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May 24, 2006

Comments

David Loving

That is one heck of an exposition, John. Thank you for helping me think through these issues. It is better to just let things play out since I have no control over an outcome. You have a quite reasonable way of looking at creation, something I do not have trouble getting my brain around. I would rather live in the moment, in reality, than in a construct. We just have to handle things the way they really are.

David Loving

I wondered where you had been, blog-wise, the last few days. You used your time a lot better that I did.

Former Rochesterian

I, too, noticed your absence. Surely you were in your woodshop, carpentering this "Dictata super Witterium." Thank you for this irenic and sanative commentary on the Troubles.

Reverend Ref

Wow -- this was fantastic. And to think I was going to post about not having seen any cattle drives through town yet this year.

bls

Witt will not be able to stop a gay Christian culture from forming.

Better said this way: he will not be able to stop gay people from loving and following our Crucified and Risen Lord. Nor will anyone else.

J. C. Fisher

I do not have his erudition or his expertise. I have read far less than he has and do not write as well.

You're more capable than you think, Salty!

The fact that Witt begins his screed w/ the term "affluent" speaks volumes. It is an effort to use the tried-and-untrue rhetorical method of Anti-Semitism, to demonize homosexuals (and allies) as the "Overlord Other": amorally acquisitive as well as immorally decadent. But it is also, simultaneously, an attempt by Witt to "Global South-ize" himself and like-minded Northerners: "Hey, we may be in an affluent part of the world, but we're not affluent the way that THEY are!"

Beyond that?

Witt's conflation "homosexual activity is immoral, condemned by both Scripture and Church tradition" is just more of the DISHONEST same ol'/same ol': Modern anti-Modernism, to read contemporary homophobia, back into The Way of All Ages. Humbug!

Having said that, Witt has at least provided you, Salty, a springboard to do some (to extend the metaphor) deep diving: for that, he is to be acknowledged . . . while you are to be commended! :-D

Darius

Sorry, I misread. Thought this site was titled, "Sultry Vicar," and was immediately attracted...

Al Kimel

Trackback Pontifications

Jay

Salty, now I have my summer reading. This blog entry. ;-P

Seriously, I'm about halfway through it but so far it sizes up as a tour de force.

Note to JCF: Now that it's time for planting vegetables here in the frozen north (today's temperature of 96 degrees notwithstanding), I miss your blog for another reason... the periodic photos of your garden!

Perry Robinson

SV,

Some thoughts on your post to Dr. Witt.

I don’t know why one would think that reductionism and foundationalism go together or why you would think that foundationalism was “easy.” Whether “science” or even “empiricism” get us to truth is a quite controversial claim nowadays and not for reasons articulated by trendy Postmodernists but by the actual failures of the Logical Positivists of the last century. But you digressed.
I can’t help but wonder what you mean by “joy” or why you would identify it with Christianity per se. I get no less worried when people tie Christianity to nebulous concepts and ahistorical experiences as “joy.” Certainly Christianity historically has much to say and who with joy, but joy relative to a specific life and persons who acted in history. Tar me Platonic, but music in the service of emotion, divorced from the guidance of reason always seems to amount to some kind of propaganda and as such is dangerous. You reference Bach, but I keep hearing Wagner.

I wonder why you took the codes of Scripture against homosexual behavior as “quaint and mythological” you didn’t also take those against bestiality or adultery in the same way? Certainly if there is no criteria, how can your statements amount to anything more than biography? In fact, why consider such expressions as Christian at all? If what the re-asserters say is wrong, that there is no fixed norm, why should your experience be labeled as “Christian?” Christology also comes to the fore here. Jesus gives the law to Moses and the Inspiration of Scripture, as well as the Church is a theandric activity so that I find it hard to see how one can take moral commands given by Jesus to Moses as “mythic.”

If you would not read Scripture to find out if homosexual behavior was immoral, what would you read? And it seems like an equivocation on “disordered” between its moral sense and a biological activity, which then permits you to construct a false analogy as if asking if homosexuality was disordered was like asking Scripture about how cars are made. It isn’t a question that is after a descriptive answer.

Following Kierkegaard, there indeed does seem to be a connection between the affluence in modernity and the need to revise morality, as a fixed moral code implies ultimate significance to life, something that aesthetes generally despise. This is why all moral paragons must be brought low and all moral degenerates must be canonized. What would be “interesting” is a comparison between liberal and fundamentalist piety, since Bultmann and Fundies seem like two sides of the same coin. Both center their “faith” on an existential experience that is ahistorical. How strange and intoxicating it must be for liberals to find out that they are closet fundies after all. Intellectual aestheticism is no less a sickness than the crass hedonist with his daily visits to the brothel-they only differ in the whore’s they patron. Consequently, Capitalism isn’t the problem, it is only the pre-existing structure that aesthete’s make use of today.

I have no doubt that you choose the “love of God” over repentance, but a relevant question is why one and not the other? And if such a choice is subjective or arbitrary or both, is this what is really going to help people face culturally entrenched injustice? I can’t see how. By contrast, Jesus activity on the Sabbath seems to rest on principled reasons, namely that the Lord of the Sabbath can loose its restrictions and that law and love were not opposed in the way that both some of the Jewish leadership and yourself seem to do.

