As many have noted, the views of Gaffin and Wright reflect different concerns but are often complementary. This appears to be the case with Romans 2:13.

          • Bowman

            Your 3 December 2015 post includes the statement “So all agree that we are justified by faith in Christ…..”. Before commenting on this and the rest of your 3 December 2015 post, I want to go back to my post of 21 October 2015.
            In that post (and others) I gave my view that we are all faced with the just legal condemnation of God merely by being born, because of Original Sin and our own sins. This is an objective fact, known by God to be true, whether we recognise it or not, whether we believe it or not, whether or not we think it is fair. And the greatest primary need of us all, as I see it, is to be acquitted, as an objectively true fact, known to God to be true, from that guilt and condemnation. We cannot “all agree that we are justified by faith in Christ” unless we first agree that this just legal condemnation is the objectively true diagnosis of our fallen condition before God, that our greatest need is objectively true acquittal from that guilt and condemnation and that in Romans “justification” is about meeting this very need. I am not convinced, from our discussions on Fulcrum, that you, nor Eastern Orthodoxy, do agree that this is the objectively true diagnosis and that this is our greatest primary need. Please correct me and forgive me if I am wrong in this failure to be convinced.

            I make a key point again: Those who, like me, believe that this objective diagnosis and this greatest primary need are true, also insist that this acquittal from guilt and condemnation is the beginning and not the end of the Christian life. God’s great purpose for his elect is not only to deliver them from guilt and condemnation but to adopt them as sons, to conform them to the image of Christ, to sanctify them, to make them holy, to make them fruitful in good works and ultimately to glorify them in resurrected bodies and present them faultless with triumphant joy in his glorious presence, to serve him and enjoy him forever.

            Back to your 3 December 2015 post. Your account Gaffin’s view does not distinguish clearly between this vital objective acquittal from guilt and condemnation and the subjective assurance we may or may not have that this objective event has occurred for us, for me, for you. And your account of Wright’s view does not clearly distinguish between this objective acquittal and the life we are commanded and exhorted to live in the Spirit based on that objective acquittal.

            I stand by my view that the ‘hypothetical’ view of Romans 2 is right, because those who suffer wrath clearly do so because they deserve it and so, by the “mirror-image” feature of Paul’s thinking in this chapter, those who inherit the blessings also do so because they deserve it. Also, I am struck by the similarity between 2:6 (“…requite to each man according to the works of him”) and Revelation 20:13 (“…they were judged each one according to the works of them”).

            But the issues raised by Gaffin, Murray, Schreiner and Wright, though I believe they are wrong to find them in Romans 2, are indeed vital.

            I believe that what I have said above about condemnation and acquittal is essentially Luther’s position and the Reformed protestant evangelical position. I have not yet read Wright though I am working towards it. I can’t pin down the exact quote but I understand (correct me if I am wrong) that he is ready to say that protestant evangelicals have misunderstood justification since Luther. If this is a fair summary of his view then Wright and Gaffin cannot be agreeing with each other (assuming of course that Gaffin has not been persuaded that Wright is right).

            Phil Almond

          • Phil, the Eastern fathers, Gerald Bray, and I all disbelieve that Romans 5:12 describes a guilt biologically inherited by all humanity from Adam. Instead, the same fathers, Bray, and I all agree that, apart from the Lord, human beings are born into Adam’s broken relationship with God.

            Those fathers generally see that relationship as conditioned by death (cf Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22). Bray’s view of this is not yet clear to me. Although this construal seems to make sense, I am testing it against other parts of the canon.

            Justification is forensic. I cannot imagine anything that could be called justification that is not, as you say, objective. I am sure that Gaffin and Wright would agree with us.

            Tom Wright believes that, with respect to Rome, the reformers made the right criticisms, but that in reading St Paul, they misread references to *God’s acceptance of the Gentiles who had faith in Christ, even though they lacked the Law* as references to *God’s justification of sinners through faith in Christ apart from the works of Law*.

          • Since the former depends on the latter, and therefore implies it, what actual harm results from this alleged confusion?

          • Merry Christmas, Kenneth!

            What God did for Jesus in the Resurrection he will do for the creation in the End. St Paul’s references to *God’s acceptance of Gentiles who had faith in Christ, even though they lacked the Law* relates the salvation of persons and nations to the Creator’s wider project (eg the whole of Romans 8). Applying them as comments on *God’s justification of sinners through faith in Christ apart from works of the Law* can relieve some personal anxieties, but can also drive an individualistic wedge foreign to St Paul’s thought between our thinking about the selves and our awareness of everything else. In narrowing this gospel to the psyche of the sinner, the confusion mentioned can counterproductively reify the sinner’s alienation from all else. True evangelical assurance not only relieves personal anxiety about sin, but turns the sinner from narcissistic self-absorption to praise of God and stewardship of his creatures.

            About all of this, Richard Bauckham has said something perceptive. For all the reasons explained in Alister McGrath’s history of justification, we have been accustomed to seek illumination of the condition of the individual before God primarily in St Paul. And because of the *Johannine sacramentary* in the Fourth Gospel, there has been a similar tendency to open St John for understanding of the life of the Body of Christ. But when the emphases of both corpora are given their due weight, we can see that we have gotten this almost backwards. The ecclesiology that many have sought to excavate from St John lies near or on the surface of St Paul. And the individual in Christ, for the sake of which readers skip over or misread St Paul’s words about Israel, new creation, and the Holy Spirit, is more central to the gospel and letters of the Beloved Disciple.

          • Bowman
            In my 16 December post I tried to get you to explicitly agree or explicitly disagree (or, of course, to say that you had not decided) with my view that “we are all faced with the just legal condemnation of God merely by being born, because of Original Sin and our own sins. This is an objective fact, known by God to be true, whether we recognise it or not, whether we believe it or not, whether or not we think it is fair. And the greatest primary need of us all, as I see it, is to be acquitted, as an objectively true fact, known to God to be true, from that guilt and condemnation.”
            To be pernickety again, I do not see that your 19 December post did either explicitly agree or explicitly disagree or remain undecided.
            Because I see this point as fundamental in our debate, could I press you please to be explicit in your response?
            Phil Almond

          • Thanks for your Seasonal greeting. I am pleased to return it. However, I cannot relate your reply to any faith I have or that of any Christian community I know.

            You say “What God did for Jesus in the Resurrection he will do for the creation in the End”. I don’t believe that; it is not my faith, it is not the faith of the Church as I understand it. I believe that at the End God will raise up those who have trusted in Christ explicitly, and possibly some who have trusted God implicitly but have not understood their salvation is in Christ, and they will join in service and praise to God for ever. I believe there will be a judgement for all people, in which the redeemed will be vindicated because of what Christ has done for them, and those who have not trusted and have chosen to live without Christ will be lost forever without Christ, though whether they will actually experience this consciously or not I cannot tell because there is insufficient direct evidence to analyse.

            As for the inanimate or merely animal creation. I believe those are the former things that will pass away. I do not believe in a Resurrection of the whole creation, if that is what you mean. Rather the creation will be renewed, that is replaced, with something far better and more wonderful.

            In Romans 8.19-22 St Paul expresses a creation marred by human Sin impatiently waiting for that fault to be put right, but it is a human-centred vision of what is wrong and a human-centred vision of Salvation. The creation is not waiting for its own salvation, but ours. Ours is all that matters. The creation will be “set free”, but that does not mean it will be resurrected. Christ was not “set free”. He is the one in whom we have our freedom, because he has always been free. Your view seems to imply Christ was less than God, less than eternal; that there was when he was not free, which sounds eerily like saying there was when he was not anything. I reject that wholeheartedly.

            I’m afraid I don’t detect a “wider project” in Romans 8, nor can I see why one form of words relates individual salvation to it or why “applying them as comments” on Justification apart from works of the Law (whatever “them” might be) should lead to excessive individualism, unless one chooses an individualistic interpretation, which is not necessary. To me it seems obvious that God’s acceptance of those who have faith is a direct result of justification through faith and that they are simply different ways of saying the same thing.

            There is no need to tie ourselves in knots with words. That would lead to fanciful imaginings which are not helpful to anyone’s understanding. The Gospel is essentially simple, though it is very rich and multi-faceted. It is inherently mysterious, but that mystery does not result from trying to make false distinctions from different ways of saying the same thing, rather, it is derived from the rich variety inherent in God himself and the incomprehensible nature of the Godhead and his dealings with his creation.

            Either you have not expressed yourself clearly, or what you have expressed is not orthodox Christianity.

        • Phil, I’ve tried and failed to detect the tension that you see between the Bible and the GAU. And that is despite my usual presupposition that the Bible is most fully intelligible in some frame of reference of its own. The tension has usually failed to arise becase the Young Earth exegeses were not persuasive even apart from the natural sciences. For example, plausible translations of Romans 5:12 do not suggest that Adam seminally transmitted original sin to his posterity, but Young Earthers have often followed the bad translation anyway, eisegeting their conflict into the text. In their view, better understanding of the Greek text is yet another sort of worldly change against which they must ‘stand their ground’; in the view of most evangelical theologians, it is reason to broaden their understanding of ‘original sin’ beyond the old seminal theory. To me, this seems more a social mindset fighting for survival than a scriptural theology mistakenly abandoned.

          And what does it mean for America that Young Earthers are so common in the square states where the Bible is used as a shiboleth to resist high culture from the outside world? In those places, religion-science conflicts certainly seem to be the intellectual front for resistance to all cultural change, especially that coming from the two coasts. Naturally, I worry about the consequences of this for their education, public health, race relations, etc.

          • Bowman

            To repeat (a slightly edited) part of my post to the old fulcrum on 16 April 2010:

            “As I see it the biggest challenges that need to be faced and answered by those who believe that the generally accepted understanding of the chronology of the fossil record and life on earth is harmonious with a wholly trustworthy Bible are animal predation before the appearance of man (in the light of Genesis 1:29-30, Genesis 9:3, Isaiah 11:6-9) and the question ‘by whom, why, when and with what physical result was the creation (understood as the whole of sub-human nature) subject to vanity and the slavery of corruption’. Romans 8: 19ff”.

            But I suggest to expand on my case would need a separate thread and the permission of Fulcrum. Also I agree with you that of more pressing concern is for us all to face up to the brontosaurus in the room.

            Phil Almond

          • Thank you, Phil, I have enjoyed discussions elsewhere about both the struggling cosmos and animal predation, though not in relation to the GAU. The first depends on the scope of reference that one gives apocalyptic language about the cosmos. Evangelical scholars actively discuss this, especially since publication of Campbell’s Deliverance, but a consensus hermeneutic has not yet taken shape. This theme of cosmic frustration and libertation could be in tension with the GAU of the cosmic future. The second is a narrative signal that vegetarians, fasting monastics, animal rights advocates, cattle ranchers, etc have all decoded differently. Because the early chapters of Genesis are staking out Israel’s position vis-a-vis other Ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies (eg God built the heavens and the earth as his temple and put humanity in it as his image), they seem unlikely to also be a modern timeline for the earth’s origins such as the GAU. To me, neither occasions any doubt about whether Christ’s promises in scripture can be relied upon.

  5. Phil wrote:

    “I point out that the context makes it clear that Paul is saying that Jew, Greek, slave, freeman, male and female who have been baptized into Christ all have the same relationship to him – there is no difference between them in that respect. But that does not abolish the distinctions between them in other respects.”

    I will own up to being slightly tongue-in-cheek in my comment to Tricia.

    I don’t think anyone believes that there is no difference between male and female.

    But just as Paul’s message is that we are one in Jesus, so I think as a country the aim is that we are all one in our society. Male, Female, Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Transgendered, whatever. Equality in this sense means that the (British) law does not condemn my wish to marry the person of my choosing.

    I believe Jesus would also say “and neither do I condemn you”.

