14 February 2007

Who reads the Gospel? Who follows the Gospel?

At dinner conversation tonight, we got to talking about the Gospel and the current "crisis" facing the Anglican Communion. I, for one, am weary of progressives being tarred with the image of ignoring the Gospel.

This is a rant. Please feel free to read on to the next post, if you like. It is a well-trodden rant.

When I pick up my Bible and read the gospels, I read a message of radical and complete love. Love so strong that it reached out to the most marginal people in the culture. Love so strong that it offered health and salvation. Love so strong that it was not concerned with the structures of religion or society.

So, I ask you: who is following the Gospel? Those who would exclude people from fullness in the Body of Christ? Those who ignore issues of life and health in favor of pushing an agenda of division and purity laws?

Interestingly, I also note that Jesus said not a word about homosexuality. Mostly he talked about love and money. To the extent he had anything to say about so-called traditional marriage, he was not keen on divorce. Strangely, the American Anglican Council can have a nuanced position on that one. Perhaps because it hits close to home? Any, go figure.

I'm calling myself a Gospel-following Christian until shown otherwise.


Susan Russell said...


Reflecting said...

"Interestingly, I also note that Jesus said not a word about homosexuality. Mostly he talked about love and money. To the extent he had anything to say about so-called traditional marriage, he was not keen on divorce."

I have no desire, frankly, to get into an exegetical dispute. But I would like to suggest that you take a careful look at the line of logic you're using. Does silence represent disagreement with or consent to a particular point of belief?

Let us say that Jesus said nothing of Y in the Gospels. The Hebrew Bible, however, which Jesus knew quite well as he quoted it up to his dying breath, is fairly clear about Y. Jesus did say a number of things about A, B, and C and he effectively altered what the Hebrew Bible had said about A, B, and C. But, again, he said nothing about Y. Is it logical, then, to say that because Jesus altered A, B, and C, he would also alter Y? Or, is it more logical to say that Jesus saw no need to speak about Y because he saw no need to alter the Hebrew Bible's position on Y.

An argument from silence means that one's position cannot be effectively proven. However, it seems more likely that silence implies consent to a standing code.

Let us say that I am a member of a group that wishes to start a lottery in my home state. I have said nothing about this issue, but I am a member. My silence equals consent. Let us say that you and I are in a car. You are driving; I am riding. You take a right turn. I say nothing. Do I agree or disagree with your decision to turn? The answer cannot be proven conclusively. However, it is more likely that I consent to your decision to turn because I said nothing.

Now four more things need to be said about your post in terms of exegesis.

First, Christ did in fact affirm that he was not overturning but fulfilling the Law (as Paul would say, a circumcision of the heart). In Matthew's gospel, Christ says "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matt 5:17). So reading Christ as a simple radical who overturned the old codes is a somewhat shallow read of a very complex man (or God-man).

Second, as you've mentioned, Jesus has a rather uncompromising view of marriage. This would lead a careful reader to believe, in my humble opinion, that Jesus had a rather traditional moral ethos (tradition, from the Latin, meaning that which is handed down). Moreover, because he says that remarriage after divorce is effectively adultery, he is working under a received set of moral ethics (simply put: adultery is a bad thing because it has been revealed as a bad thing in the Hebrew Bible). He received that moral ethos from the Hebrew Bible. So, if anything, he was taking the Law to a higher degree, even wishing his followers to internalize the Law.

Third, when Jesus was presented with the woman caught in adultery (a Pharisee trap), Jesus forgave her, but then admonished her to "go her way and sin no more." He did not abrogate her sin. He did not rationalize her sin. He forgave her sin.

Fourth, it is the practice of the religious right (Pat Robertson types) to limit one's exegesis on any particular issue to select verses here and there - for example limiting one's read of the Bible only to the exact words of Jesus. It is quite unAnglican in fact. The Bible, a collection of complex authors recounting God's revelation to humanity about his abiding love for humanity, cannot be subjected to cutting and pasting without losing the total message. Hence, the whole of the Bible does in fact reveal God's will in matters of human sexuality (and not just in the red words).