It seems awefully funny to appeal to “God given reason” given that such a notion is so nebulous, but perhaps that is why you invoke it. As for “culture” the fact that it is somewhat fluid doesn’t imply that there is nothing to it. If this weren’t true, I don’t see how you could speak of multiple “cultures.” As for Romans 12:2, the transformation there is to the icon of Christ not by some general notion of God’s justice.

When you write of “how scripture is actually read” who is in view here? Certainly the consensus of the Fathers go out of their way to employ all of Scripture, even when their interpretation seems highly implausible to us. One doesn’t have to assume that Scripture possesses a specific qualia (though it does, if one believes that there are things like qualia) but only that Scripture is a theandrically produced library of documents. Selectivism is a process where the historical nature of the documents is eliminated by its removal from or priority over other texts in the canon or by reducing it to human and intrinsically defective and therefore extrinsically valuable entity. There is a reason why the Gnostics used such a practice extensively.

The discussion on what would have been helpful had Witt written it is just dancing around the question of whether the Bible is a theandrically produced document or not for it is asking what is the proper relation between the human and the divine? You could save a lot of time by just talking about who is Jesus.

I agree that “liberation” doesn’t mean anything goes. It means anything according to a specific view of the world. The fact is that I simply don’t know what you mean when you speak of “God” “liberation” or “oppression.” You certainly don’t seem to mean what the Fathers meant by those terms. The changing of the context of liberation seems to fall into the same quagmire you try to dump Witt’s reference to culture into. Which context of “liberation” are you speaking of? And why should yours pass as Christian or even acceptable? Which “culture” of “liberation” are you referring to? Your reference to “context” is so referentially vague as to do no real argumentative work, assuming that one could just switch contexts as you wish to do. Moreover I can’t help but seeing the connection here between your strategy and the classic Gnostic practice of exchanging old meanings for new ones. This is why your reference to Abraham sacrificing Isaac seems to fit in to your general argument as does your hesitation to dispense with the cosmological and ethical content of the rite of marriage, ironically enough.

Blaming the liberal protestant bodies for the decline in morality and more importantly, virtue, would be a mistake, but an even larger one would be to think that they had nothing to do with it. The reason why Unitarians are more consistent with their moral precepts is because they by and large are whatever an individual Unitarian prefers. Living in such a way, it isn’t hard to be consistent. I am not a friend to Baptist thinking, but being a Baptist is much more difficult. I am not at all clear on why ECUSA should be concerned with pragmatism. Lots of things works and humans can flourish in lots of contexts. It seems far too convenient that they happen to settle on the one that they have. Shifting what blame is due to ECUSA to other “agents of change” doesn’t amount to anything of exculpatory value. ECUSA may not be the major agent of change but it is a relevant one.

Your analogy to language is a faulty one. I can translate any concept from one language to another, it just depends on the number of words I wish to employ. Translation of the vocabulary of the Good doesn’t imply a change in conceptual content anymore than translating from English to Chinese does. And certainly not all cultural changes are to be followed. The question is not whether the church “followed” the culture, that is caved to it, but whether it ought to have done so. Which culture did you have in mind, since as you noted above, they are legion?

The fact most lay people could distinguish between their ass and homoousios doesn’t seem to help answer the question but rather testifies to the fact that you have nothing meaningful to say other than a dodge. Perhaps if you weren’t altering Christianity you’d actually not only have time but would believe and be motivated to teach your lay people what it meant and why it was important. As someone catechized in ECUSA, my priest when I was 12 took the time to educate me on its meaning and significance.

Human nature may be vast, but it isn’t infinite. The question could, like in times past be settled by votes, if there is resolve to stick with it. The fact of the matter is that you are quite right that it will in the long run be settled on a pragmatic basis but I don’t think in the way you proffer. People in poverty, suffering from violence or real oppression in the long run won’t flock to Churches with U2 Psalms. In fact, the trend is going the other way. Right when droves of evangelicals are looking for something transcendent and fixed, you are offering them exactly what they are leaving. They have tried that already and it doesn’t satisfy, it just makes it easier to control the masses.

Witt nor anyone else will not be able to stop a Gay Christian community from forming no more than Athanasius could stop the Arians from forming, Ireneaus the Gnostics or Cromwell the Brownists. But of course, they will not last and they won’t be considered Christian or eventually retain Christian vocabulary. Indeed, why should they? What is in the name of a dead Jewish peasant?
The identification of the faith once delivered as one of the most “dangerous” of contemporary ideologies strikes me as so much Gnostic dribble. It is a disparagement of history and historical continuity as well as an equivocation on “contemporary.” It is the complaint of an aesthete who wishes not to be bound by moral codes and their persisting normativity through time.

You ask, what is a contemporary Christian to do when the Biblical context is incomprehensible? Presumably pick up a commentary. Following Mark Twain, it isn’t the passages of the Bible that he doesn’t understand that bother him, it is the ones that he does. The same is by and large true in practice. The problem isn’t incomprehensibility but something else, something that someone who professes not to have an “Enlightenment” view of human nature should have noticed.