    I don’t believe this stops anyone using the phrase Male or Female, Mother or Father or that those words will cease to have meaning.

    • Richard W
      ‘Neither I thee condemn; go, from now no longer sin’ is the whole of what Jesus said to the woman ‘caught in the act committing adultery’. He was able to justly forgive her because he would take upon himself when he died on the cross the punishment the Old Testament Law pronounces on adultery.
      The fact that the British law does not condemn ‘my wish to marry the person of my choosing’ is frankly irrelevant. What really matters is what the Law of God says – that is the whole disagreement.

      Phil Almond

      • I think there are two similar but different questions: Does the Law of God only describe marriage between a man and a woman? Does the the Law of God prohibit marriage between two persons of the same sex?

        On the face of it, it would have been very simple for God, knowing that 2000 years later someone would come along and say “let’s allow two men or two women to marry” to clearly put in the bible “A man cannot marry another man, neither can a woman marry another woman” or words to that effect.

        Instead we are left to deduce what is right from passages which are not directly related to the subject, but are instead related to things like divorce or eternal life, or attacks on angels in ancient towns near the dead sea.

        Equally it might have been easy for God to put a simple line in the Bible “Oh, by the way, should 2 men (or women) ever want to marry, that’s also OK)”, and clearly that’s not there either.

        You shouldn’t need a degree in theology to work this out, you really shouldn’t. At such times I default to ‘do unto others’, especially if those others have prayerfully considered what is the right thing to do.

        • Richard,

          I understand why you might find that plausible but I think you’re starting from the wrong place. The Bible doesn’t use the word ‘marriage’ when defining the relationship between men and women at all. That’s a word we have applied from a human cultural perspective, so to start from a position of what kinds of marriage the Bible might describe and why it might or might not include certain possibilities is actually hypothetical. If you look at Genesis 2 it describes the creation of two sexes in a rather graphical (and not particularly plausible from a literal perspective) way (look in Genesis 1 for a starker, simpler, and more plausible approach), and then goes on to explain the significance for humanity in Adam’s words (later re-affirmed by Christ himself), which is that people will pair up as males and females and become a new combined whole.

          Now, whatever other ways of lifestyle and relationship human beings may devise, that is the one God has given us and attached a special significance of wholeness (not at the personal but at the interpersonal level) to. If we choose to call it marriage (or anything else) and attach other significances to it and change what we call marriage to include other modes of life (same sex, polygamous or whatever we can dream up), that is our folly. None of it alters what God has given us, but it can obscure it and create difficulties for Christians trying to explain the human condition as we and, we believe, God sees it.

          We shouldn’t start with human culture, but with the Bible, which we then use to understand and assess our culture. We need to put ourselves under the judgement of God, not the other way round.

          Because we are sinful, flawed human beings that is difficult to achieve, and we have to work quite hard to stop ourselves being blinded by our cultural perspectives, and we will often fail, but that is the task when it comes to ethics.

          A degree in theology or some other critical philosophical discipline helps in identifying the cultural blind spots, though it’s obviously not a panacea. What might look like a simple inconsequential change of practice without one looks like a serious threat to the entire account of the Gospel (nature of humanity, the Fall, our need of Salvation and the wonderful achievement of that in the Cross of Christ).

          The reason we’re so exercised about this is that if what the Bible calls Sin isn’t sinful, but just another legitimate state of life, it becomes hard to understand the concept of Sin, and without that there is no Fall, and without that there is nothing wrong with the human condition and nothing to be saved from, and if there’s nothing to be saved from we have no need of Salvation, and if we do not need saving Christ wasted his time in coming to Earth and dying for us; there is no Good News because Jesus achieved nothing, and we are, as St Paul put it, “of all people most pitiable,” deluded by our belief we’ve been saved when we haven’t.

          That’s what’s at stake, or could be, if we get this wrong.

      • Is this a collision of moral sentiments or of beliefs?

        To me, Richard seems to prioritise his position over Phil’s because it more fully recognises the moral weight of personal autonomy. Thus Phil’s claim that the ‘Law of God’ should govern instead, seems to emerge like a fast car from Richard’s blind spot. Phil is rejecting, not just Richard’s conclusion but the moral sentiment that makes it seem right to Richard.

        Richard responds by saying that the ‘Law of God’ is silent or equivocal on this moral question and that anyway one should not have to be or trust an expert in it to understand it. Both of Richard’s responses sound, to my ear, like reassertions of the theme that autonomy trumps authority.

        Now we know from other threads about Phil’s ‘private judgment rules’ for reading scripture. These would seem to give the widest scope for personal autonomy that is possible for one who believes that the Bible is in some way true. And Phil himself has said that one need not rely on others with theological degrees to find the truth in scripture. So the large difference in moral opinion that we see in Richard and Phil has come from two Christians who support them from moral sentiments that are similar if not identical.

        Differences of belief? To my mind– which is open to correction from either of them– the ‘Law of God’ is central to Phil’s soteriology and his hermeneutic, but only peripheral to Richard’s overall experience of Christianity. Phil has often affirmed the Articles in approximately their sense under the Tudors, and has said that scriptural prescriptions for behaviour are especially clear, and hence especially informative for a reader of scripture because they enable obedience that opens the eye of the heart. While this obedience leads some to socially conservative views, it also leads others like Shane Claiborne to countercultural critique. While both Phil and Shane would point to Psalm 119 rather than to experimental psychology to explain what they do, it does makes sense that the practice of obedience could change ‘habits of the heart’ over time.

        In contrast, Richard, although a practicing Christian, has not shown much concern here for an unchanging ‘Law of God’ that transcends times, places, and cultures. If he were not more reflective than the SJW (= ‘Social Justice Warriors’) who roam the ‘net in search of something ‘offensive’ that rouses them to indignant comment, Richard would not have tarried in the village to talk. And yet, a bit like the SJW, he does seems too confident in his intuitions and the public ethos of his milieu to seek correction for either, and indeed seems to feel that the ethos could a correct a thing or two in the church. Someday, it would be interesting to hear more about what he actually believes about Christ, and how these beliefs work for him.

        Thanks to both Richard and Phil for their thoughts on this and other threads.

        • “And yet, a bit like the SJW, he does seems too confident in his intuitions and the public ethos of his milieu to seek correction for either, and indeed seems to feel that the ethos could a correct a thing or two in the church. Someday, it would be interesting to hear more about what he actually believes about Christ, and how these beliefs work for him.”

          I’m here because I believe that Christianity can change the world, and is much too important to be left to the theologians and ethicists to determine the way it should go.

          If it is at all worth being a Christian then it should be obvious by the Christians that are around us. The world has had 2000 years to look at us. If it doesn’t seem to think that being a Christian is worthwhile, then why isn’t it right? The world looks at Christians and wonders why this bunch of people want to impose their views on others. In the current social climate this is enough to make sure that the majority won’t consider it any further.

          The facts are unavoidable – the church is failing to reach out. At every turn it seems to try to make it harder for people to join it. Often this is all under the guise of a correct implementation of God’s law.

          But so what if following our systematic theology gets us to a place where nobody wants to join the church? Maybe that’s just be because of the judgement of God on our country. That same God that went to extreme lengths to make contact with the world and save it. Maybe he’s happy that all these Christians are promoting the law in order to carve out a comfortable existence for themselves while raising the bar for entry.

          Actually, I doubt that is true.

          I do believe that what we’re talking about is Christians putting their own sensibilities in the way of the extension of the Kingdom of God. Doing it with very logical, well thought-out arguments, probably done with the best of intentions. But I think we can know, by their fruit, that those arguments are wrong.

        • Thank you, Richard, for your reply. I partially agree with the way you see the situation.

          God’s values and disvalues do not change, of course. But surely it is one thing for the Church to frame a discipline for new Christians that also serves as the standard for a society, and another thing to frame one for a more pluralistic setting where most live by other beliefs. When people belong to a church by default, the church best influences them by influencing the social standard. In contrast, when new Christians come from a great variety of backgrounds, regulatory automatism teaches God’s ways less well than careful, case-wise discernment. Since my society, and perhaps yours, no longer has a single public standard for churches to influence, we would be wise to think more about discernment. Thus far, we likely agree.

          But what makes theologians, ethicists, etc seem an obstacle to such a discerning church is not their learning, which is actually vital to it. Rather is is either their unfamiliarity with the alternative just posed, or else their interest in a third approach in which rigour of a different sort enables a church to extend its influence. That third approach requires definition.

          When those on either the left or the right evoke the image of the church-as-counter-culture, what they seem to be imagining is that a few hardy souls can win back their society for Christ by sheer purity of will. That can either be fuzzy dreaming or plausible strategy, but it assumes two things that are not unreasonable. First, that a clearer signal to the world than a church has sent in the past can induce a reevaluation. Second, that a discipline that is optimised for conversion will spread the faith by contagion. That is, a church does not need low barriers to entry so that many can join all at once; it needs a steady attraction to those exemplary converts who will convert others who will convert still others so that the rate of increase is exponential. On this model– whether a TEC SJW or a CoE conevo proposes it– a somewhat forbidding rigour that repels the fainthearted but attracts serious converts is proposed as the key to rapid growth.

          So I do not think that all who stick to stringently conservative or progressive agendas are unaware of the barriers they pose to others. Rather, they seem to believe that any clear message is a barrier to somebody, and that so long as they have the true message, there is nothing more that they can or should do but defend it.

          Can a church that disciplines by discernment also have conversion by contagion? In theory, yes. But to get to that sweet spot, it needs to get past lib-con arguments over whether standards should be low or high, and instead consider how its discipline is meaningful to new disciples. Theology and ethics are still required, but in a different way.

          • I understand that there is an attraction in appealing to purity of purpose and actually making it harder to join in order to attract the ‘right sort of people’. We shouldn’t discount this kind of tactic just because it is recently popular with ISIS!

            I know many will quote the Matthew 7 ‘narrow gate’ at this point but we have to bear in mind that this comes directly after “Do for others what you want them to do for you: this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the teachings of the prophets.”

            So the narrow gate is the segue between the golden rule and bearing fruit. In other words it’s hard to do unto others as you’d like them to do to you, but that’s the way to the Kingdom of Heaven.

            I agree that a clear message is always a barrier to someone, but maybe we’ve been too keen on having a clear message and getting it out there before thinking whether (a) the message is really all that clear to start with and (b) the way we convey the message defeats its purpose.

            I can’t think about clear messages without remembering this:


  6. Phil, you asked:

    “Are we fully agreed on these last four convictions?”

    Speaking for myself, and in a spirit of honesty and brevity, no, I’m far from agreed.

    However I do understand the starting point and suggest that you continue in any case and base your argument on this, if that’s what you need to do.

    • Richard
      Given the truth of the four convictions in my 31 July 2015 post (I know you do not agree with them, but as you suggest I continue anyway):
      My view of Romans 1:18 to 2:8 is that Paul is describing the whole of post-fall humanity. It is an expansion of ‘And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD’. (Genesis 6:5-8).
      To limit 1:24-27 to pagan idolatry misses the fact that we are as variously described because of the Fall, which is the same as saying because of Original Sin. Paul is painting the big picture, manifested in various ways, of fallen human nature, the big picture of sin and sinners, culminating in his universal conclusion in 3:9-20. And 1:24-27 clearly describe same-sex attraction.
      To get my whole view on this subject please read my July 6 2015 on this thread and the last paragraph of my 15 July 2015 post on “What is at stake for the church and same-sex marriage”.

      Phil Almond

  7. This thread is six weeks old. Some of our comments in it are very long.

    None of them can appear without moderation by a volunteer who likely already does other things for Fulcrum. By nature, if not by policy, the longer the posts, the slower this moderation must be.

    Brevity seems kinder than prolixity. And may move our conversations along.

    To the Moderator: Thank you for your attention. Please discard my comments of 4th and 14th August.

