--[Anglican Church of Canada] Bishop Michael Ingham, the New York Times, July 5, 2003
It is very sad that an argument of such little weight keeps rearing its head but this is where TEC leadership is these days, alas. Nnick Knisely is not happy with Al Mohler
. Matt Kennedy takes apart the feeble attempt of Mr. Clark
. Please familiarize yourself with all those posts and then take the time to bookmark as well as read through this
, noting most especially the arguments by yours truly and by Chris Seitz in comments #1 and #2.
1. Mark Baddeley wrote:
Yep, although I think the revisionists aren’t looking for answers that are right or true, merely that have a degree of plausibility to create a level of ‘reasonable doubt’ for people. In Australia one of the strongly revisionist bishops is pushing a book that seeks to explain away the passages that speak directly to homosexuality. He’s careful not to say it’s right - he knows enough to know it isn’t - but he still promotes it, saying something along the lines of, ‘it shows that another view on these things isn’t irrational’. And really, for his purposes, that’s all he needs. Put the arguments through the cleaners and it won’t damage what that book does for his efforts to slowly work towards the normalization of same-gender sexual activity.
We still need to argue the case, because it does have an effect, and is going to give us the ability to continue long-term while progressive Christianity goes the way of the dodo, but they’ll continue to run bad arguments because they work with people who don’t want to be pushed by truth into a strong anti-same gender sexual activity position. They give them the sense that not being opposed isn’t irrational or unreasonable.
May 29, 7:47 pm | [comment link]
2. MichaelA wrote:
What is the book, and which bishop is pushing it?
May 29, 8:57 pm | [comment link]
3. Ralph wrote:
To me, it’s been reduced to a matter of fish-or-cut-bait doctrine.
If TEC wants to marry homosexual couples (despite the teachings of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition), then fine. But, they first need to change the written doctrine of the canons, and the BCP. Then, if same-sex couples (or various other combinations and permutations) want to stand before the devil and “marry” each other, there doesn’t need to be some stupid, obfuscating David-Jonathan pseudo-argument.
If TEC wants to say that homosexual practice isn’t sinful (despite the teachings of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition), then fine. Let them put it in the catechism, and/or somewhere else in the BCP, and/or in the canons. Then if some bishop wants to spend the night in a bath house, thus making an appointment for spending eternity with the devil, there doesn’t need to be some stupid, obfuscating shellfish pseudo-argument.
Let the TEC radicals hear, but not understand. Let them see, but not perceive. Let their hearts be dull, their ears heavy, and their eyes blind. Otherwise, they will see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, repent, and be healed.
How long, O Lord?
May 29, 9:17 pm | [comment link]
4. David Ould wrote:
the book is “Five Uneasy Pieces”.
The bishop, well I’ll give you 3 guesses but I think your first will be correct
May 29, 9:25 pm | [comment link]
5. Mark Baddeley wrote:
Mind reading over the interweb thingie, love it. :D
May 29, 9:35 pm | [comment link]
6. Jim the Puritan wrote:
Amazing how all the instant experts on Leviticus never ever seem to make it as far as Acts 15:19-29.
May 29, 9:37 pm | [comment link]
7. Sarah wrote:
But you know . . . this is what they’ve got.
It’s either “yes, well, we don’t care what Scripture or tradition say.”
Or “shellfish!” and “David and Jonathan were gay lovers!” and “you bigots you” . . . obviously ridiculous “arguments” but what else can they say?
May 29, 10:48 pm | [comment link]
8. Charles52 wrote:
Here’s the real context on the Levitical prohibition on same-sex acts:
From Leviticus 18:
21 “‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
23 “‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.
No shellfish there, as far as I can see. The question reappraisers need to answer is whether they are agreeable to child sacrifice and bestiality, and if not, why not. Now, I suspect they are pro-abortion as well as pro-same-sex, but why not just set up ovens to burn 3-4 year olds like the Canaanites?
May 29, 11:14 pm | [comment link]
9. Mark Baddeley wrote:
I think that argument only has some traction, Charles52. They aren’t arguing that everything in the OT law is now okay, but that not everything forbidden in the OT law is still forbidden. And they invoke a version of the ‘modified Lutheran’ view that is not uncommon in NT circles (popularised by Douglas Moo in the book Five Views on the Law, or something like that for the title) - new covenant, new law, one centred in Christ and his work so Christians aren’t ‘under’ the law.