While I disagree with it, I think a more effective argument for making homosexual behavior acceptable for Christians is to say that the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing. This method, however, runs contrary to the Anglican way of doing theology. This line of argument is actually quite Pentecostal in nature. But that is a conversation for another day. I recommend reading Richard Hooker.

To conclude on a positive note, perhaps, in this comment, I am trying to make you a stronger advocate for the new position in the Episcopal Church.

I think though that we can agree on this:

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:37-40

pax domini tecum

Gary Paul said...

Actually, Jesus had one brush with a gay couple -- In Matthew 8, a centurion asks the Jewish healer to heal his beloved *pais* (translated "boy," "servant," or "slave"). In other texts, "pais" refers to young slaves kept for sexual purposes. Here, the Roman officer seems to genuinely care for his boy-toy. Jesus not only heals the boy but commends the master's faith; he doesn't comment on their (un-PC) relationship.

A lot hangs on interpretation of one word here, but considering the mileage the fundamentalists get out of the Leviticus word translated "abomination," I say, go for it.

Murdoch Matthew
(husband of Gary Paul)
Queens, NYC

Far Talk said...

Come on there are no "Progressives!"

There are only Christians and anti-Christians.

Progressivism was a political movement that ruined Populism. If you describe a movement within Christian organization as "Progressive," then you have a movement that has progressed away from the Gospels.

This people pretending to be "progressive" are not "progressive," but corruption.

Face it, people who delude themselves into thinking they are "progressive" are simply people who worship at the altar of Political Correctness.

This is a religion top be sure, but it is not Christian for Heaven's sake.

People deluding themselves into thinking they are "progressive" belong to a cult -- the PC cult.

They are cultees whose minds are programmed just as completely as Jehovah's Witnesses, or the People Temple, or Moonies.

You are not Christian.

Goodness me. Call a spade "a spade."

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Reflecting reflected: “… it is more likely that I consent to your decision to turn because I said nothing.”

This is the position of most legal systems. We call it “consensual acting”.

Reflecting concludes: “… more logical to say that Jesus saw no need to speak about Y because he saw no need to alter the Hebrew Bible's position on Y.”

Now, this is only one possibility out of several. The problem however, is that the Biblia Hebraïca (AD 1008) does NOT speak of Y. Nor does the Septuagint: the first edition of a 1000 years earlier.

It was the pupils of Peter Lombard at the Sorbonne in making and St Victor monastery outside Paris, who changed the ancient, very reliable, Old Latin translation (North Africa 2nd century onwards) around 1200 to express Scholastic (Indo European Alexandrian philosophy) State and Academy teachings (Social Discipline).

This 12century change is what is read as Y.

Y is the reading in of a Platonist/Gnosticist sexual Taboo (the Spilling of Semen) by way of a misinterpretation of the damaged Hebrew text (a missing “im”) into the correct Old Latin translation, changing the verb koimäthäse (koimaomai); go to bed, into commiscearis / commit, and the noun koitän gunaikós; the Bed of the wife, into the misogynous adjective “womanly coitus” (= the ever lusting daughters of Eve), to produce yet another of several proof texts for Mandatory Clerical Celibacy (Lateran II 1139), characteristic of the Scholastic Versio vulgata (so called for the first time in 1248).

European philosophizing Academics also “misunderstood” half a dozen words from, or pertaining to, the 10 Commandments, changing the 1 Great Commandment and the 3 Cultic, 3 Collective and 3 Social Commandments from speaking of the relationship of the Husbandman towards Cult(s), Household and Neighbour (the next Husbandman), to addressing the 12th century Philosophic theological and socio-political abstract concepts and “issues” of Laterans I-IV. Hierarchy, Obedience, Abstinences.

Reflecting said: “…reading Christ as a simple radical who overturned the old codes is a somewhat shallow read of a very complex man (or God-man).”

Reading Christ as someone who simply reaffirmed old codes is even more shallow. One would say impossible even, against Mark 7.