    • Bowman, I don’t think we should discourage people from contributing. Rather we need comments on a larger range of subjects. I am not sure about 100 or 200 word limits but I am discouraged by posts more than 1 screen long. Sometimes it is clearer to make to unconnected points in separate posts but generally I think we should wait for comments to be posted before commenting again.


  8. Articles VIII, XXXI, and XI seem more salient to the points discussed in this thread.

    When we make choices about sexuality are we presumptively making free choices? No, says Article VIII, we are presumptively in bondage to sin.

    Is homosexual sin different from other sins? No, says Article XXXI, Jesus died for “all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual.”

    And how are those in bondage to sexual sins saved? By faith that Christ alone saves, says Article XI.

    On the face of it, one should emphasise to anyone, including any homosexual, “Christ has died for all your sins; rely on his mercy; never doubt it; live in gratitude to him.” To say so is to cooperate with God’s purposes.

    Why is this hard to accept?

  9. On aging threads like this one from 1st July, it would not be surprising if the moderators approved comments under 100 words about weekly, but rarely approved comments over 200 words at all.

    Disclosure: I myself have a humourous and enlightening treatise on the 39 Articles for Richard and Phil that is “awaiting moderation.” I enjoyed writing it quite a lot, and it does makes a new point about homosexuality. But if the moderators agree with me here, you will never see it. And that’s fair.

    Esteemed villagers, before we can see any comment in any thread, some diligent moderator must read it carefully. An accumulation of longform comments that are drifting far from the original post is rather a chore for an unpaid volunteer. This is especially the case if the moderator might better spend the same time writing or editing new original posts. The length of posts on this thread is burdensome; we should make our points more succinctly.

    And so I will. I hope that others will do the same.

  10. Richard, Tricia, Deborah, Phil, Mulac– Is it part of our faith to seek to live, as far as we can, in harmony with an order of things created by God?

    • I would say yes.

      If I can unpick that a little:

      “As far as we can” – if our own sexuality seems to conflict with a traditional view of the order of things – what then? Is that further than some people are able?

      “to seek” – my primary view of the world is the one seen through my own being. If that appears not to comply with the prescribed order then how do I know whether the lens is faulty or the prescription?

      “Harmony” – harmony by definition isn’t all doing the same, that would be ‘unison’. In harmony some people are specifically doing something different.To live harmoniously is to find your place and let other people find theirs. It’s a wonderful word to describe how our approach should be to the issues we face.

      “our faith” – Our faith is not to impose our faith on other people. That is their faith.

      “created by God” – yet we know that the world as we find it isn’t as per the divine intention. We know Moses made things easier by allowing divorce. We know Paul had to adjust his message for the gentiles in Acts 15. In both cases certain issues were deemed less important and allowed to slide for the sake of the bigger picture.

      So regarding our inner struggles, these are for us to work out as you describe. As far as our outward relationships: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

      • Thanks, Richard, for your generous reply. If “the world as we find it isn’t as per the divine intention,” then should we defer so absolutely to “our own sexuality” which is just another part of that same world? What exempts the self from the Fall?

        You may have heard the argument that the consistent theme of all the recent sexual revisions in TEC is that the self is emphatically not part of God’s creation. Now to be clear, I do not know any authoritative person who actually preaches that. Still, it does seem fair to ask– can so much self-sovereignty as having a self-validated sexuality coexist with the belief in “one God, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible” with which we are familiar? What do you think about this?

    • Bowman
      I have made a post which is awaiting moderation and which continues our discussion of Original Sin. If and when it appears and if and when you and Richard W have responded I will try to answer Richard’s question (July 25 2015). To refer to this doctrine as the elephant or even the woolly mammoth in the room is too weak a figure of speech. Perhaps ‘Brontosaurus’ gets closer.

      Phil Almond

      • Richard, I think Phil is referring to the brontosaurus posted far below this on 31st July. He has laid out his position on a tricky text very clearly.

        But I worry that you may miss the jaguar among the housecats. Plainly asked, from what do you think Jesus saves us?

        After all, the Jews before Jesus could already offer sacrifices for their own actual sins. For what need was this insufficient?

  11. Suppose that a young, lesbian evangelical is confronting her orientation alone. She has no doubt of her exclusive sexual attraction to her own sex, realizes that she has normal but not heroic impulse control, concludes that the Bible does not speak directly to her condition, and just wants to do God’s will as best she can. Whether she is single or monogamous, she will surely not be celibate. She doubts that she can be blamed for the state of Christianity in the West. She might possibly listen to the counsel of the undivided Church, but the contemporary church to which she actually belongs speaks with forked tongue. In short, nothing that anyone says is likely to influence her view of her options.

    What is the virtuous way for her to decide what to do with her body and her life?

    Unable to win her to one side or the other, what ought other Christians do to support her in that virtuous deciding?

    • This is where i feel that the church has maybe lost its message of the power of the cross and the power of the holy spirit and the transformation and fulfillment that a relationship with Jesus brings! Very often it is a debate on scripture verses and flinging these verses back and forth, and rights and fulfillment being placed in another person! The scripture verse that speaks to me a lot is “You diligently search the scriptures thinking they contain eternal life, but those scriptures point to me” ” I have come to give you life and life in all its fullness” The emphasis is on church, debates, arguments, yet Jesus says your ultimate satisfaction is in me and i will lead you, heal you and out the “lonely into families”
      The fact that she has struggled alone ( and maybe for years) means its harder to resist temptation or to follow the bibles teachings on singleness and celibacy when you dont have that support net work around you! It is in community where lives are shared, loneliness is dealt with, and belonging happens and our own struggles put into perspective! this has certainly been true for me!

    • Bowman
      You tell her she is not alone. Men and women through the ages have faced these difficulties. I would direct her to someone like Ed Shaw. Read his piece under human sexuality on the EGGS site. He says he already has a fulfilling relationship with Christ and nothing can compare with that.

      • Yes, Tricia, Ian Paul’s fine review of Ed Shaw’s book has inspired my comment.


        The general question that I am trying to raise is– how should we help to bear the burdens of those like ‘Phoebe’ who clearly have a life that is very tough to pull together? Putting it mildly, having the right answer for someone else’s life is not often practically helpful to them, even if we do happen to be right. Ed Shaw would agree with most of us here on That Topic, but his whole book calls for us to do more than just smile and repeat the party line. He’s right.

        Aren’t the most destructive Christians we know– the ones who actually drive others from the faith– those who lack the self-control to stop arguing when something else has become more important than winning at any cost a quarrel that has turned toxic? These are the people that C.S Lewis apologizes for when he says that, although they are miserable specimens of humanity, they would be even worse without God. This is true, of course, but it is not an excuse and he did not mean it to be.

        Since to those who do not collect biblical commentaries, the very sweetest among us here now look much like those sad cranky people, it seems prudent to move the conversation along to ways of usefully practicing what we believe. My guess is that doing more and doing it better starts with a far more realistic sense of the decisions actually being made in the lives of those like ‘Phoebe.’

        • I’m not a great believer in psycho-therapy or the ability of others to put your life right. It is in accepting Christ that your life is transformed. Following that, as Deborah has commented, it is being part of a community which gives support. I needed support when I first came to Christ as I had just divorced and had 2 young children. The children and I had our church family which was incredibly important to us especially as family lived miles away.
          At the moment I belong to a church that is active in the community, takes people for hospital visits, has baptism partners, food back collection, toddler group and visits the sick. There are 2 disabled people who are very much part of the church family.

          • 🙂 This is heartening, Tricia.

            Does your church have an active constituency of singles? Assuming that the members are mostly unhappy with same sex ‘marriage’– am I right?– have they nevertheless over the past five years moved toward empathy for those who seek them?

            A mountain of research on psychotherapy supports a few broad conclusions of interest to Christians.

            First, it is improbable that anyone gets through life without some period of needing a conversation-partner skilled in talking to troubled minds. Not being ‘crazy’ is not the same as ‘never needing help.’

            Second, although there are myriad kinds of therapy, the ‘active ingredients’ of therapy that works are the same in all, although obviously harder situations call for stronger ‘doses’ of some of them. None of these active ingredients pose a challenge to Christian faith.

            Third, the most effective form of short-term help is one in which the therapist guides the client’s safe exploration of evidence about the cause of distress. That is, the therapist’s skill is used in support of the client’s reason, not, on that occasion, in a voyage of discovery in the implicit or unconscious mind.

            Fourth, there is a learnable ‘first-aid’ for mental distress that has been distilled from the experience of both advanced countries like the UK and places with scarcely any mental health professionals like Nepal. We should begin to see people learning it as they now learn CPR.

            Two Christian, indeed evangelical, reflections on all this. Yes, accepting Christ into your life changes it insofar as the self is fully engaged in that acceptance. On that point, evangelical wisdom and therapeutic theory are in sync. Where people have accepted Christ– really given it a go as far as they can– and not been transformed as we would expect, their selves may not yet have ‘pulled themselves together.’ Skilled therapy may support a life in Christ by helping a believer to find the way in which s/he images God.

            We cannot have it both ways– a faith that is so demanding on the heart, congregations that do not talk intelligently about the heart. Just as we want congregations to have some level of familiarity with the Bible, and want preaching, teaching, counseling, etc that model this, so we should also want congregations to have some degree of emotional intelligence, both as an antiseptic against sin, especially cruelty, and also as a way of forfending half-hearted living far from God’s will for us. And preaching, teaching, counseling, etc should model this too. Where it has not been modeled for a very long time, there will be trouble.

            Thanks, Tricia, for joining our conversations here.

          • In light of my reply to Tricia, a brief comment on what therapy can offer a person with same sex attraction.

            In denying that such treatment is possible or insisting that it demonstrably works, some partisans on both sides of SSM have gone far beyond what our limited knowledge can warrant. Indeed, for methodological reasons with a long history, it is unclear to the dispassionate what the goals of treatment or the measures of success should be. No measurements, no science.

            I.10 is not often compared to the therapeutic guidance of the American Psychological Association, but they seem to converge on an interesting point. To an APA panel asked to study the matter, the question for a psychologist treating a patient who is both religious and attracted to the same sex is– does the patient choose to orient his life to his body or to his faith? Similarly, I.10 is careful to balance recognition that same sex attraction exists with an insistence that a Christian’s identity is in Christ. If a patient is living in accord with that counsel, then in keeping with the APA’s ethical standard, her psychologist should give therapeutic support to a life oriented to the fulfillment of religious obligations. Of course, it is for the patient’s own faith-community to have some idea what those obligations are.

            This is self therapy along the lines of what I have described at the end of my note to Tricia. It necessarily will go deeper into the patient’s past and generally takes longer than the brief 12 week interventions for most other dificulties– about 18 months. It will engage her in formulating an account of her life that can in turn ground her further life in Christ. We should support this.

    • “The fact that she has struggled alone (and maybe for years) means it’s harder to resist temptation or to follow the Bible’s teachings on singleness and celibacy when you don’t have that support network around you! It is in community where lives are shared, loneliness is dealt with, and belonging happens, and our own struggles put into perspective!”

      Yes, Deborah, and beautifully said. My guess is that persons like– let us call her ‘Phoebe’– see congregations of lives that are organized around couples and receive a strong impression from the way church actually works that her actual choice is between some kind of marriage and anomie. ‘Do as I say, not as i do’ works as well in church as it does in parenting 🙁

      Perverse as it may seem to diligent exegetes who live as strong-willed ‘loners’ with a boundless capacity for self-sacrifice, God made Phoebe is a social animal. A few scolding old souls with a widely-ignored reading of the Bible have little weight on the scales of her life decisions. Much as she loves him, she is unlikely to believe that the Holy Spirit is actually using scripture to teach singleness and celibacy, if she sees no social ‘facts on the ground’ to back that up. So, you’re right– although exemplary individuals may intrigue or inspire her, really convincing facts will probably have to be ‘cities on a hill’ of dedicated singleness.

