Saturday, March 08, 2014

On the topic of marriage, Andrew Brown thinks Anglican conservatives are inconsistent:

In other words, the conservative position today is that when the bible says (with Jesus) that a man can’t marry another woman while his first wife is still alive, that’s not about the nature of marriage; when it says (with Moses) that if his wife dies, a man can’t marry her sister, that’s not about the nature of marriage; but when it says (as it doesn’t, because this was too obvious to spell out) a man can’t marry another man, that really is part of the definition of marriage in the way that the others aren’t. 

If this is what Fittall, Arora and the archbishops of Canterbury and York, deep down believe then their defence of the palpably silly makes sense. What God wants is by definition more valuable than anything else in the world and what God wants – Conservatives believe – is a straight man married to a straight woman: Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve are the perfect couple. It is that relationship that shows the kind of love that leads us towards God. You or I might point out that since Adam and Eve never existed it would be unwise to draw conclusions from their relationship, but that’s not how the religious imagination works. 

The point is that they can’t be convinced by arguments from science, from history or from the law about what marriage is. Their minds will only by changed by arguments from God and what God wants. Only if they see God at work in their opponents will they change. To see that, they would have to be looking for signs of it. I don’t think there is any immediate danger of that, on either side.

A couple things.  A religion which abandons its doctrine on marriage based on “arguments from science, from history or from the law about what marriage is” can’t be a religion.  If you claim to believe in the Transcendent but essentially argue that the Transcendent cannot function without a human Parliament or a human Congress, then you don’t actually believe in the Transcendent at all.

According to my reading of the Scriptures, “arguments from God” used to be accompanied by pillars of cloud and/or fire somewhere nearby, really loud and terrifying voices and other general scariness.  When, exactly, did vox populi vox Dei become a Biblical concept?  Cite appropriate verses and/or passages.
But Andy does make an excellent point; it’s just not the point that he thinks he makes.  Our Lord set an exceptionally high standard for marriage:

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

And it’s also undeniable that no Christian church around today perfectly adheres to the Lord’s standard.  So Andy’s argument should be obvious.  The Church (or at least the Anglican fragment of it anyway) has changed its stance on marriage before.  So what’s to stop it from allowing homosexuals to marry now?
Excellent question.  To which the only answer I can come up with is, yes, the Church (or at least the Anglican fragment of it anyway) has indeed changed its stance on marriage.  The response, or course, is:
Should it have?

What does it say about your church’s attitude toward marriage when your church gives a pointy hat and a hooked stick to a man who’s been divorced twice and married three times?  How can your church possibly justify making a bishop out of a guy who married, fathered two kids and then decided that he was a homosexual?

If anything, the Anglican stance on divorce and remarriage needs to be more strict, not less.  But as the last 11 years have taught us, we know that the arc of Anglican justice bends toward sanctified three-ways.

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