If you don’t usually think of sin as applied to those who are deeply in love, how exactly do you think of adulterers who are deeply in love? The narrow way may be more than a prohibition against homosexual behavior but it certainly isn’t less than it or excludes it.

Philosophy provides the structure upon which science rests, which is why science in the 19th century is different than science pre-1964 from science now. For science to “test” (whatever that could mean) metaphysical assertions, we would have to construct crucial experiments where we isolate beliefs from each other and this is certainly controversial since Quine. Any metaphysical system can admit any scientific discovery, or at least a hell of a lot of them. It just depends on how much one is willing to give up or accept. There are no theory neutral facts that science picks out.

Reasserters can conceive of a God free from Scripture, it is just not the God with whom we have had to do in history. Any project of natural theology therefore must bow before revelation, if indeed the dialectic of reason even permits such a project.

I wasn’t aware that biology had to do with purposes. Last I checked teleology went out of biology a long time ago. Biology observes no purposes. Peace therefore is not one of the purposes of biology. The reason why Paul accepts sex in marriage and marriage for heterosexuals is because it is sanctioned by God and not because it is less than perfect holiness. Marriage, as Jesus taught is a temporary institution but nonetheless instituted by God.

Openess is a gift from God if by that one means a turning toward the eternal Son, Jesus Christ, to live one’s life as having ultimate significance and always as if one were standing in the presence of God. It does not mean being open about whatever tickles one’s fancy. The “reasonable religion?” You can’t be serious. Gosh, how much more Gnostic could one get? Was Jesus of the “Reasonable religion?”

If liberals were really interested in praying together or extending charity, they wouldn’t have pushed out people in the first place. Nor would they hijack someone else’s religion for their own cultural agenda. They would at least have the decency of forming their own tradition and church rather than acting as leeches.

The disparagement of war serves the aesthetic project of leveling or the elimination of all ultimate meaning from life. Not all war is bad, ask God. Besides war doesn’t give meaning, it simply reveals it.

As for relativism, I don’t think you could be more wrong. Non-demominational evangelicals who see the Bible as the gold standard are quite good at translating their convictions to outsiders. In fact, they are far more effective at it than liberals. The man on the street doesn’t have a big problem understanding what Billy Grahm or N.T Wright are saying, but they can’t make heads or tails of your average Episcopal theologian or cleric.

Deploying rhetoric about “closed systems of thought” doesn’t really do any argumentative work. Perhaps I enjoy them. I find them far more “interesting” or I enjoy using them to dominate others. I prefer it so F*** off. I suspect you are hoping Muslims don’t start getting included in ECUSA. Boy! What fun that would be!

One could only see the “Gold” as idolatry if one embraced the Gnostic identification of the God of the Bible with the devil. As for the gift of peace, I haven’t known a single liberal who had it. They were always involved in some “cause” jumping from this or that trend, not unlike their fundamentalist counterparts. The resurrected life reveals that our boundaries have become God’s and he has made them better and worthwhile.

Perhaps Witt would spend more time criticizing commercialism if it were altering the liturgy, ordaining cars to the priesthood, or making icons out of dollar bills.

When you refer to the Gospel as “that the cross has revealed God’s love.” I simply don’t know what you mean. I know what Presbytrians meant by that 100 years ago and I know what the Caroline divines meant by it as well. But I don’t know why I should think that you and they are talking about the same thing. Once you embrace the Gnostic practice of exchange new meanings for old ones, there is no reason to take you at your word-it makes you a liar from the beginning.

As for the “justice of God” where exactly is that found? Oh, certainly not in the Law that Jesus gave Moses, right?!

John Wilkins

Hello Perry,

god bless you. You seem a bit angry. If I ever call you a "liar from the beginning" or tell you to "fuck off" please forgive me. I wonder why I touched a nerve, or perhaps you were being funny. I imagine you have been deeply hurt by liberals, which allows you to feel justified in saying such things to me.

I'm not the "angry liberal" sort (and most of those who know me know I'm not actually a political "liberal" except in the thinnest, classical, sense), so I'll take a few of your comments seriously.

I made an effort not to attack Witt personally but tried to address a few particular places that needed exploration. I'll clarify a few things.

You do mention "biography" which is exactly what it was. Simply put, my parents didn't put bestiality, adultery or homosexuality in the same set possibly for objective, non-Christian reasons. I'm guessing you grew up in a house where it was all the same. But you may have grown up in a very liberal house, and the bible changed your mind. My only point is that we tend to inherit beliefs and world-views. Personally, I would have appreciated a critique of that assumption rather than comments that became a personal attack.

Our instincts tell us a lot about what kind of arguments we are inclined to make. I was being open about my instincts. I admit, I distinguish between a consensual act between free persons and a non consensual act (bestiality) between bonded or married persons, and wonder why they get confused - except for the fact the bible puts them together.