      Perhaps villagers reading this are aware of some communities open to Phoebes who might also be reading this?

  12. Two kingdoms require two conversations with inquiring minds in each.

    A bit of separation between them is inevitable, and not a bad thing.

    All have two decisions to make, not one.

  13. I have previously posted this comment on Ian Paul’s site (where 46 comments reside currently) but relish the opportunity to post it again here. Good to see Mulac already bringing up the point about motes and beams but I won’t edit mine at this stage…

    So, gay people have the opportunity to marry and will be coming into our churches in their married state. But can we stop looking at their behaviour and start looking at our own behaviour? Can we look at the plank in our own eye before we dissect and categorise the speck in our neighbour’s?

    What about a Christian ethic of marriage that respects married couples’ marriages and barely notices if they are opposite-sex or same-sex couples? How do we make married couples (who happen to be same-sex married couples) feel as welcomed and affirmed in our churches as any other married couple?

    Where does this fear come from – this fear that gay married couples particularly will fail to meet our expectations / not rise to our standards / insist on their own set of sexual ethics? Do we have the same fear about individual straight couples who join our churches and if not, why not? How far do we exert control over married couples (both straight and gay) to adhere to our own brand of sexual ethics – I’m just suggesting that if a particular policy works for one group, it might work for the other (but I am expressly saying that both groups should be treated identically). How do we encourage married couples to commit to faithfulness and stickability-through-testing-times – and I’m just suggesting that if a particular policy works for one group, it might work for the other (but I am expressly saying that both groups should be treated identically).

    But if we still feel the need to micromanage people’s lives and especially gay people’s lives (we have a history of this), does this help or hinder us when inviting people to visit and join our churches? Is our message once more that now gay people’s marriages are an ‘issue’ to be resolved, a problem to be dealt with?

    Can we look at our own fears, our anxieties and our uncertainties around this and commit to working on them with a mature and God-resourced spirituality? How do we support each other to develop attitudes and behaviours which honour God and don’t disable others from finding faith? Can we put away our checklists and put out the red carpet?

    • Given that the context is Christian and not libertarian, Jane, it seems to me that a generally affirming regard for all persons, with which you would agree, and clarity about what state of life a ‘marriage’ actually is, which is Andrew’s aim here, are very complementary aims. That is, warm respect for same sex couples avoids some bad misunderstandings of especially a robustly procreative understanding of the great mystery, and celebration of the virtue of harmony in polarity may be positively supportive to same sex couples who take that in a non-biological sense. Indeed, all would agree that there is a unitive aspect to marriage, and there is no reason to think that evangelicals will stop teaching about it, or that same sex couples will find it unhelpful in practice. (Was that not the point of this whole debate?) Again, I am speaking here only of those same sex couples who have a warm relationship to Jesus Christ and his Body. Suspicion of teaching simply because it is teaching, or a positive belief that the Church should not recognise any state of life at all are matters of apologetic for unbelievers, not a basis for church practice.

    • I would like to ask Jane Newsham what her doctrinal convictions are which have a bearing on this sensitive and controversial debate.
      As I see it: as Article 9 puts it, the fault and corruption (Original Sin) of the nature of every man that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, and which in every person born into this world deserves God’s wrath and condemnation – this ‘infection of nature’ remains in them that are regenerated. So all born again Christians remain sinners and should confess their sins daily to God and seek his forgiveness and cleansing, and seek increasingly and daily to put to death by the Spirit the practices of the body. And as Article 12 puts it: good works are the fruit of faith and follow after justification, endure the severity of God’s judgment, cannot put away our sins, yet are pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ and do spring out necessarily of a true and living faith. According to the Bible some thoughts, words and acts are sinful of themselves, some thoughts, words and acts are commanded by God and Christ and so are not sinful of themselves although no Christians obey God and Christ perfectly in so thinking and speaking and acting and so even thoughts, words and acts done in obedience to God and Christ ‘endure the severity of God’s Judgment’. So no Christian husband and no Christian wife follows perfectly the exhortations in Ephesians 5. According to the Bible heterosexual sex outside of marriage is a sin of itself and can never be pleasing and acceptable to God. But heterosexual sex within marriage is pleasing and acceptable to God, being explicitly commanded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. At the heart of this disagreement is the disagreement about homosexual sex between two Christians of the same sex in a lifelong exclusive relationship. One side, like me, is convinced that this is a sin of itself and can never be pleasing and acceptable to God. The other side is not convinced of this, and may even be prepared to say that such a relationship is pleasing and acceptable to God. I agree entirely with what Jane Newsham said about being continually aware, as we are commanded, of the beams in our own eyes. But at the heart of the disagreement is a question of doctrine, to be decided, as I see it, by careful and candid exegesis.
      To give an illustration on another point, which may or may not make my point of view clearer: I once read somewhere that the way Jehovah’s witnesses behaved in the Nazi murder camps was, from a Christian, Biblical point of view, exemplary. I have no reason to doubt that this is true. Does this mean that the Watchtower doctrine of the Person of Christ is the true doctrine? No, because the true doctrine is also a matter of careful exegesis. In the same way exemplary Christian, Biblical behaviour by same sex Christian couples who believe that their relationship is pleasing and acceptable to God does not prove that it is.
      On all these controversial points – eternal punishment, predestination, the ordination of women, homosexuality etc. – we should always start by asking what the true doctrine is, whether we like our conclusions or not (and, often, in our natural selves, we do not like it) before we consider the question of those who reject that true doctrine.
      And of course, homosexuality, being a sin like any other sin, can, like any other sin (apart from the sin against the Holy Ghost) be forgiven by the blood of Christ on confession and repentance.

      Phil Almond

      • “And of course, homosexuality, being a sin like any other sin….”

        I think we need to be really careful here. One reason why the church appears increasingly irrelevant is because it fails to show that it understands what the actual issues are in the world. Instead we talk past what is actually happening.

        In the world we live in we see things like:

        – There are men attracted to other men who stay celebate.

        – There are men attracted to other men who have a sexual relationship within some kind of committed relationship.

        – There are men attracted to other men who have a sexual relationship with a different person or people on a regular basis.

        – There are men attracted to other men who are now by law married to a man (or in a civil partnership) but who are celebate.

        – There are men attracted to other men who are now by law married to those men (or in a civil partnership) who are not celebate (depending on how we define ‘celebate’ in this instance.

        – There are women attracted to other women who are celebate.

        – There are men who are attracted to men but who have married a woman and are completely faithful to their wives.

        – There are men who are attracted to men but who have married a woman and are completely committed to their wives and families, except that they occasionally seek sexual solace with a male companion.

        – There are women who marry a man in the hope that their desires will change, but they don’t. Years later their marriage collapses.

        – There are women who have only ever been attracted to women and have found a women they want to commit to being with forever. They may or may not have ever had ‘sexual relations’ (however we may want to define that).

        Now which of the above are guilty of the sin of ‘homosexuality’ in your opinion, and which particular texts prove that?

        I think we make many mistakes when looking at this, either from a point of theology or church policy.

        I believe some mistakes might be:

        – That the Bible as a whole has a coherent concept of ‘homosexuality’ in the way we do today, rather than having several rather fleeting references to things that may or may not compare to what’s happening around us.

        – That is matters whether someone is ‘created’ as a homosexual, or whether they acquire this from somewhere.

        – That people who love other people of the same sex, and may now marry other people of the same sex will perform certain kinds of sexual acts deemed ‘sinful’.

        – That there is a such a thing as ‘normality’ to which one should aspire.

        – That there are people who are normal in this sense, and then there are ‘others’, and that the church is responsible for telling people the difference.

        Any time we make these mistakes we show that we haven’t really engaged with the issues at hand. All that we’ve done is put up more barriers to people, most of whom never felt they needed a better reason to stay away from Christians anyway.

        • Richard W

          In your July 16, 2015 at 2:50 pm post you ask me
          ‘Now which of the above are guilty of the sin of ‘homosexuality’ in your opinion, and which particular texts prove that?’.
          I will try to answer that but my answer relies on my conviction that the doctrine of Original Sin (as set out in Article 9 of the 39 Articles) is true. So I would first like to ask you whether we agree that the doctrine of Original Sin (as defined in Article 9) is true. I am not asking you to agree that the truth of that doctrine (if you believe it is true) has a bearing on the question of whether homosexuality is a sin like any other sin, but I am asking you whether you believe that doctrine is true. If you don’t believe it is true then we need to discuss Original Sin before we discuss homosexuality.
          Phil Almond

          • I have to confess that I needed to dig out the 39 articles and give number 9 some thought before replying.

            In many ways I can agree with article 9, I think we’re all born in a broken state, such that however hard we try, we can’t do the right thing. Fixing that brokenness is part of what having a relationship with God is about. The other part of that is realising that we’re all broken, so none of us are better than the other.

            On the other hand, I don’t believe that humans exist in some kind of sinful “state” and that just existing in that state is in some way to be sinning, which I think is one interpretation of the doctrine. At least if this is true I don’t believe it to be of any importance to how we live our lives, since there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it.

            But to go back to the overall concept, I think that if Original Sin exists it shows us that there’s nothing special in the laws of our country as they are, or our traditions or whatever we hang on to as being things that define morality, because that morality is fundamentally broken anyway.

            Does that answer your question?

          • Reading that back it looks like I contradicted myself – I said that humans are born in a broken state, but they don’t exist in a sinful state.

            The point I’m trying to make is that merely existing isn’t sinful. There are actual acts and omissions brought about by our state which themselves fall short of the original intention, but just being alive as a person is not one of those.

          • I think that Richard is saying that we all have a broken nature because of which we sin, but that we are judged by God for the sins alone, and not for the broken nature itself.

        • I like your last sentence. People here seem to envisage or fear that now gay people have the opportunity to marry, they will be coming into their churches in their married state. Very few may, but don’t fret too much, you have lost the gay community for generations.

        • Studying Richard’s posts and Bowman’s comment I believe that we should further explore our views on Original Sin to see to what extent we agree and disagree. Because, as I see it, this doctrine is quite fundamental not only to an informed and painfully candid debate about homosexuality, but also to the wider disagreement among professing Christians about sin, final judgment, salvation and what the Church should proclaim if she is to be faithful to the whole of the Biblical revelation. The doctrine of Original Sin is one of the fundamental foundation stones of the entire Biblical world-view.

          To begin with I would like to comment on what I see as the meanings of Article 9 taken, as the Prayer Book preface to the Articles puts it, “in the literal and grammatical sense”.

          1 Original Sin is a result of the sin of Adam. 2 Original Sin is a faulty and corrupt nature which is inclined to evil, with which all natural descendants of Adam are born. 3 This corrupt nature which is Original Sin deserves God’s wrath and condemnation. 4 This “infection of nature” remains in those whom God has regenerated and this lust of the flesh is not subject to the Law of God. 5 There is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptised.

          These several meanings of the Article are beyond dispute. Given the language of the Article it is not possible to interpret the statements in any other way.