Revisionists will (usually, some will have a more theocentric take) have a more anthropocentric take on the Law’s provisions than the evangelical version championed by Moo and others. The law’s prohibition on child sacrifice and (maybe, at least for this decade) bestiality, murder etc. will be upheld because we know from our reason and current knowledge that they are wrong. But we don’t ‘know’ that with regard to same gender sex.
They avoid the horns of the dilemma you’re proposing quite easily, and their view would seem quite reasonable to someone ‘on the fence’ - and in the process they take a step towards establishing that the law is simply a culturally restricted set of provisions - not wrong everywhere certainly, but also not necessarily right everywhere either - that has to be ultimately subject to modern understandings of right and wrong.
Their whole argument isn’t that ‘everything in the law is wrong’ but ‘we have to decide which bits reflect true morality and which don’t - not even the conservatives live as though all the law’s prohibitions still apply, so you can’t just quote the Law as though that settles the morality of the matter’. So your argument doesn’t rebut their case, so much as enable them to restate it.
May 29, 11:31 pm | [comment link]
10. MichaelA wrote:
True, I should have guessed David - thanks for letting me down gently…!
May 30, 3:15 am | [comment link]
11. David Ould wrote:
True, I should have guessed David - thanks for letting me down gently…!
Indeed, who else could it have been
May 30, 3:19 am | [comment link]
12. Brian from T19 wrote:
I have always found this to be a weak argument so I do not make it. I do, however, believe that the reasserters make the same mistake as the reappraisers in believing that only their reading is correct. The passage is as much about dietary laws as it is about people. The negative reaction people had to Peter was who he ate with and what he ate. That doesn’t mean the passage is addressing the issue of specific sin.
May 30, 3:58 am | [comment link]
13. Mark Baddeley wrote:
I’m not sure that reasserters, as a whole, think that ‘only’ their reading is correct. They think it is correct, using normal exegetical and hermeneutical principles. There may be more to the passage then they’ve seen or tend to speak about, but any ‘other’ reading has to be coherent with what they can already see - otherwise there aren’t two incoherent readings, there’s one right one and one wrong one.
As for Acts 10, I’d be surprised if Mohler would deny your point that the chapter is about both the holiness code and about Gentiles - dietary laws and people. That is kind of the point he’s making, and which Matt Kennedy also made in his fisking of the relevant ‘slack’ argument. The holiness code is abrogated in the vision of Acts 10 and so that group of human beings (a fairly large one…) excluded by that part of the legal code is now included. But the moral laws don’t seem to be abrogated (except for those with a ‘new covenant’ approach like Douglas Moo) and so the types of human beings/human behaviour addressed by them remain in place.
It’s not a particularly sophisticated or tricky argument. It’s basic ‘compare text with text’ and look for coherence. I’ve been sitting with some of the early church fathers for the last couple of years, and while their interpretive approaches often differ from ours, I think Mohler’s argument would be pretty uncontroversial for most of them. They mightn’t put it that way themselves, but I think they’d recognize it as being in the right kind of ballpark.
The revisionist argument here is just weird. Acts 10 has nothing at all to do with dietary laws, despite Luke’s description of the reaction in Acts 11:2-3, but is solely about saying that *everyone* excluded under the OT law is included in the new covenant (but not *everyone* of course, because revisionists are still going to balk at saying that God includes certain classes of people that are beyond the pale for them as well). So there is no abrogation of the dietary laws in Acts 10, just the moral ones - despite the fact that being a Gentile wasn’t, itself, a moral issue. And yet they maintain the traditional Christian approach of not keeping the dietary laws of the OT, despite the fact that they don’t think that they have been abrogated - thus showing that really what is going on is simply the wholesale rejection of the authority of the OT, and not its reception in light of Acts 10. If their reading of Acts 10 is right they should be accepting those people previously excluded for moral reasons due to the moral behaviour condemned in the law, but they should keep the dietary laws of the OT. It’s all just dust in the air - whatever argument will work for the current debate with no attempt to strive for any greater coherence between the arguments.