You do mention "gnostic" although I don't find a recognizable definition of what "gnostic" means. I use the word "reasonable" in a way that Paul uses in Romans - often translated "spiritual" although that is not really what the Greek says. Do you mean I adhere to a strict mind-body dualism? That I divorce reason from emotion? Or that I have Apocalyptic and mystical sensibilities? You do mention a gnostic practice of exchanging meanings. Perhaps you could share with me how a Christian experiences a historical event that happened 2000 years ago? Is it purely intellectual? Are we judged by that?

You say, "I can translate any concept from one language to another, it just depends on the number of words I wish to employ." I think this is interesting - a correspondence theory of language, I believe. I was assuming languages are a bit more complicated. My reading of translation studies indicate this is a bit more challenging than you allude. But I don't buy a distinction between religion and culture, and I think there are places where the church should resist, and places where it doesn't matter, and places where the culture (or cultures) force us to articulate our faith more precisely. I don't reject the concept of "culture" but I do think, academically, it's up to us to describe the particulars of the culture that are upsetting and offending.

Overall I note your general hostility toward liberals. I don't share this hostility toward conservatives. I respected the work that many Episcopal priests I knew did in the service of civil rights and for the poor. It was through them I discovered my own faith in Jesus Christ and very real sense of God's affection. You may be suspicious of my own faith. And if that is what you need, then so be it. I know you are faithful.

You say, "The resurrected life reveals that our boundaries have become God’s and he has made them better and worthwhile." I'm not sure how to make Galatians 3:26-28 fit in with this. But I'm all ears. And although I could easily make a biblical argument for war, I take Jesus seriously when he said, "blessed are the peacemakers." I do think war does give people meaning - as Mark Twain illustrated in his "War Prayer."

You may be right about biological teleology, but then you also remove children as a "purpose." But peace is, in my view, a more accurate description of a feeling people want from sex - rather than children (there are others, of course).

You say "If liberals were really interested in praying together or extending charity, they wouldn’t have pushed out people in the first place. Nor would they hijack someone else’s religion for their own cultural agenda. They would at least have the decency of forming their own tradition and church rather than acting as leeches."

I never thought of myself as a terrorist ("hijack" was your word), but I do have an agenda - which is sharing the love of God through Jesus Christ, who died and was raised. And I'm not sure who copyrighted Christianity, but perhaps I should go on a hunt for that. And what do you have against leeches?

You mention picking up a commentary, but this simply reinforces my point that a "plain text" reading of scripture still requires an outside hermeneutic.

"Adulterers" who are "deeply in love" should get divorced, pay the legal consequences, seek forgiveness for their sins, and marry each other. They are breaking a promise to their current partner.

That's a bit different than a gay couple who are making a promise to each other.

I don't think you quite understand my use of "gold" vs. "currency" but that just might be my fault. For I don't think that the "God of the bible" is the devil, as you redescribe my thinking. I don't quite understand your connection between the two. After all, gold is still valuable - but we're the ones who give it value.

And doesn't Paul in Corinthians seem to prioritize celibacy over marriage? Well, that's what my commentary indicates.

But that's enough for now.

Perry Robinson

Why would you think I was angry? You haven’t got the feel of this at all. When I bellow, bellow back! My point about including aggression and such was just to show the legitimacy of my preferred version of selectionism, to which it seems you have nothing to say, except responses of slave morality. One form of selectonism deserves another. In fact, if I can suppress yours and eliminate it, why not? If I find yours “oppressive” why can’t I seek to eliminate it in favor of my view of “love?”

My meaning of “biography” which was meant to convey the idea that your comments amount to nothing at that point but a reporting of your preferences and so do no argumentative work-As if the best we could do was to pit your parents against mine. I dare say, my dad could probably beat up yours-if not, my mother surely could. The fact that we inherit beliefs is irrelevant, the question is the veracity of those beliefs. No offense, but your parents aren’t infallible. Inheritance says nothing as to truth value.

You mistake instinct for conditioning. The notion of consensual acts is certainly modern and if not, it is certainly not universal and therefore a poor candidate for being instinctual. In any case, instincts aren’t necessarily truth conducive and are therefore irrelevant to the question at hand.

The sad part I think about my comments about Gnosticism is that they are completely lost on you, while you continue to engage in Gnostic strategies and Gnostic beliefs underlie your program. Go pick up Jonas’ The Gnostic Religion and start reading about Gnostic hermeneutical practices, not to mention their views on marriage or eros.


By a correspondence theory of language do you mean a correspondence theory of meaning? There is plenty of room for some kind of correspondence even in Wittgenstein’s language games. Meaning may not be exhausted by reference but you’d be an idiot to think reference has nothing to do with language. And of course natural languages are a bit more complicated, but so are contemporary theories of language. BFD. It’s a blog after all. What do you want?

If you don’t buy a distinction between religion and culture, then why do you speak of the church following the culture or how do you make sense of many religions in a given polis such as our own? How the hell does one even have the notion of a modern state or society without such a distinction? Boy, that seems like a nice trick. In any case, I’d like to know, O Seer into the Crystal Ball, which trends we should and should not follow in the culture? Man, that would have worked just great in 1938. Ad Hitlerum. I win!