OT “nómos” means both Law (10 Commandments) and Tradition (everything else), which is why there are 3 distinct meanings of “nómos” in the Letter to the Romans ;=)

You are misreading this in post Cranmer manner of a distinction “Civil, Ceremonial, Moral” (abstract “moral” is a 12th century Scholastic concept) prevalent in Anglicanism’s Calvinist subculture but unknown in other churches, to mean that selected bits and pieces of the Tradition of the Elders be equal to – or preferably above – the 10 Commandments.

They are not – only the 10 Commandments are The Law, in Church and Synagogue.

The 10 Commandments are yet to be fulfilled. Even more, their text has been both abolished: I = D 5:6 (The Great Commandment), shortened: II = D 5:8-10, and/or substantially altered in 2nd Millennium European Academia.

Their meaning has been changed in theology and translation; IV = D 5:12 from Saturday to Sunday; VI = D 5:17 from killing to murder; VII = D 5:18 from loyalty of the Husband towards the House to “sexual adultery” of the wife; VIII = D 5:19 from humans to things; IX = D 5:20 from courts of law to gossip.

Just read Deut 5:6-22 comparing it to Lev 19 (the Jewish Catechism) and Luther’s Catechism.

Now, this is what Jesus says. And when he says Do not think… it is because that they did so. The Pharisees thought that he had come to abolish the Law (= the 10 Commandments), because of Mark 7 and a host of other sayings.

So does the post Cranmer tradition. Which is why all this Integrist spin that each and every verse of a rearranged, truncated and increasingly mis-translated Bible have the same value – and have been regarded so by the Tradition of the Church. Not true at all. You only need to read Eusebius’s 3rd Book ( = chapter) of his Church History.

Mark 10 with parallels (speaking not of “marriage” – certainly not of our European egalitarian marriage – nor of our European mutual “divorce”, but about the one-sided repudium of Polygamy in subordinating societies, still alive and kicking in some Islamic law) is precisely one of the places where Jesus does not “reinforce” or “renew” or “affirm” or “take the Law to a higher degree”, but change altogether: from Yes to No.

They say – but I tell you!

(and yes, as is quite a lot in the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount is in the order of the 10 Commandments, so is 1 Cor 6:9-11 – guess what this does for its contents…)

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Murdoch Matthew mentioned Matt 8:5ff, which is the same, but very different, story as Luke 7 (always prefer the much elder Mark and Luke to late Matt!) with yet a take in John 4:46ff.

Even more interestingly, there are 2 men in the same bed without so much as an incling of an eye in Luke 17:34.

So, regardless of the claims of the large mouthed and the forged 2nd Millennium translations, sleeping together is a non issue in the Bible.

Simple as that.

Chris said...

Reading far talk's "analysis", I am reminded of something a friend says at times of particular exasperation:

"If these are the Christians ... throw me to the lions!"

gaedo said...

gaedo said:
When Peter baptised Cornelius, he did so because God had already given to Cornelius the gift of the Spirit - even though to do so was totally against
the tradition of God's chosen people at that time, and their then understanding of God's will and teaching that Gentiles were unclean. He did
so because God had shown Peter that he was not to call unclean those whom God had made. The Church has grown immeasurably as a result.

When Bishop R O Hall ordained Florence Li Tim-Oi, he did so because God had already given to her the charisma of priesthood - even though to do so was all against the tradition of the worldwide church at that time, and its then understanding
of God's will. He resisted the temptation to rename her Cornelia. Women too were thought, even by Christian theologians, to be unclean, defiled by
menstrual bleeding and even childbirth. The Church is now immeasurably enriched by the priestly ministry of women.

Those who selected Jeffery John to be Bishop of Reading in 2003 recognised that God has given to him the charisma for the episcopate, even though to consecrate him would have been all against the tradition of the worldwide church up to this time, and its received understanding of God's will. If that is true, should the Archbishop, who would have consecrated him, and the Bishop of Oxford to deny what God had already done ? Homosexual practice is widely considered to be defiling. Yet who is to say that Peter's vision is not still true, and that God does not still wish to enrich his Church through the priestly and episcopal ministry of those who share the, now, Dean of St Alban's orientation ?