May 30, 5:41 am | [comment link]
14. Charles52 wrote:
Mark Baddeley -
Thank you for the push-back. I agree that revisionists would use my argument as an opportunity to restate their case, but they will do that anyway (it’s what they do). Nevertheless, their case is irrational, partly for the reasons inferred in your #13. They invoked the shellfish argument, but we aren’t claiming that all OT law remains in effect, as you note. They need to justify why part of the moral law is abrogated, and not another. Time is not available, nor is it necessary to review their arguments, which have been rebutted many times.
we know from our reason and current knowledge that they are wrong. But we don’t ‘know’ that with regard to same gender sex.
An accurate presentation of their case, but self-referential and factually false. They have no knowledge, nor any rational basis that justifies cherry-picking one moral law over another. The alleged science behind gay rights advocacy is bogus: there is no basis for claiming an ontological existence of a “gay” person, much less that “God made me gay”.
May 30, 8:21 am | [comment link]
15. c.r.seitz wrote:
Read Acts 15. Bauckham and Bockmuehl and others make it very clear that the ruling turned on the conception of the church as ‘sojourner in the midst’ as in Leviticus. Leviticus was not overturned. It was read with a close eye toward what was required, from the Law, for those ‘brought near in Christ.’ The Law of Israel for the Church, in Christ.
May 30, 9:13 am | [comment link]
16. AnglicanFirst wrote:
I agree with the comments on Scripture regarding the “shellfish argument.”
The “shellfish argument” is nothing but a “red herring” meant to throw debate on the subject of active same-sex relationships off track and to muddy the waters so that the sinful nature of same-sex relationships is difficult to debate from a Scriptural point of view.
However, it is possible to invoke Charles Darwin, that saint of the secular world, and discuss the reproductive futility of of same-sex relationships with regard to the “survival of the species.”
Further, since we are all now living our lives due to the reproductive sexual actions of our parents and ancestors it is possible to discuss the responsiblity that each of us has to procreate the next generation. This is a particularly heavy responsiblity for those who, due to their genetic gifts and cultural educational advantages, have a much greater ability, hopefully with humility and a sense of service, to contribute to the overall welfare of the human race in their own generation and to produce children who are also highly likely to be able make considerable contributions to the betterment of the entire human race.
In fact, for such people, to not have children out of purely selfish motivation, is a dis-service to the entire human race.
May 30, 10:25 am | [comment link]
18. Kendall Harmon wrote:
Reasserters are doing anything but asserting their view is correct. This is the kind of claim that springs from the post-modernish miasma in which we are currently swimming, you have your interpretation, I have mine, etc.
It is the interpretation of the Church. There is such a thing as a history of the Holy Spirit. Those on whose shoulders we now stand have had to wrestle through these issues and we owe them a deep respect as well as a listening ear.
Reading the Bible with the church is part of what we are called to. When we do that, the strong call of Leviticus as the word of God to the church still can be and indeed needs to be heard and this is but one example thereof.
May 30, 12:46 pm | [comment link]
19. Ross wrote:
I have two difficulties with the idea that the OT Law is composed of two (or three) parts—moral, ceremonial, and (for some) civil—and that Christians are bound only by the moral portion.
First, the Law itself appears to have no knowledge of any such distinction. It seems clear from the OT texts that the Law in all its provisions was regarded as a seamless piece, and all of it was part of the Covenant.
Second, proponents of this view never, in my experience, propose a rubric by which one can determine which category any given provision of the Law falls into. So, for instance, Leviticus 18:19 forbids sexual relations during a woman’s menstrual cycle, and Leviticus 18:20 forbids sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife. I think most proponents of the divisions-of-the-Law theory would argue that the former is a provision of the purity code, therefore not binding on Christians, but that the latter is moral code and therefore is binding. But why? What makes one so obviously a different category from the other, and—since those taking this approach to the Law generally regard the entire Biblical text as inerrant revelation—what is the support in the text for separating two adjacent verses so radically?
