Ephraim Radner—Blessing:  A Scriptural and Theological Reflection

Posted by Kendall Harmon

To reiterate my on view of the nature of the church’s blessing, there is a kind of “test” that needs to be m[ad]e, which resolves around answering positively the following kinds of questions:

* Does God “do it”, and does it accord with God’s being and character and will?
* Is it in conformance with creative life?
* Is it obedient according to the common Christian understanding of divine command?

The human blessing of a marriage, understood traditionally, according to this scheme is rather obviously not only congruent but almost necessary. If we take the very language of blessing in the OT as we saw it, the notion of divine blessing is in fact essentially bound to the act of God’s creating human beings as male and female and ordering their existence procreatively within the earth. “And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gen 1:28). And when, subsequently, we are given the shape of this creative ordering, we are told: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). The fact that someone – a priest, the church – “blesses” this reality is but the human reflection of something truly already present. “All your works praise you, O Lord”: one could look at a marriage service as this kind of inevitable praise, “ascribing” to the Lord the honor due to His own work.

The contested issue with same-sex coupling is: is this in fact the “work” of the Lord? If our blessing of something “displays” what God has already more fundamentally enacted in His creative purposes, how would one know, thereby to “bless” it? The question, obviously, has got to get way beyond the silly claims that “the Church blesses all kinds of things – fox hunts and submarines – why not this?” Because, as we have seen, the Church ought not to bless all things, if in fact some things are not aspects of the creative purposes of God’s life-giving and life-extending character and will and do not accord with God’s “command”. If the Church does this, she becomes like the false prophets, trading in lies and ultimately engaging the deep “rebellion” against God: divine blessing and curse are humanly and woefully reversed.

And in this light, I believe that the issue of blessing same-sex unions cannot be construed in terms of whether this is a moral or a doctrinal issue. The distinction between the two, while it may have some canonical bearings within the Church’s decision-making process, has no theological rationale: there is no clear difference, Scripturally speaking, between “moral” and “doctrinal” reality, whether in the OT or NT as a whole.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of CanadaSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologySacramental TheologyTheology: Scripture

Posted June 19, 2009 at 6:42 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Susan Russell wrote:

“... essentially bound to the act of God’s creating human beings as male and female and ordering their existence procreatively within the earth ...”

And therin lies the rub, as they say. Others understand “the notion of divine blessing” bound to our humanity and our call to be stewards—not just populators—of the earth.

If you’re interested in an alternative Theololgy of Blessing, check out 2003 CTB Theology Statement

Our position on marriage equality has changed over these last busy six years but the theology of blessing remains foundational

June 19, 12:59 pm | [comment link]
2. Billy wrote:

And what does being a steward have to do with same sex blessings?  Now are you co-oping environmentalism as part of your alternative theology to attempt to make “right” what has always been and still is wrong.  You really will grasp at any straw you can, won’t you.

June 19, 3:07 pm | [comment link]
3. driver8 wrote:

Being open to the blessing of children surely isn’t rightly described as “just populating” the earth. To be open to children is to will to share in God’s loving creativity in a particularly significant manner. Or so I read Scripture.

June 19, 3:19 pm | [comment link]
4. Billy wrote:

And #1, thanks for the reference to Claiming the Blessing.  Very interesting reading, much of which is dated (which we knew at the time it was written), as you have taken your organization well beyond what Rev. Mr. Hopkins claimed it was after. 

Also, interesting quote in CTB:  “Just what are we blessing when we bless a same-sex relationship? We are blessing the persons in relationship to one another and the world in which they live. We are blessing the ongoing promise of fidelity and mutuality. We are neither blessing orientation or “lifestyle,” nor blessing particular sexual behaviors.”

Now if that were only true, then you could simply have a blessing of friendships - who could have a problem with that?  But you want blessing much more than that - you do want blessing of lifestyle and sexual behaviors.  And you know that is what you are claiming the blessing for.  Otherwise, your blessing is no different from anyone elses.

I would note that there are many other things in CTB that are not necessarily true - but are stated as if they were.  But not enough time or space to take them on now.

June 19, 3:43 pm | [comment link]
5. Rob Eaton+ wrote:

It’s Genesis 1.  Susan is using shorthand to make a reference to the bible, which she does as her authoritative foundation as a Christian.

She probably should have included Chapter and Verse.

June 20, 12:39 am | [comment link]
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