          I now compare these several meanings with my convictions on what the Bible says.
          1 agrees with the Bible.
          2 agrees with the Bible, but the phrase “…so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit…” is clearly a reference to Galatians 5:17. But this verse is about Christians. Putting the phrase at this point could give the impression that all men are born with the Spirit of God which, from Paul’s letter to the Romans and John 3 is clearly not true.
          4 agrees with the Bible, but the phrase “…not subject to the Law of God” is clearly a reference to Romans 8:7. But in this verse Paul is talking about the mind of the flesh, flesh here being a synonym for our faulty and corrupt inclined-to- evil nature, “and the [ones] being in flesh cannot please God”. The emphasis in Romans 8 is for Christians to walk in the Spirit, to put to death the deeds of the body “that the ordinance of the law may be fulfilled in us the [ones] not according to flesh walking but according to spirit” (Romans 8:4). The positioning of this phrase does not bring this out.
          5 agrees with the Bible with the qualification that water baptism is not necessary for salvation.
          About 3 the Bible is clear that we are all faced with God’s wrath and condemnation merely by being born. But there is disagreement about why this is. Is it because, as the Article says, we all, because of the Fall, have a faulty corrupt inclined-to-evil nature, or is it because of what Paul says in Romans 5:12-21, or is it because of both? As Schreiner points out in his Romans commentary (page 288), death and condemnation are traced again and again to Adam’s sin (verses 15, 16, 17, 18, 19).
          However, whatever are the improvements that could be made to the wording of Article 9, and whatever the right view on 3, my conviction is that the Bible is clear that:
          1 Because of the sin of Adam, we are all born with a faulty corrupt inclined to evil nature, because of which we cannot please God.
          2 This nature remains in the regenerate who have received the Spirit of God and these are exhorted to walk in the Spirit and put to death the practices of the body (“put ye to death therefore the (your) members on the earth” (as Colossians 3:5 puts it)).
          3 Because of the sin of Adam we are all faced with God’s holy wrath and just condemnation merely by being born.
          4 We are born spiritually dead towards God.
          Are we fully agreed on these last four convictions?
          Phil Almond

          • Reading this, Phil, I find myself wondering whether you think an artificially intelligent robot that perfectly emulated natural persons could have original sin.

          • Bowman
            Re your August 16 post. Why does my July 31 post make you wonder whether I think ‘an artificially intelligent robot that perfectly emulated natural persons could have original sin’.
            Anyway, I answer that no such robot will ever ‘perfectly emulate natural persons’; and that no robot is made in the image of God; and that no robot is faced with God’s condemnation and wrath; and that the concept of original and actual sin cannot be applied to a robot; and that no robot is in a person to person relationship with God, either of condemnation or salvation.

            Phil Almond

        • Now Richard, no one expects the Anglican Inquisition.

          I mean that. People are always surprised when I leap out into the chancel with a crimson cape and a copy of the Thirty-Nine Articles. (Even for Harvard that’s a little odd.) But here we are.

          As my eminent colleague Phil Almond says, there is no possible way that we can discuss the ethics of homosexuality without first discussing Original Sin. (I hope that you did not think that this was possible?) Nor can we discuss Original Sin without first discussing Article IX. Nor can we discuss Article IX without first breaking it into parts. We hope to hear you assent to each of these parts soon, both jointly and severally.

          But there is no way that we can proceed to that until you have first given your view *Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross*. I do hope that you will agree that it suffices for the sins of the whole world? But this will not be clear until we have your view of Article XXXI. (Did you think that the Articles were in some logical order? Our trap for the unwary!) This too had several parts; we will break them down for you soon enough.

          But first, we must discuss your faith. Why? Well, supposing that Christ has died for all the sins of the world, everyone should be saved– Adolf Hitler sipping tea with Mother Teresa in heaven– except that Christ’s great sacrifice only avails those with faith in him. Do you have faith in him, Richard?

          How can you know without discussing… the next article, Article XXXII? No, of course not. Article XI– Of the Justification of Man. You must be thoroughly examined on Article XI, part by part. As you must by now realise, we will break this down too. Our secret weapon is breaking things down.

          But this really is important to discussing homosexuality: because Christ has died for all sins of all persons, a young lesbian like Phoebe cannot fail to be saved by his great sacrifice, so long as she trusts that the Creator who made her died for her salvation. In that way she is like all of us, Richard.

          But then, if any of us lose our trust in God’s desire for our particular salvation, then, even though he has given his life for us, our own despair will send us to hell. And given that her affections are already disordered, so far as she knows by God himself, how can she not despair that she is among the “curious and carnal persons” of… Article XII? No, Article XVII, Of Predestination and Election. Our other secret weapon is putting things in a confusing order.

          What can enable Phoebe to see that, though her *natural affections* do incline her to sin, this disorder is not a sign that her Creator has chosen to reject her as Article XVII implies? Nothing less than a sign from God himself can do this according to Article… XVIII? No, Article XXV, Of the Sacraments.

          So Richard, do you see why it is necessary for us to leap about in red capes with copies of the Thirty-Nine Articles? Some persons–curious and carnal persons?–worry that Phoebe will not feel sinful enough. None of us really feel as sinful as we are, of course, but some are particularly keen that homosexuals should feel their sins. Whatever the reason for their fixation, they are, as you see, serving Satan, who never wants any soul to trust the Lord., lest it be saved. (Why do Christians unintentionally serve Satan? This is covered in Article IX.)

          So against them, the Anglican Inquisition defends the only faith that can save a disordered soul, the faith oif the Thirty-Nine Articles. We worry, not that Phoebe will feel sinless– absurd thought– but that she will live and die needlessly estranged from the God who made her and died for her and wants her for the world to come.

          • This post truly made my day.

            I’m sure Archbishop Cranmer and Cardinal Ximénez would both be delighted by it.

            And there’s the rub, for the the 39 articles, are, are they not, merely a list of issues facing the Church of England in 1563 chiefly with respect to the Roman Catholic church?

            I do find it hard to take them seriously as a statement of faith relevant to what we face in the 21st Century, but that’s probably a discussion for another day.

          • Two comments on Richard W’s post of August 17:
            Articles 9 (subject to my comments in another post), and 10-18 agree with what the Bible says. They are just as relevant today as they were in the time of the Reformation and in the first century A.D because they deal with the unchanging realities of the human condition before God and with the truths of God’s great salvation.
            Secondly, the language of the Anglican Declaration of Assent, which is made by all ordinands, cannot be understood in any way other than a declaration by the ordinand that these Articles are true.

            Phil Almond

          • Well, Richard, apart from some prior identity, one has clues to one’s self and to one’s times, but little useful knowledge of either. To get to that knowledge, one has to acknowledge some prior identity and begin to explore the horizon. For example, those Anglicans who do not find it in the C16 Articles often find it in a C18 ideology of natural rights. As it happens, every identity we know convinces its bearers that they alone truly get the C21, are the ones able to make “a statement of faith relevant to what we face in the 21st Century.” (Some who comment on Edward Feser’s blog can be downright snarky about how poorly those ignorant of C13 Thomism understand the world around them.) So devotees of *both* the Articles *and* the Rights of Man navigate the present with enough finesse to convince themselves that they are the ones who truly get it. For that reason, appeals to the contemporary situation are in practice ‘retreats into commitment’, or if you prefer, ‘conversation-stoppers’. All they tell us is that the speaker is not yet aware of the tint of his own sunglasses.

            Tellingly, persons with different sorts of sunglasses are all equally blind to some of our empirical C21 knowledge about sexuality. Or, not to put too fine a point on it, each understanding has thus far failed to engage something in that knowledge. So if a “statement of faith relevant to what we face in the 21st Century” must handle all that the C21 impartially knows about at least that issue, no identity is presently leading persons to it.

            One could try to see what is in one’s blind spots by trying other pairs of sunglasses, and then consciously imagining all that one sees in a single frame. Oversimplifying a bit, that is what traditionalists (as distinct from conservatives) try to do. As I’ve said for your amusement, I have found the Articles helpful in that, albeit after some study.

    • The Churches position so far has been that marriage is solely between a man and a woman and singleness outside of that! I am sure single people are rolling eyes again at this preoccupation with marriage when for many its not possible? In fact a huge proportion of my church are single! This has been the accepted position for a long time! This position has been a unifying position for decades and a unifying position across the Anglican union worldwide as gods best for men and women, for family life and the natural expression of sexual union! across cultures it has distinguished a sexual ethic that is consistent for everyone ( whether people like the idea or not) It has been an absolute! Now forgive me for being maybe rather dense but how can a revisionist position talk about sexual ethics or codes of behaviour when a revisionist position actual evolves and does not claim that what is now is a final revealing of gods will but that it is evolving! In a revisionist position if you have absolutes then you are not open to maybe how sexuality is evolving and if they were truthful to that position then they would be aware that sexuality) in society at large has already evolved) way beyond gay unions! This is how society is and surely the revisionist position would include those too? Yours questioningly

      • I read your post with interest as I live in a rural area and the church is predominantly older married or widowed people and young families who are married. Our church is booked for weddings most weekends in the summer and does lots of infant baptism. I assume you are in an urban parish.
        Very few people have mentioned the holiness code that you speak of and it is as if it’s not possible to live your life according to biblical codes in the 21st century.
        But as you point out St Paul tells us to flee from sexual immorality and that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. He says that we should honour Gid with our body. He certainly knew a lot about living in an immoral culture. I visited Pompei a few years ago and there are erect penis’ like direction signs on every street corner. The graffiti is explicit and so were the brothel paintings.
        I know my daughter talks to me about how appalling people’s morals are in the world. I totally agree with you that God calls us to be different, to be salt and light to a decadent culture and not conform to the world. I fear as you say the church is behind the curve. The world has no need of discussion about who sleeps with who or whether they marry or not or whether they sleep with male or female, it is all part of the culture of self. Celebrity culture is all about the big wedding and the gossip fallout from the divorce and marriage is demeaned.
        I feel for the young like my lovely 17 year old granddaughter. I have talked to her about respect for her body and the evils of the hook up culture and she has told me she is “old fashioned about it”. Thank the Lord.
        Words from your generation are so important to the church to decode the world. The revisionists must not succeed or we will end up like the Episcopalian Church in America – and the Holy Spirit will depart from us. God bless you.

      • Thank you, Deborah, for opening a window.

        I feel sure that Jane would say that her position is simply extending the very ethic your parish knows and practises to a tiny class of persons that has been unreasonably outside it in the past. From her perspective, that ethic is so absolute that extending it from 94% of us to the last 6% is simply imperative, She is not quite what you describe as a revisionist.

        However you must consider me a revisionist, since i give so much more weight to a procreation- centred understanding of marriage and to church- organized support for celibacy than has been usual for several decades. And I admit it– although both of my opinions agree well with scripture, I might never have given them much thought were our societies not encountering new evils on new fronts– moral injury from disordered sex, ideological estrangement between the sexes, weak support for the vocation of motherhood, destructive attitudes toward child-rearing, abuse of biotechnology to get perfect children, falling birthrates with implications for social justice, etc as well as the failure of the churches I know to grasp that family chaplaincy is nice but not the heart of the Church’s life. As the winds changed direction, so did my weathervane.

        As you say, Deborah, it is indeed hard for me to argue that these views on procreation and celibacy are utterly absolute– they have long been neglected, only social change brought the wisdom of them into view, and they require a new virtues-centred way of thinking about ethics, To my mind, the only true absolute is God’s wiil for a new heaven and a new earth (Revelations 21) in which we will live from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), and all our debates now are really about how he is enabling us to live our several paths in wise anticipation of it (Romans 8). Time does not change his will, but it sometimes gives us new clues about what that might be in this aeon. Procreative marriage and celibacy seem to orient us to the Kingdom; perhaps you know other revisions that also do this.

  14. “Is there a new Christian ethic for sex and marriage?” Yes and no.

    Clearly yes, insofar as most Christians among the 94% decided some decades ago not to regard procreation as constitutive of marriage. On this side of the pond, the Fourteenth Amerdment enjoins states not to treat different classes of citizens differently without some raison d’etat for doing so. That change in the mind of the 94% left states with no grounds for denying licenses to the 6%. The Supreme Court majority are not unreasonable in believing that they applied an uncontroversial consensus to a matter that is emotionally fraught but legally simple. Judges have done this sort of thing since Roman jurists circumvented the Law of the Twelve Tables with the discovery that Roman women had a right to sell themselves to prospective husbands on terms that they had negotiated.