May 30, 7:31 pm | [comment link]
20. Mark Baddeley wrote:
There are lots of books on the subject that argue the issue in various directions, and not everyone agrees with the division between the three parts - Douglas Moo clearly doesn’t, Eusebius of Caesarea (from my initial impression) didn’t. But even they see the OT law as witnessing to the same moral framework that Christian’s should keep, and so, in my observation, their view comes out in practice fairly similar. Very briefly to engage with your concerns:
I don’t agree that the OT does treat the OT law as simply one piece. It does do that in places, but in other places it seems to distinguish between different aspects of the law - nothing that is normally classified as ceremonial or civil appears in the 10 commandments, for example. Most of the purity laws use categories of unclean, profane, holy, clean, which aren’t there in the laws usually classified as moral. The OT prophets tend to interact with the moral laws and the ceremonial laws differently in their preaching, and that difference is even stronger in the NT - the commands generally classified as moral are applied fairly directly and often their scope is intensified, the commands generally classified as ceremonial get spiritualised. And the prophets and NT are the ‘first order’ interpreters of the law for us.
The three-fold division, like having two testaments, or dividing the testaments into subcomponents is not prescribed by the texts themselves. It is descriptive of how people see the biblical texts as whole interact with the OT law - like all descriptive systems one can see a small range of material that doesn’t fit neatly into the categories, but it captures something right and works clearly for the larger number of examples.
So take Lev 18. Lev 18:19 mentions menstrual impurity - the language of impurity is part of the language of the ceremonial laws. It is the only example of that language occurring in chapter 18. Now, its presence in the chapter is both interesting and probably significant, but it is different from the rest of the material. Recognising that difference, and trying to honor it in how we receive the law, is as important as grasping that the law is a singular thing - ‘law’ not ‘laws’.
As I said, not everyone agrees with the three fold division. But +Kendall is right - there is *no* support in the history of interpretation for jettisoning the testimony of the OT law on sexual morality. Even those interpreters in history who don’t subscribe to the three division schema agree that the OT law’s teaching on sexual morality expresses something that abides into the present age.
May 30, 10:08 pm | [comment link]
21. MichaelA wrote:
I will add a bit more: Most Christians who draw a distinction between different parts of the OT Law do not do so (primarily) on the basis of anything in that Law. Rather, they rely on an external catalyst: Jesus Christ’s teaching that he came to “fulfil” the Law, and his Apostles’ teachings that they were “no longer under the Law” (despite still being Jewish).
The reason it is a difficult question is because Christ and his Apostles in their teaching made it so. They could have said “Here is a list of verses that still apply to Christians and here is a list of those that don’t”, but they didn’t say that. Rather they indicated that the law still applies to us in some ways, but not in others:
“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” [Gal 3:23-25]
Paul (clearly a Jew, and proud of it) wrote:
“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.”
“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” [Romans 7:9]
By the time these men write, the situation regarding the Mosaic Law and how it applies to God’s people has profondly changed, compared to OT times. But to express that change and yet still stay true to Christ’s teaching requires careful thought.
May 31, 1:14 am | [comment link]
22. c.r.seitz wrote:
#19—for avoidance of doubt. The argument of Bockmuehl, Bauckham, myself etc on Acts 15 does not treat of different kinds of law, as this will emerge in various forms, including, in time, Articles (though I have my own essay on that in ‘I am The Lord your God’ [Eerdmans, 2003]). Rather, Acts 15 sees different recipients of the One Law in Leviticus 18-19: Israel and the ‘sojourner in the midst.’ It identifies the Law for the latter with the gentiles brought near. The distinction between different kinds of law is a later and different kind of argument. FWIW, I deal with this later move in Figured Out (2001). (The Western Text of Acts already reflects a post-division reality, and so has the Great Commandment and ‘thou shalt do no murder’ instead of kosher and meat strangled).
May 31, 2:34 am | [comment link]
23. c.r.seitz wrote:
#20. Treatment of the name; sabbath; idolotry—hard to make these ‘moral’ as against ‘ceremonial’ or ‘civil.’ But your larger point is sound. And on the significance of Leviticus, it is hard to avoid the massive importance of chapter 16 at the very heart of the Pentateuch: the elimination rite of the ‘escape goat’ combined with the blood communion represented by the kapporet: The Cross in the OT (so Romans 3). Turning the OT into a prior ‘history of religion’ is one of the more harmful developments of the 18th and 19th centuries, voiding its figural presentation of the Gospel, deeply imbedded in Israel’s own life with God.