You mistake my actions as hostility when they are actually “charity” and “love.” The problem is that you do not seem to understand or be willing to include my notion of “love.” Most liberals share a hostility towards Christians, otherwise they would not push them out of positions of power, in seminaries, committees or deny them ordination. I grew up in ECUSA, I saw it happen. Don’t give me your BS about helping the poor. And don’t patronize me with traditional language about “God’s saving love in Jesus Christ” for you and I both know that you are equivocating on just about every term. What do you MEAN? Certainly not what Ireneaus or Athansius meant.

Gal 3, in baptism, we are put into the priesthood of Christ so that in that common priestly activity of there is no separation and therefore no principled basis to exclude. This says nothing about negating humanity or its limitations in theosis. A common priestly activity doesn’t eliminate natural distinctions. Was Jesus a Jew? Did he have a penis? Die he die? Certainly those things were all his which is why he can unite Jew and Gentile. Gee, that was hard. Which commentaries are you reading?

Peacemakers are certainly blessed, but saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace doesn’t amount to being a peacemaker but a false prophet. Surely Jesus didn’t have that in mind. Jesus is a big fan of covenantal war, just look at Revelation-it is his cosmic divorce notice and the brining of the covenant sanctions. Compare with Exodus & Ezekiel. The dude is riding on a white horse after all!

Too true, Children can’t be part of a biological purpose any more than “peace” can if biology observes no purposes. But then, I don’t argue on the basis of modern biology for teleology, being the metaphysical realist that I am. And what people want from sex is irrelevant since the question is, should they want that feeling? You need to read more Nietzsche-wrong ideas can be useful too.

Well goodie for you that you never saw yourself as a terrorist. Arius never saw himself as a heretic either. BFD. So what? You can toss out all of the Christian terminology and double speak you want about “sharing the love of God” but I have no reason to think that you mean anything remotely or recognizably Christian by such terms. People who “baptize” terms get to determine their copyright, which is why Mormons are wrong to say that they are “Christians.” That’s just not what the term means-it doesn’t include polytheism. If you want to find out what I have against leeches, go swimming with some to find out and see how much they “love” you.

I don’t believe I affirmed any belief in the “plain text” or some Reformation type perspicuity. Certainly, I can have SOME idea what the Bible means when it says, don’t bear false witness. I certainly agree that we need an outside interpreter. Mine is apostolic, yours isn’t. How do I know? Go to all the churches founded by the Apostles and see what they teach down through the centuries. Your hermeneutical practices are pretty much those of the Valentinians.

I am not sure why adulterers should get divorced or do any of the things that you recommend. Certainly it is permissible to break promises when love is on the line right? Why do you force these rules on these people and tell them how they ought to love one another in a consensual relationship? Why can’t they be just as selective as you in reading such OT codes as “mythic?” Why are you so oppressive and backward and failing to follow the culture? If our bodies do not define us, so that our sexual orientation or practices don’t ultimately matter, why should treating another partner’s body as instrumentally valuable be a problem? Here the Gnosticism bites you in the ass-you can’t hold on to the tyrannical morality of the OT deity and maintain the underlying Gnostic thesis that our bodies don’t define us. In any case, it is in principle no different than two sodomites violating the Creators purpose and then forcing everyone else to approve of it.

You surely do think that the God of the OT is the “devil” for why else would you take his moral commands in such a way as being “mythic?” Your idea is certainly God didn’t command this, so it must be rejected. An enemy hath done this, is your line.

Erin

Right now I am reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I should first say that I don't know how accurate the historical context is (but since Eco has an academic post and an expertise in medieval history, I would hope it is relatively close to reality). If this book is an accurate window into medieval Catholic theology, I have to say, there is very little that I recognize from the religion of my childhood. The preoccupations of the theologians and the philosophers of the day are wholly different from those of the modern church leaders I have known, focusing on weighty topics such as whether it is okay to laugh and whether fiction is evil. I am not even sure whether it is proper to call the religions by the same name.

This puts me in mind of an old philosophical problem that Wikipedia tells me is known as Theseus's Paradox. The basic idea is this: you have some entity (say a ship) made up of many parts. Over time, the parts wear out and you replace each part, one by one. Some day you wind up with a ship that contains none of the original parts. At what point, if ever, does the object's identity change?

Perry, your (rude but thought-provoking) post raises the same philosophical problem, in a way. When you name a creed, what is it that you are naming? How much deviation, over time, over place, over people, can it withstand and still retain its identity? I don't think there is one perfect, incontrovertible answer to this question. In my studies of psychology I have come to believe that category membership is inherently graded -- that black-and-white distinctions are at best a crude shortcut to what our brains are actually doing with the information in the world around us. What makes a person a Christian? This question seems just as difficult to me as Theseus's paradox -- unless you assert that the faith has not changed since the death of Christ; and I'm not sure that such an assertion is supportable by the facts. All non-Catholic sects of Christianity were created by a schism of some sort -- definitionally a discontinuity in the faith -- and Catholicism itself has made numerous deliberate changes over time, such at those of the Vatican councils, not to mention the slow shifts that happen over generations.