    But no, SSM does not entail any further change in the marriage relationship. Religious proponents for SSM have all along insisted that the constraints of marriage were as valuable to same-sex couples as the benefits of it. And, in this country at least, the campaign for ‘equal marriage’ began when same sex couples who were already living monogamously demanded it from LGBT leaders who were avoiding it.* Some commentators are already complaining about the passion for normalcy that has swept the LGBT world as states register their relationships.

    The big change that we do see is not in the rules of ‘marriage’, but in its relation to the ‘self.’ A man weds a wife, has children with her, and then decides that he has really all along been a gay man who must be with another man. A woman weds another woman, makes a household with her, perhaps tries to have children with her, and then abruptly outgrows her lesbian sensibility, and discovers that she wants a man, children, normality. Experience with cases like these have led me to warn that we need to do say more than we have about the anthropology behind the biblical view.


    * In this country, what finally overcame the resistance of LGBT leaders was a Republican conspiracy during the 2004 presidential election. George Bush’s political advisor, Karl Rove, induced conservative evangelical clergy in several ‘swing’ states (ie states that could vote for either party) to add referenda banning gay marriage to the ballot and to insist that their people get out to vote against gay marriage. Once at the polls, they voted for President Bush as expected. However, this level of political and religious opposition to gay rights energized the LGBT community and launched the US movement for ‘marriage equality,’ with what results we know.

    • The church I think has allowed this shift in confusion over sexuality and a good message about sex, morality,singleness and marriage! We have had people in positions of authority for a good 30 years either brushing stuff under the carpet, not disciplining where it is needed and not challenging thinking when it was needed and undermining church teaching!
      I was once at a Christmas dinner and was there with another clergy person and staff team! We were talking about sexuality for some reason and the vicar said he had close friends who were church youth club leaders! This couple were close friends but had decided to have a sexual relationship no strings attached and just remain friends! ( friends with benefits) The vicar in question said he respected them and their decision!
      So we have a couple who are not married, not in a relationship, leading a church youth group and this is given the approval by a vicar who respected their decision?
      Another time a up coming ordinand was having a rant on line because a bishop had said that he would have to be married to get ordained! Up to that point he had been living with his girlfriend! He said that this was Gods calling on his life and why was this Bishop interfering with his life! He had gone through theological college living with his girlfriend too?sown seeds of rebellion?
      A minister friend of ours had an affair and eventually left his wife and married his mistress! he got cross because the Church reprimanded him but he still got a chaplaincy in a hospital and gave communion?
      Recently i had another conversation with someone ( evangelical) who thinks its ok to live together and has been the leader of a youth club?
      There are christians who think its ok to have open marriages!
      There is a polygamous family in wales who say there polygamous family is biblical?
      If the church doesn’t even uphold its own teaching then why should we expect a world to follow its example!
      Said with a sad heart because the fact that core teaching has been messed around with hasn’t led to a emboldened church but a week one that is still trying to find its firm foundations!

      • Thank you for that. The church needs to be called to repentance. True repentance where we turn from our sins and return to what God has always called us to be. “A light to the worrld”. The church has become infected by the culture of the west. We must become distinct. So many senior people seem to have capitulated to the world. For York Minster Dean and Canon to have the Rainbow flag draped on the Minster steps and then bless a pansexual organisation shakes me to the core of my belief.
        I have never served with any clergy living in contravention of canon law and I will not in the future.

        • Yes I know I have been guilty at times at dolling out blessing without thinking through implications! Its so easy to say “God bless” to people and the church has for a long time issued blessing to all sorts of things over the years! Ships, pets, people groups etc! However with groups you have the added problem that you don’t know peoples lives and their histories and unwittingly condoning something God does not ( as he sees the heart not just the parade, group and gathering)!
          As I said i have made mistakes on this and its something i am being challenged on 🙂

          • I believe all those who call Jesus Lord are being challenged at this time. Certainly I am. God has called me to account for not understanding the threat to the His church in western countries.

  15. Oh, how easy it is to lose sight of our origin if we move over the horizon without a map!

    Moving the argument on in this way, while raising a number of interesting conumdra, obscures the essential issues and cultivates a false assumption they can be safely left behind.

    The Christian tradition, in some cultural contexts, may have come to say certain things about sex and marriage, but that is by no means the same as what “the Christian Tradition” says. To discover that, we have to return to the Scriptures, and understand how they have been applied and make a judgement about the correctness of such applications. Only then are we in a position to speculate about what the Christian Tradition has to say.

    Sexual Intercourse outside marriage – what’s that, then? The Bible nowhere states that such a thing exists. It is purely a modern conjecture. For that matter, how do we define marriage? Is it really defined by entering names on a State-sanctioned register, by undergoing certain ceremonies, by making certain statements, by entering a particular lifestyle, or by consummation?

    Two key Biblical texts might be Gen 2.23f and I Cor 6.16, which quotes from it. Yes, you read that right: St Paul uses marriage language to describe a night with a prostitute! Clearly, our modern definitions, which would like to call the dalliance with a prostitute wrong because it is “sex outside marriage” is not using Biblical terms of reference. It is using our own culture instead and getting into a mess as a result.

    We need to do what Jesus did in his conversation with the Pharisees: go back to the beginning. God created humanity in two sexes and it is in a union of those two sexes that the full unity of humanity is found. This is a unity in diversity, comparable with the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and the membership of the Church, where the same principle is expressed. Unity in diversity seems to be a big idea for God. It is what he is and what he does, and the inter-gender union which we have traditionally called marriage is just one expression of it, though one much used in God’s dealings with his people.

    It is this unique inter-gender relationship which is naturally called “sexual”, because, at its heart is the relationship between the sexes which is the basis of full humanity. Can it be right to extend this word to apply to what is not based on gender? Are we not likely to slip up and fall down in logic if we do, for we are using the word in an illogical way? Not all intimacy, not everything we might do with our genitalia, is sexual, just because sex is one context in which we can use them. Genital intimacy, in whatever form, is genital intimacy. Calling it sex outside the sexual context is going to get us into confusion.

    As an expression of human unity, true inter-gender unions are monogamous and lifelong, otherwise they would be incomplete. Of course, in a world tainted by Sin, most practical unions are incomplete, but the ideal remains as an aspiration, even if no one fully achieves it. One thing we canl be sure of: we are all sinners, so we don’t achieve any ideal fully. This one is no different.

    There is much more to be said, but I suspect I am approaching some sort of word limit, so I hope I have provoked some thought. Further arguments will have to follow in subsequent discussion.

    • Yes, Kenneth, I agree.

      In France at the turn of the C13, all but two of the bishops affirmed the opinion that if a husband presented his wife at her wedding to a new husband, then, passing from husband to husband, she had never been in the state of divorce, and so all had complied with the law of Christ. But in Byzantium at the same time, marriage was an eschatological reality; a first marriage was not only of this world, but of the world to come, and the bishops permitted any second or third marriage only with penance done by the couple in the wedding service itself. Most villagers here will disagree with both the French and the Byzantines, but we have all read the same Bible.

      Every local church believes that its marriage practices have fallen from the sky. This is in part because they are, uniquely, a blend of ‘local knowledge’ about family and social order on which few can have any transcendent perspective, and the complex of scriptural ideas about Christ and embodiment to which you referred in your comment. Notwithstanding our Lord’s first miracle in Cana of Galilee, the reformers knew enough about the unsuccessful attempts at a universal understanding of the mystery to firmly exclude the registration of marriage from the gospel sacraments, returning it to the civil sphere from which Late Roman emperors had pushed it and Duecento popes had plucked it. Historically speaking, this is why Parliament (or here the Supreme Court) votes on marriage.

      But this move obliges us, as you say, to try to make scriptural sense, not of the civil registration, which can never be more than a local hodge podge, but of the great mystery itself. Few evangelicals have attended to it in the way that you suggest because we frame most spiritual things as concerning the minds of believers, and not their bodies personal, marital, or ecclesial. But as the old social supports for Christian life slip away, our circumstances will press for the fuller understanding that you suggest.

  16. I totally agree with you. The marriage we had under statute in this country was Christian marriage. Civil marriage only began to take place in the 1800s. Christian marriage is between one man and one woman for life. Jesus specifies that adultery should be the only reason for the two who have been joined together by God to be separated.
    When I attended a group in the York Diocese discussing same sex marriage I was astounded to be the only one of the 8 people present to have an orthodox view! Some were undecided others were wanting to do blessings. I when I left I felt very depressed for the future of the Church of England of which I have been a part for 30 years. People in the church are suffering from compassion blindness. Jesus loves everyone doesn’t he. Yes he does but as all parents testify he doesn’t like everything we do and this in God’s terms is called sin.
    I pointed out that the Same sex marriage act is a fudge as it stipulates a 2 tier marriage – same sex couple cannot consummate but are married but heterosexual couple must consummate or are not married! Where is the equality in that and when is marriage actually marriage. As you point out same sex couple cannot commit adultery so there is no question of faithfulness in the contract. I put a question to the Homosexual person who had been invited: I do not know of any further legal benefits to a same sex couple who marry as opposed to take civil partnership. He confirmed that there is no legal benefit.
    The Episcopalian church in America has just been celebrating agreeing to change canon law – I prefer to say Jesus’ words – to gender less marriage. There celebration was about “disordering the boundaries”. Well they are practically irrelevant in the Christian world and if the Church of England goes down the same path it will become irrelevant. The Gospel will prevail but there will be much suffering. Pray to the Lord to release us from this wilful blindness.

    • Out of all the arguments about marriage I feel the consummation one is the least generous.

      In my understanding of the law, a marriage which is not consummated is still a marriage. The only difference is that at some point either partner could request an annulment. This would be as true for paraplegic couples or even people who have had their genitals removed for whatever reason. Do people who oppose same sex marriage also oppose marriage for those who, despite being unable to consummate, have found someone who will marry them anyway?

      • Since St Thomas Aquinas, the view has been that our understanding is based on the generic, not the specific, so the infertility or impotence of an individual is not a bar to their participation in what would otherwise be possible, to the extent that they can.

        We all know there are hard cases around the edges of human experience, and these cases need very sensitive handling. It isn’t fair or generous to use them as political ammunition in some bigger ideological battle.

        That’s why I dislike the ‘LGBT’ designation, as if it’s all the same issue, when in the T part we are dealing with deeply individual physical and psychological issues which are probably unique to the person involved, and for which there cannot be a simple universal solution.

        • I think I would go a step further and say that the current definition of marriage in the UK is not brief enough.

          Rather than say marriage is between any two people shall be allowed on equal terms, a case for same sex was added with slightly different provisions.

          I don’t think the government needs to have any interest these days in ability to procreate or consummate. As you say, people are very much individuals. It would be enough to make the bar to annulment the same; if you had no reason to believe consummation would be possible before marriage, you have no reason to believe it possible after.

          • I would totally disagree. Marriage and the family is the building block of a stable society. Statistics show that children from stable married families have the best outcomes single parenthood brings poverty, child neglect and abuse. Most abusers are those allowed into the home, and there is very little abuse when there is a genetic component to the family.
            Also western governments are now actively voting in the UN against the rights of the child to know their parentage, this was defeated by smaller nations. This is an active push to make birth certificates fraudulent, to enable same sex couples to be registered as parents. Every child has the right to a mother and father, a right to know there heritage. Would you like to be a child if a sperm donor or know that you had been bought and paid for through surrogacy.
            The attack on the family in the western world is a disgrace and church should be speaking up for the voiceless.
            What Christian faith do you have if you deny Jesus’ definition of marriage in Matthew 19 which forms marriage service?

    • I see to have run out of space to reply, so responding here….

      “Marriage and the family is the building block of a stable society”

      I completely agree. I love marriage and that’s why I believe it’s vital that we include people in it as much as possible.

      “Most abusers are those allowed into the home, and there is very little abuse when there is a genetic component to the family.”

      I’m not sure how that fits into this discussion.