May 31, 2:43 am | [comment link]
24. Mark Baddeley wrote:
I agree, Seitz, I was undoutedly clumsy in how a phrased that part of the argument. For those of us who subscribe to some kind of threefold division, then the first set in the ten commandments are usually grouped as a set (‘the first table’) as relating to people’s response to God directly - almost by definition that isn’t ‘moral’, as ‘morality’ is normally connected to how you treat entities in the created order.
Nonetheless, treatment of the name, sabbath, idolatry don’t seem to occupy quite the same territory as rules about ceremonial purity or correct treatment of Israel’s cult. Those commands don’t seem to have any direct ground in the 10 commandments - which is significant for those of us who see the 10 commandments as having an important function in the OT law.
I agree completely about Lev 19 and the pernicious effects of a ‘history of religion’ approach to the OT. Having your Marcion with a bit of Hegel might bring him up to date, but it doesn’t fix the underlying heresy of separating creation and redemption, law and gospel, old testament and new.
May 31, 2:56 am | [comment link]
25. c.r.seitz wrote:
#24 I agree. Jesus Christ is the giver of the Law.
May 31, 5:06 am | [comment link]
26. Sarah wrote:
RE: “First, the Law itself appears to have no knowledge of any such distinction. It seems clear from the OT texts that the Law in all its provisions was regarded as a seamless piece, and all of it was part of the Covenant.”
Well—Shakespeare’s Hamlet “itself appears to have no knowledge of any such” categories, outlines, formats, or structures either. But the author certainly had categories, outlines, formats and structures in mind, and the readers and actors can take note of them and use them appropriately.
Human beings can read and discover for themselves the three categories of the law that theologians down through the ages have noticed and recognized. One of the ways we’ve noticed those distinctions is that Jesus Himself noticed them and treated them differently—as the Sermon on the Mount, among others, makes pretty clear, along with His teachings on porneia. The apostles also do so.
It would be rather crude and blunt-instrument-like for the OT to announce each and every component of its structure and I don’t see why it is necessary when readers and theologians are well able to see those components and name and examine them out loud.
May 31, 10:10 am | [comment link]
27. c.r.seitz wrote:
#26 This has been handled by Christian theologians differently, and not in terms only of what Christ may be said to distinguish. The OT itself made a distinction between laws all the people heard and those transmitted through Moses, e.g., and frequently appeal is made to that. The tradition is rich in how it reflected on the OT as such, as Christian Scripture, when it came to law (Adam received commands, etc).
May 31, 10:22 am | [comment link]
28. MichaelA wrote:
“Human beings can read and discover for themselves the three categories of the law that theologians down through the ages have noticed and recognized. One of the ways we’ve noticed those distinctions is that Jesus Himself noticed them and treated them differently—as the Sermon on the Mount, among others, makes pretty clear, along with His teachings on porneia. The apostles also do so.”
Very good point. Whilst the work that theologians do is important, they are still just reading the same book as the rest of us and attempting to divine and describe the same inspired teaching.
Speaking of the Apostles, and to reinforce points made by Sarah and Mark Baddeley, Paul in Galatians 3 distinguishes between the promises made to Abraham (the Abrahamic Covenant) and “the Law given 430 years later” (the Mosaic Covenant).
May 31, 7:45 pm | [comment link]
29. jkc1945 wrote:
It is difficult for me, a layman, to imagine that supposedly trained theologians do not know the difference between the dietary laws and the moral (holiness) laws of the Old Testament. They could ask any rabbi; they would quickly tell them the difference!
May 31, 8:46 pm | [comment link]
30. c.r.seitz wrote:
#29 There’s a great joke about the gentiles approaching a rabbi and asking about the reason for the laws. Moral? yes. Hygiene? yes. Symbolic? yes. When the rabbi returned to his congregation he was asked if Jews believe these reasons and he responded, No, I give these responses to gentiles. The reason for the laws is that God gave them to be obeyed. By that means, we show ourselves His people.
June 1, 3:10 am | [comment link]