This is where pragmatism comes in. In the absence of definitive criteria for who counts as a Christian, it seems to me that what is needed is a good rule of thumb. In the Catholic church, I believe the Nicene creed is one such rule of thumb. If you can honestly confess everything in the Creed, you are a Catholic. Otherwise, no. (Though again, it is imperfect because slightly different versions of the Creed seem to be in use in different parishes!)

An interesting wrinkle for me (though it may not be for you, disinterested as you are in biography): When I departed the Catholic Church ten years ago, it was over issues that are not even mentioned in the Creed -- the self-same sexuality and equality issues that Salty occasionally discusses here. At that time I believed quite fully in everything in the Creed, but could not in good conscience support a Church that I believed deeply, incurably immoral and wrong. Over the years, I eventually discarded the Creed itself, bit by bit, and now consider myself agnostic. At what point in time should I place my apostasy?

I admit that I am always surprised when a person retains loyalty to a religion that promotes ideals counter to that person's conscience. When I was younger and new in my religious independence, I thought it a sign of deep hypocrisy. Now, I'm not so sure. I will never go back to the Church; the trust I lost in its moral authority can never be repaired (and certainly not by the current leadership, given their shameful failure to deal with their own current moral crises). But I'm not sure I can condemn people who make the decision to stay and attempt to change things. All that I am willing to say is that it's not what I would do.

John Wilkins

Perry,

In this atmosphere, I think bellowing is unhelpful, and I can probably point out a few bible verses to indicate this. And I hear so many fairly sensitive conservatives get angry at Liberal Bellowing (they usually, as you did, invoke Hitler) that I choose not to bellow. Not helpful for mutual understanding. I'm not sure if you understand me, but you are a very, very good bellower. Good for you!

You seem to think that being a “selectivist” means that I am a relativist. Not really. The bible is very clear that the sun rises. The intial authors probably thought that. And there is even a “biblical astronomer” in Ohio who thinks that the earth is the Center and the sun revolves around the earth (the other planets revolve around the Sun).
You mention that your parents could have beaten up my parents. I did grow up in a family that thought that Christians liked to beat people up, so I’m sure they would have tried.
You simply state that our inherited beliefs are irrelevant, but you’ll have to do a better job arguing why. My point was alongside Spinoza’s – we tend to feel something is bad and then create reasons for it. I think your parents were wrong, but you feel so strongly about them, you’re not willing to hear arguments against them. But maybe your parents were infallible. Mine weren’t, but I loved them anyway. Maybe infallibility is important for you to love. Good luck with that.
Actually, don’t bother arguing.
“You mistake instinct for conditioning.” Well, that’s a fine distinction for a blog, but it doesn’t matter. But you do miss my point so I’ll rephrase it: we tend to find ways to justify our conditioning rather than listen to arguments that are probably accurate.
You then continue with the Gnostic schtick. You choose one book by Jonas. Good for you. But until you are specific about what a Gnostic hermeneutic is, I’ll remain (heh, heh) in the dark. For us liberals, context is important as is clarity. That I think scripture is obscure doesn’t mean it should remain obscure. I’m not sure what to make of their views of marriage, but then, why are you so angry at Gnostics? I’ve rejected the core parts of Gnostic teaching, and not assimilated others. But I don’t have an anti-gnostic reflex.
“If you don’t buy a distinction between religion and culture, then why do you speak of the church following the culture or how do you make sense of many religions in a given polis such as our own?”
Well, there are different cultures within a system. I don’t reject either concept, but I think one has to be specific about what constitute the practices of a particular culture. I will say that the church didn’t do a very good job – either the Catholics or the Lutherans – or resisting Hitler. Resistance was from the liberals and a few socialists. You seem pretty smart, Perry, so I hope you could figure out what to resist without evaluating if it is Gnostic or not. Is torture about Gnosticism? Don’t know. Don’t care.
You say, “You mistake my actions as hostility when they are actually “charity” and “love.” The problem is that you do not seem to understand or be willing to include my notion of “love.” “