      “This is an active push to make birth certificates fraudulent, to enable same sex couples to be registered as parents. ”

      Again I think this is tangential. But in any case I don’t support anything other than complete transparency of documentation, for all sorts of reasons.

      “Every child has the right to a mother and father, a right to know there heritage.”

      We can argue over rights. It doesn’t have much bearing on real life. Many children don’t have one or other parent for very many reasons. We can dance on pinheads trying to work out which type of people might best care for a child. The fact is that if a child has one or more caring parents (whether genetic or otherwise) they are in a better state than they might have been. We might decide that statistically ice cream sellers from Bognor make the perfect parents, but I don’t think we can socially engineer that!

      “Would you like to be a child if a sperm donor or know that you had been bought and paid for through surrogacy.”

      I see surrogacy as a form of adoption. I wouldn’t be comfortable doing it myself, but as long as the process is transparent and consensual I don’t have a problem with it ethically. I would be more than happy for lesbian couple to have my sperm if they so wish, although I would have to make sure my wife was OK with that first.

      “What Christian faith do you have if you deny Jesus’ definition of marriage in Matthew 19 which forms marriage service?”

      I’d rather not start discussing whether one can have a Christian faith and hold certain views. I think Matthew 19 actually raises more issues than it solves. What are the 3 types of eunuch? Why is it that a man who marries another woman committing adultery, when polygamy was already common and God doesn’t seem to have had anything to say about that before this point?

      But overall Jesus is pointing at the permanence of marriage. As we’ve discussed here already, not every marriage can be consummated. Does God see those as ‘marriage’ as per original intention? We have no way of knowing, however I’d much prefer to give those people the benefit of the doubt.

      • Hi Richard
        I’m glad we agree on the importance of marriage.
        On your second point I was commenting on the statistic that children fair better in traditional family units. And that marriage is important for children in general considering the breakdown that we have experienced over the last 30 years.
        There is an active push in the worked to use SSM as. Reason to change the child’s right under the UN Convention to know their parents and to their heritage. The recent vote in the UN was an attempt by western governments to do so. David Shephard us much more knowledgeable than me and you can find his posts on Psephizo SS marriage debate.
        Surrogacy is not a form of adoption as the child loses identity. The egg is routinely fertilised outside the womb and then planted to a gestational carrier. Many women in Mexico and India are being used in this way. The child loses half their identity.
        One can say of donor sperm that at least the child has their birth mother, even if they lose their father. But even this is not so straight forward as lesbian couples try to ensure parentage and use the egg from one which when fertilised is implanted into the other partner. Their have been cases go through the courts when the couple split up about whose child this is.
        From either form the adults gain is the child!s loss. You seem to be a caring man and I think you should read some if the submissions to the Supreme Court in America from adult children of gay couples when they petitioned that SSM should not be allowed. They are the ones with the first hand experience.
        I find Matthew 19 to be very specific. In answering a question about divorce he actually defines what we now know as Christian marriage and forms part of the Marriage Service.
        Haven’t you read – refers to Genesis – God makes them makes them male and female. A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the 2 will become 1 flesh. So they are no linger 2 but one.
        This is male and female becoming one flesh – consummation
        It also speaks of father, mother, wife – all terms well understood and being blurred by SSM
        He sets the bar high:
        1 wife for life
        Adultery (the breaking if the physical union bond) is the only reason for divorce
        You can hear the shock when they say “if this is the case ..,,, it is better not to marry
        There are three types of Eunuch
        1 people born that way
        2 people made that way (possibly by accident or in those days in harems)
        3 people who choose to be so in their service if God (celibate)
        The Government struggled with the one flesh issue which is totally specific to make and female and if course leads to new life. To get around this they have made 2 categories in the Marriage Act 2014
        Same sex couple cannot consummate but are married
        Heterosexual couple must consummate or are not married
        Also same sex couple( because they cannot consummate ) cannot commit adultery.
        None of the definition laid down by Jesus is can be said to cover SSM.
        Also the result of aligning SSM with natural marriage can be seen in what is happening in Ontario schools. Sex education now has to cover all bases of LGBT – I learned things that I certainly did not know or want to know and certainly should not be taught to school children in a relavistic format. Parents are fighting to stop the introduction, which is made even worse as one of the authors has just been jailed for paedophilia.
        As Deborah has said in her posting. We have had a sexual ethic doctrine within the church since the birth of the church. We all know what it is, where is changing this going to take us and when do we stop?
        God gives us boundaries because he knows we are all sinners and those boundaries are fixed for our protection.

        • Hi Tricia,

          Thanks for your reply.

          Notwithstanding what some might want to argue, same sex marriage is a thing in itself. I think it should be considered on its own merits. Doubtless people will want to use it as an way to open other doors, as always happens with any shift in the legal landscape, but we’re talking about a legal definition concerning which people are allowed to get married. I agree with you that the definitions and responsibilities regarding adultery, consummation and other matters are now imbalanced.

          This is why I would rather have redefined the whole definition for everyone rather than attempt to bolt on what might apply to same sex couples. Equal marriage is equal marriage – either you allow it or you don’t – it’s not two separate institutions bolted together.

          As I say elsewhere, consummation could be left as a grounds for annulment only if it was an expectation at the time of marriage. Marriage could then have been defined as a life-long, (potentially-sexual) commitment between any two eligible people. Adultery may be hard to apply to same sex relationships, but ‘unreasonable behaviour’ already exists and the two grounds could be combined to give equal protection under the law. This suggestion may not help assuage your overall worries about same sex marriage, but I believe it would help iron out some of the wrinkles in practice, now that we do have it.

          Any kind of child abuse is wrong. Any kind of abuse of people in order to create children is wrong. Supporting same sex marriage does not in any way mean that someone is in favour of these things, any more than driving a car means you are in favour of fatal accidents, even though if nobody drove a car we would eliminate these accidents totally.

          I understand that you read Matthew 19 differently to how I do. Same sex marriage wasn’t even considered back then so it’s impossible for me to see how Jesus could have been referring to it in his answer. The landscape now is very different. We all do now live in that world with different landscape.

          ‘In the world but not of it’ is an important consideration. I would say that the danger facing the CofE today is being ‘of the world, but not actually in it’. ‘Of the world’ in the way that it tries to promote its own agenda, just as everyone in the world is doing; in the way that it often doesn’t love the people around it as it should. ‘Not in the world’ in the way that it sometimes tries to shut its eyes and avoid things by saying that they shouldn’t happen, or wouldn’t happen if everyone did what was best for them, instead of looking to see why these things do happen and love and support those people affected by them.

          Going back to marriage – it is only stronger by more people wanting to be married. In the 1980s when homosexuality was becoming more acceptable, the idea of same sex marriage was still unthinkable, even (maybe especially) among homosexuals themselves. They were sticking two fingers up to society, marriage included. Who would have predicted then that many of those people are now campaigning for same sex marriage or even getting married themselves? I can’t see any sense in which that is not a good thing for all concerned.

          • Hi Richard
            I feel that your reply is a social document and there is no concept of the Church being Christ’s church.
            In Revelation 3 there is the letter to the church at Laodicea . It says: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am going to spit you out of my mouth. You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing”. But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked
            This is the state of the church in the western world and why we now live in a post-Christian world.
            You say that Jesus did not have same sex marriage in mind and this is the 21st century. It is only the 21st century because the calendar was restarted from His birth. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He will return to judge the living and the dead.
            When God Incarnate speaks it is not negotiable..
            I can sense in my Spirit that this is a point at which the Church must turn to Christ and repent and uphold biblical truth.

    • “I feel that your reply is a social document and there is no concept of the Church being Christ’s church.”

      I think the point is that this whole issue is so far away from the church’s actual mission of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, homing the homeless etc. It’s far too easy to get tied up in these side issues and forget what we’re here for.

      “This is the state of the church in the western world and why we now live in a post-Christian world.”

      I would say we’ve never lived in a Christian world for this to be a Post-Christian one. If you assume that the Church should be completely against same sex marriage then it’s likely that you’ll think that a Church that doesn’t oppose it is ‘lukewarm’. This is a kind of logical fallacy known as ‘begging the question’. I would suggest that a church that flings open its doors to people wanting same sex marriages is actually far from lukewarm.

      Most attempts at forming a Christian world, or even a Christian country have failed epically. I would rather be a minority voice in a democracy than attempt to wave the ‘Christian Country’ trump card.

      “You say that Jesus did not have same sex marriage in mind and this is the 21st century. It is only the 21st century because the calendar was restarted from His birth.”

      Perhaps you are confusing me with someone else, as I didn’t mention the 21st century. I’m not too worried as to what the date is, as much as that we’re actually interacting with the people around us.

      “He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and He will return to judge the living and the dead.
      When God Incarnate speaks it is not negotiable..
      I can sense in my Spirit that this is a point at which the Church must turn to Christ and repent and uphold biblical truth.”

      Again all this is according to what you’ve decided is the truth based on your particular interpretation of certain scriptures. However popular that interpretation is among your peers, and however important you may feel that your interpretation is, not everyone holds that view. Not everyone believes that God is against same sex marriage. Asking those people (such as myself) to oppose same sex marriage is to ask us to go against what we believe to be right. And by right I mean ‘right’ according to what we believe is revealed in the Bible.

      If you’re going to do that you need a better argument than just that it seems like a bad thing to you.

      I completely understand that what is going on is ringing every alarm bell in your head. I have members of my family who think exactly like you do and with whom I discuss this on a regular basis. I would only ask that you stop for a moment and think ‘what if I’m wrong about this’ and see where it takes you.

      • Dear Richard
        This is not a side issue. What has been revealed from discussions such as ours and the ‘facilitated conversations” is that in the C of E, we no longer have a broad church as we thought. We actually have 2 separate churches – one wing which may differ over elements of doctrine But accepts the historic formularies of the Church, Scripture as revealed by God to us through His Holy Spirit and another church which does not accept these and considers that revision is the course to take.
        We now have the Oxford Diocese clergy openly criticising the revisionist Bishop of Buckingham. We gave the Bishop of Buckingham describing church teachings as “lousy” in a court room. This is not going to end well. There is no middle ground her for Orthodox believers.
        The Western World became Christian in 200 AD when Emperor Constantine converted. We were part of the Roman church until Henry VIIII but we remained
        And still aren’t of the worldwide orthodox communion. The Queen at her Coronation received the Holy Spirit to guide her. Winston Churchill called the nation to prayer when we were threatened by the Nazis. Our laws are based on the Christian tradition. Our Marriage law was written in accordance with Christian tradition. The vast majority of Europe was Catholic. As a matter of interest a statuspe of Emperor Constantine has just been moved in York from opposite the main door to the Minster across the newly paved area to just near the steps to the door. It was in front if this statue that the Dean and Canon allowed the draping of the rainbow flag and a blessing on a pansexual movement.
        I apologise you did not use the term 21st century. You dud however put forward the idea that because society has changed the church should. Your referred to being “in the world, but not of it”. When the world moves in the direction that it has, it is even more imperative that the Church speaks into that situation in live, but not in agreement.
        You’re right that my alarm bells are ringing. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour 30 years ago. As my faith and understanding has grown I have become more orthodox not less. The revealed truth that we hold as His Church is at risk. The Pope actually stated that this is the greatest threat to the church since the third century.
        However if scriptural reference does not sway you I recommend you read a piece by Canon Gavin Ashenden on why after 10 years iof supporting LGBT rights. He can no longer do so. http://www.virtueonline.org/human-hearts-behind-numbers-shouldnotbeforgitten

        • Hi Tricia,

          Thank you for posting the link to the article by Gavin Ashenden.

          Balancing ‘rights’ is very difficult, and I don’t doubt that we have some things wrong now. Personally I’ve never felt that it was always the case that sexuality was set in stone. I think people become attracted to other people. For many the particular factor of male or female is a primary differentiator. For some not so much, and for others that state could change through their lives.