You are right. Where liberals and conservatives are really different (I’m following J. Sklar, here), Conservatives seem to use cruelty, submission and oppression to justify their love. Liberals question it.
“Most liberals share a hostility towards Christians, otherwise they would not push them out of positions of power, in seminaries, committees or deny them ordination.” Ahh, yes, like the Southern Baptist Seminary in Lexington.
“I grew up in ECUSA, I saw it happen. Don’t give me your BS about helping the poor. And don’t patronize me with traditional language about “God’s saving love in Jesus Christ” for you and I both know that you are equivocating on just about every term.”
Patronizing? You are an excellent teacher. Equivocating is a big word, Perry, don’t fall over it. I’m impressed that you know exactly what Irenaeus and Athanasius meant. But it doesn’t matter to me what they mean. I’m merely a parish priest who holds the hands of old ladies on their death-beds. Go ahead and study what they say. I’m sure it is really important. Really. For you.
You say, “Gal 3, in baptism, we are put into the priesthood of Christ so that in that common priestly activity of there is no separation and therefore no principled basis to exclude. This says nothing about negating humanity or its limitations in theosis.”
Your phrase “negating humanity or its limitations” is obscure to me. The boundaries I’m familiar with – the religious, cultural and political – are dead to us (Gal 2:19). Gal 3:28 is a performative act. Boundaries are not eliminated – but they are irrelevant. “Was Jesus a Jew? Did he have a penis? Die he die?” Sure. But it doesn’t matter if we are or not. Anyway – I read Betz for my commentary.
“Peacemakers are certainly blessed, but saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace doesn’t amount to being a peacemaker but a false prophet.” I didn’t claim, of course, that there was peace. That’s you’re assumption. I claimed that the peacemakers were blessed. This is a deliberate obfuscation of my statement. Very Gnostic-like.
“Surely Jesus didn’t have that in mind. Jesus is a big fan of covenantal war, just look at Revelation-it is his cosmic divorce notice and the brining of the covenant sanctions. Compare with Exodus & Ezekiel. The dude is riding on a white horse after all!” Ah yes, the use of the canonical comic book for one’s personal vendettas. I love Revelation, actually. But That’s Jesus. When he returns let’s see what happens. That doesn’t give you license to start bombing.
“I don’t argue on the basis of modern biology for teleology, being the metaphysical realist that I am.” Careful. I was noting that one aspect of sex from both a materialist and biblical perspective was that marriage brings peace –and that people should want that. I thus answer the question: “And what people want from sex is irrelevant since the question is, should they want that feeling?” People should want peace from sex, rather than power, status, and closeness with idols.
You say, “Well goodie for you that you never saw yourself as a terrorist. Arius never saw himself as a heretic either. BFD. So what? You can toss out all of the Christian terminology and double speak you want about “sharing the love of God” but I have no reason to think that you mean anything remotely or recognizably Christian by such terms.”
I’m really impressed at your ability to discern my heart. Have you met my psychotherapist? I actually may not be a Christian. You may be right. In the end, it will be God who decides. All I have my faith in him, by which I will be judged. That and Matthew 25:31-46. Well, I think you are a Christian, and that’s great! I could be wrong, but you say you are. And I offer you such charity because I think Jesus commands it: “love one another.” It sounds like you have the inside scoop, Perry, and God bless you for it.
“Mine is apostolic, yours isn’t. How do I know? Go to all the churches founded by the Apostles and see what they teach down through the centuries. Your hermeneutical practices are pretty much those of the Valentinians.”
This is the kind of dualism that I reject. For you it’s apostolic vs. Valentinian. Might there be other forms of hermeneutical principles? I use, for example, allegorical principles to describe, for example, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and the Genesis story. I don’t believe in the way he structures the universe. But no, as someone in the reformed tradition I think that apostolic succession is a dubious place to hang one’s hat. I’m glad the reformers were influential – at the very least they forced the Romans to clean up their act (capitalism at work in religion!).
You follow with the typical “all or nothing argument,” as if without scripture, there can be no reason. “I am not sure why adulterers should get divorced or do any of the things that you recommend. Certainly it is permissible to break promises when love is on the line right?” No, I’d prefer stoning. I’m going to put that on my newcomer’s brochure.
All I’m trying to do is form our own culture here in church, as exemplified by Romans 12:9-15:13, and Galatians 5:22-24. If there are aspects of the culture that support it, then I accept them. If not, then we resist. As far as our bodies defining us, I have no problem with that. Men and women can be gay or lesbian. Manly men, for example, can be homosexual. I still don’t see the gay – Gnostic link.
“It is in principle no different than two sodomites violating the Creators purpose and then forcing everyone else to approve of it.” Whenever you say the word “sodomite” I want to giggle. You say “The CREATOR’s PURPOSE” as if peace, joy and fidelity weren’t also a part of that purpose. It can’t just be genital functioning or procreation. What of old people sex, or sex for pleasure? There seems to be some evidence that what really turns women on are men who do housework – not genital activity.

You say: “You surely do think that the God of the OT is the “devil” for why else would you take his moral commands in such a way as being “mythic?””
I do think that the God of the OT is very human. But I don’t think He is the devil. You can say that I do, but, that would be fairly typical. If you were to pay me some cash I’d change my mind and say what you wanted me to.
I don’t have the conditioned, enlightenment attitude towards myths you seem to have. After all, a casual look around the culture and I can understand Lot’s seductive daughters better; I know the intensity of sibling rivalry thanks to Cain and Abel. And I follow the ten commandments, except for the taking his name in vain. It always forget that one. And the one over coveting, well, I confess that one on a regular basis. But I’m really happy you’ve got it down. Although, I don’t know if you would know what I mean by “covet” or “taking one’s name in vain,” since I’m barely recognizable as a Christian to you.
You can worship as you please, of course. I’m not the sort of liberal who thinks you must believe in the Copernican revolution, Darwin or the subconscious (a la Spinoza, Nietzsche or Freud or Klein). You seem to take the common right-wing Christian tactic that if you can’t have biblical morality, then there isn’t morality. I don’t see that empirically, but it’s an interesting opinion.
Well, it was good bellowing with you, Perry. You might want to try laughter sometime.

Heidi

"I can’t help but wonder what you mean by “joy” or why you would identify it with Christianity per se. I get no less worried when people tie Christianity to nebulous concepts and ahistorical experiences as “joy.” Certainly Christianity historically has much to say and who with joy, but joy relative to a specific life and persons who acted in history."