          I don’t think bullying by anyone or any group is tolerable. If other people want to behave differently then that’s up to them, but I believe that we should be treating people in the way that we would want to be treated. Having found the love of my life, then I want to be allowed to marry them if they want to marry me, and I want that marriage to be a fully legal marriage. I don’t see any reason for not allowing someone to have those same rights, subject to their own beliefs on the matter, otherwise where does conscience feature?

          There are lots of issues around surrogacy, fertility, adoption and so on. Those are issues for the whole community, not just same sex couples. There is no right for the state to provide you with offspring if you are unable. All such provision of fertility treatment must be balanced with the needs of any children involved or created in the process.

          The reason I say same sex marriage a side issue is because when we get to Sheep and Goats day, it’s not going to pull any weight in the ‘I was hungry and you clothed me’ category is it?. “While you were hungry we were busy discussing the theology concerning who should be allowed to marry” doesn’t quite work, does it?

          A fellow Anglican recommend the book, A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren. It pretty much sums up where I think the church needs to be going to save itself from becoming the opposing factions of which you speak. It’s also part of the reason that I still attend a church in the light of such infighting. I’m not sure if a link to amazon is allowed here, but it’s very searchable and I recommend it if you have not read it already.

          • Dear Richard
            Thanks for reply . I will look at the Brian McLaren book.
            The Sheep and the Goats parable is a definition of our love for Him. We love because He first loves us. Works are a response to that love but we are never saved by works, we are saved by grace. ‘For God so loved the World that He gave His only Son that any that believe in Him may not perish but have eternal life.”
            InMatt 10:37 jesus says “anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,……..and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me”. If anyone is to become a follower of Christ they must be willing to give away what holds them back. You could paraphrase and say “if your sex life is more important than me, then you are not worthy of me”.
            The people of the world will do as they wish. Those who call themselves Christian do not belong to themselves but to Him.
            I feel that we the church must be salt and light to the world. There are so many hurting people and there will be so many hurting children from the surrogacy and sperm donation effects. We cannot let them down.

        • Tricia,

          A very interesting article and one that sadly is prevalent in this debate i.e. you either agree with same sex relationships or you are discriminatory. If we consider the new Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, this very subject was asked of him virtually straight after he was appointed leader because he is a Christian. There is only one response that he can give politically and that is that he supports LBGT rights. Any other opinion and the press plus his political opponents would have a field day.

          The church is going the same way, for the same reasons but what if I were to go off topic an say we were talking about anyone blessing the bread and wine, The resultant earthquake would cause bells to fall out of church steeples, priest’s dog collars would ping out their shirts and parishioners would fall out their pews etc.

          The problem is that we are now on the road to anything goes. Bishop Nazir-Ali suggested this in terms of language we use after WATCH came out discussing reference to God in the masculine demotes women in the holiness hierarchy.

          As Paul, writing to Timothy says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

          It’s interesting what Canon Ashenden remarks in relation to people who had same sex relationships but are now in committed opposite sex relationships. The gay activist Tom Robinson of “Glad to be gay” fame, still describes himself as gay even though he is in a committed opposite sex marriage with children.

          Scripture is to equip me to every good work. the word “good” here is not described by man’s definition of the word but God’s. I’m not to condemn others but neither am I to justify my own nor their sin.

          As much as we live in a politically correct world where the negativity of the idea of “sin” is opposed, God sent His Son to die on the Cross so that we might free from the chains of our sin. Mankind doesn’t define what sin is, God does in all its forms. If we stick to the topic of sexual expression then that includes adultery, fornication, pornography, swinging, etc, etc, etc. Sadly, irrespective of how loving, kind and warm the individuals are, it also includes homosexuality.

          It also includes my own sin so I’m no more righteous than anyone else, in fact “He who knew no sin, was made sin so that I might become the righteousness of God through Him.”

          • Mulac
            Thanks for your reply.
            I think you may be interested in Professor Robert Lopez and the work he has done in founding English Manif. He is the son of a lesbian mother who left his father whom he lost contact with. He was brought up by his mother and her partner, both of whom he speaks about with great affection. In his teenage years he sought older men for relationships and entered the gay lifestyle. He has since married and had a child and refers to himself as bi-sexual, but committed to his wife and child.
            He has been fighting for the rights of the child against surrogacy and sperm donation and written a book in collaboration with Rivka Edelman called “Jephthah’s daughter”. He was responsible for gathering a group of adult children of gay people to make a submission to the Supreme Court to not pass Same sex marriage. This was of course ignored for the political reasons you outlined.

    • Hi Tricia,

      ” I will look at the Brian McLaren book.”

      If this link works, you might find you might be able to read the first few chapters online here: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=z0eXAocIu78C&printsec=frontcover&dq=generous+orthodoxy&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAGoVChMI_ZPVysP7xgIVAxUsCh1ewgw6#v=onepage&q=generous%20orthodoxy&f=false

      “The Sheep and the Goats parable is a definition of our love for Him. We love because He first loves us. Works are a response to that love but we are never saved by works, we are saved by grace.”

      Sure, and those works are measured how we’ve treated others, in other words an extension of the Golden Rule – really basic stuff like feeding and clothing people. Jesus doesn’t say anything here, or anywhere else, about a believer’s role in shaping the law and how that would be an expression of our love for him. We can argue that it goes without saying that in our current age of democracy people of whatever kinds of conscience should be working towards better laws, but better does not always mean more of them, or that particular things in the Bible should make it into law. In my view any law *must*, as much as possible, leave room for conscience to be applied.

      ‘You could paraphrase and say “if your sex life is more important than me, then you are not worthy of me”.’

      But taking up your cross is a thing for Christians and is directly about individual challenges, not about legal frameworks.

      “I feel that we the church must be salt and light to the world. There are so many hurting people and there will be so many hurting children from the surrogacy and sperm donation effects. We cannot let them down.”

      By “not let them down” do you mean “make sure they don’t exist in the first place?” I would say that not letting them down is more about how we treat those people, and making sure that they are not disadvantaged by anything concerning their start in life.

      I knew a woman who had a rare lifelong condition who was constantly in pain. She would frequently say things like “I’m pro-abortion, I think any baby with my condition should be aborted – I wish I had been.” My only point here is that people are messed up by all kinds of things. Same sex parents mess up their kids. Heterosexual couples mess up their kids.

      It’s not our job to socially engineer the world so that it fits into our expectations. It’s only our job to love the people in it, and treat them in the way that we would like to be treated, whatever they are like.

      • Hi Richard
        Thanks for the link. It took me to the page so I will investigate it further.

        I agree the sheep and the goats parable is about offering basic support for the needs of others. The Salvation Army is a prime example of this. It is not judgemental it offers care wherever it is needed. But it does not compromise its biblical stance on morality – in fact it has a high strict moral code for its members. This is what I am advocating for the cofE. Love and care for all, but no change on acceptance of behaviour which is not acceptable to God. This is a slippery slope as Deborah has pointed out, it becomes our presumption of moral behaviour not the Orthodox Church view which has prevailed for 2000 years. It is those who call themselves Christian who need to confirm to His teaching. As I said “the world will do as it wills”. When Jesus sent out the disciples into the world He told them to shake the dust off their feet and leave if the people would not listen. Christianity is not coercive, Jesus opens wide His arms on the cross, it is humanity that needs to respond.
        I don’t understand the comment about a legal framework. When you pick up your cross and follow Him, it is a response of love not legality. When he reinstated Peter after denying knowing Him 3 times, the question 3 times was “do you love me?”
        My mention of salt and light about not conforming to the world. We must have a difference our salt and show Christ’s light in the world. If the Church colludes with the world and agrees that same sex marriage is acceptable, we let down all those children from these relationships who are now beginning to speak out in numbers about their opposition to same sex marriage and living in same sex households and the devastating loss of either a mother other a father. Have a look at the askthebigot website. God chose one man and one woman who can procreate and form family, we must not deviate.
        Also what is coming fast down the line is denial of biological sex. Gender identity which is the identity you assign yourself and everyone else has to accept even though the reality is that no-one can change their sex no matter how many operations you have. Now I may have great sympathy with this disorder, but I do not intend to be complicit. Maybe I’ll end up in prison. As Canon Ashenden said – this is cultural Marxism. Let us in the Church hang on tight to “God made them male and female and for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and take a wife, and the two will become one flesh. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” All those words- male, female, father, mother, wife are under threat.

        • I think my foremost worries about what you are saying are not so much the beliefs you hold, and I would defend your right to hold them although I disagree with them.

          My main issue is that you seem to want to force everyone to agree with you, or at least if they disagree they should comply with your expression of the natural order.

          I’m now fully convinced that there is no incompatibility expressed in the Bible between being a Christian and having a same sex marriage partner.

          Before this, I believed that it was wrong, but it was right for the individual to decide what they wanted to do for themselves.

          And before I believed that I believed (in the absence of enough research) what you might call the traditional view, that marriage should only be between one man and one woman.

          There you have your slippery slope in action. Except that some people seem to be going the other way, so maybe it’s not a slope, but just people changing their minds.

          As to biological gender identity, do you think it’s wrong to say “there is no male or female?” Do you think Paul also got some flak for that? I imagine it was a lot more radical back then than it is now.

          Terminology is just that. If it’s important to distinguish between those people with XX and those having XY chromosomes then society will continue to find a way to do it.

          • On August 14 Richard W’s post included:
            ‘As to biological gender identity, do you think it’s wrong to say “there is no male or female?” Do you think Paul also got some flak for that? I imagine it was a lot more radical back then than it is now’.
            If this is a reference to Galatians 3:26-28, “For all sons of God ye are through the faith in Christ Jesus; for as many as into Christ ye were baptized, ye put on Christ. There cannot be Jew nor Greek, there cannot be slave nor freeman, there cannot be male and female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” then I point out that the context makes it clear that Paul is saying that Jew, Greek, slave, freeman, male and female who have been baptized into Christ all have the same relationship to him – there is no difference between them in that respect. But that does not abolish the distinctions between them in other respects. Richard W is making the same mistake here that supporters of women’s ordination make when they quote these verses to support their case. The distinctions between male and female in marriage and ministry (Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and 1 Timothy 3) are not abolished.
            Phil Almond

  17. This article brings up so many questions about sexual activity in that what is sexual activity and who and how many is it with? It also brings up the further questions around when and where is sexual activity appropriate?

    This is such a difficult subject for a Christian to discuss and have a different view on without seeming unloving and discriminatory. We’ve got two sides of this argument within public society. One that is allowed to express their opinion, the other that is not. One that is good and brave, the other that is nasty and vile. One that is applauded, the other that is pillared. In a free society, we have the right to respectfully agree to disagree. In an oppressive society, we don’t.

    Within Scripture I only read of marriage taking place between a man and a woman. I also do not read of sexual intimacy outside of marriage being portrayed as a positive.

    I’m aware that I have sinned in thought, word and deed and in what I have failed to do. I conform to Paul”s writing to the Romans in 3:23 in that I have sinned and come short of the glory of God. I accept that I have a beam in my own eye so I’ll not concern myself with the moat that’s in my brothers. As I’m not without sin, I can’t cast the first stone neither can I condemn. Because of my failings and weakness, Christ died.

    The question I keep asking myself as a Christian is what is God’s ideal? If I fall short of God’s ideal should I justify my weakness so that it is no longer a failing?

    I accept that I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. As such I was born with a nature that seeks to go against the ideal of God, in whatever way it manifests itself. However, I must always remember that Jesus said to the woman in John 8 “Go and sin no more” so we have the ability to recognise that we have strayed from God’s ideal and proactively try to live in a manner that brings glory to Him.

    Sadly, through this debate I can’t help but feel that the world is influencing the Church rather than the Church influencing the world.

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