I've gotta say, that is one of the spookiest sentiments (too nebulous?)I have read in a long time.

Much of this discussion goes beyond my area of expertise - I am merely a layperson in an Episcopal Church who yearns for peace amongst us - so I speak with my heart - logique au coeur. So, maybe I am wrong, but I interpret what you are saying to mean that our joy must be divided into columns - aceeptable and not acceptable. In fact what I am hearing is that the only joy a Christain can experience as a Christian is joy that comes from suffering?

What about the joy I expereince at God's creation? The joy I feel when I read a great novel or poem, when I hear a song that mmerely makes me want to dance? These joys are a part of my humanness, God given talents I see in others that make me joyful! I always see God's work in the beauty, for certainly these talents are gifts.

Perry, in my world, Jesus had the audacity to tell people their sins would be forgiven, that they did not have to stay locked into a past of failure, guilt or regret - is this too joyful a message for you?

J. C. Fisher

Witt nor anyone else will not be able to stop a Gay Christian community from forming . . . But of course, they will not last and they won’t be considered Christian or eventually retain Christian vocabulary. Indeed, why should they? What is in the name of a dead Jewish peasant?

Because we recognize in that "dead Jewish peasant", one of ourselves: Jesus is---quite apart from any sexual orientation---"family".

As well as the Queer Lord Who made us in his image! :-D

LGBT Christians aren't going anywhere, Perry: we're staying intimately-entwined in the Body of Christ.

The question is---will YOU stay in the Body of Christ, knowing that in so doing, you'll have to be entwined w/ us queers? ;-/

[NB to Jay: no garden this year---I *still* have a freezer full of zucchini!]

C. Wingate

It would be well to remember that in The Name of the Rose there are many parallel worlds, and the one that appears the least is that of the "secular" world-- which is to say, that of religion outside the monastery walls. The monks' picture of it is in many ways, from our perspective, like looking back at very old Time or Newsweek issues: obscured by political and clerical conflicts which, in the end, were less important than they appeared.

And perhaps Theseus' Paradox is much less apt than asking whether the inhabitations on the Tiber, the Potomac, and the Hudson are the same Rome, Washington, and New York. Certainly one can say that Anglican or Roman character is whatever is exhibited by Anglicans or Romans, but the problem question then is, What then is that character? It's pretty much meaningless to talk of Anglicanism if there is no historical thread that can be established. And that indeed seems to be the problem here, that the different factions are seizing upon utterly different parts of the past in their search for character.

John Wilkins

Good Point, C. Wingate. I think there is some kind of Anglicanism, but I don't think of it as Gold elemental. It is much more like plastic, rather than, for example, water.

C. Wingate

I think there is an Anglican character, but not necessarily an Anglicanism. Or perhaps that there is an -ism, but that it isn't sufficient in itself to direct a path through the current crisis.

Dave C.

Fr. Salty,
I have read your response and have meant to give my thoughts, but was waiting until I had more time to more carefully go through both your response and Dr. Witt's essay. I still haven't as carefully gone through them both as I would like, but felt even a half response would be better than none. So here goes.

I think you spend too much time responding to someone other than Witt (those people who come to the same conclusions as he but are of the fundamentalist anti-intellectual lot--in short at least part of your response is a straw man argument).

For example, you go to great lengths to show how more open-minded your formation seems to be than Witt's Southern Baptist upbringing, yet I never saw him once mention this in his essay--I guess that is the other link you provide to his web site where he does provide a biography. The presumption, though, seems to be that you have an enlightened world view and he does not because of your upbringing--which is not exactly a defensible position. It also buys into a charicature of religious conservatives as unthinking hypocrites (at least that is what I took the anecdotal story of your Unitarian friend citing statistics comparing sexual morality of Southern Baptists with Unitarians--is this really germane to Witt's thesis?)

I thought you were especially off track when you started going on about anti-intellectualism and the presumption that "education must be intrinsically wrong." Again, you seem not to be accusing Witt of this but do attempt to link his position with others through some sort of guilt by association that is supposed to discredit his position.

In your defense, I suspect you were attempting to do for conservative Anglicans what Witt was doing for liberals: provide some sort of classification of the different approaches. If that is what you were trying to do, it would help to make the categories a bit clearer and to provide examples of Anglicans who hold such views (as Witt does of liberals for his argument). You seem to be arguing against some presumed group of conservative uneducated Southern Baptists, which is fine if that is who you are trying to prove wrong.

You also misconstrue Witt's claim “Arguments for physical or psychological determination of human actions are not scientific, but philosophical or theological. Science is incompetent to provide guidance on what is at heart a metaphysical question.”

Here Witt is separating the notion of desires from action based on desires. He does not dispute that science can tell us important information about what prompts our desires--what he disputes is that the question of the morality of someone's behavior based on that desire can also be determined by science. Here he says we have moved over to the metaphysical.

I am running out of steam and have only just begun--there are also aspects of your response that I really liked (though I have so far dwelled on what I perceive to be the primary weaknesses).

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