Friday, March 26, 2010

Reasserters: it's your time to shine

In a previous post, I wrote of the tendency of "conservatives" to talk past the actual objections of "liberals" in their arguments, instead being content to allow Leviticus and St Paul to speak for themselves. So now I'm going to open up the floor. I do not moderate comments except on posts more than two weeks old, and that is only to avoid Cantonese spam attacks. Moreover, I allow anonymous comments as long as they adopt some distinguishing pseudonym, again only so that I can tell if I have one "anonymous" on a given thread, or five. Fallacious arguments will be discounted but not deleted. So here goes:

In 4096 characters or less: What is the morally relevant distinction between opposite- and same-gender relationships?

This doesn't mean "One has Biblical approbation and one does not." (No Anglican of any flavour takes the Bible as her strict guide for marriage. We have, after all, come to regard it as either a sacrament or a sacramental, in either case an "innovation" on St Paul's grudging allowance of it as a next-best choice for the incorrigibly horny). It could thus be stated alternatively as: Why, in your opinion, does God approve only of marriages that involve a penis and vagina?

Take 'er away!


aaronorear said...

Do any "Reasserters" read your blog? I'm not one myself, but have had flung at me the procreative argument - marriage is about having children - to which I was actually more sympathetic when an atheist of Darwinian leanings. You can't mate, you're not doing the species any good. I suspect that survival instinct might be deep behind some of the opposition. The nursery (if not cradle) of Christianity, Europe, has the lowest birth rates in the world, while Muslim immigrants tend to have large families. So if you have healthy reproductive organs and don't productively mate, you're betraying the culture.

Of course, that argument shuts out singles and any couple struggling with infertility or other barriers to having children, but that seems to be a nicety best ignored. I can say that, having just become a Daddy, I now regard my own marriage in very different terms. The important bit there is "my own", an assessment that I don't extend to anyone else's relationship. specifically asked for theological arguments. I dunno.

Geoff said...

I assume they must, as they occasionally pop up to question my conclusions. But since none has yet offered me anything to replace them with, I figured it was time for me to shut up and give them the floor. I would rather have something to replace those conclusions with rather than continue to post them and be met with what Br Tobias calls "mere contradiction." (Indeed, there is a line in the traditionalist "responsum" to the liberal paper in the new HoB report from ECUSA that summarizes the "reappraiser" position on Scripture and then comments that they are "simply inaccurate" without explanation). As I noted in my women's ordination post, having two millenia of Tradition at least superficially on your side can make it easy to become complacent about argumentation.

Paul Goings said...


I'm not sure that I qualify as a reasserter, and I certainly don't claim that this is their line of reasoning, but I'd suggest that the essential issue (for Christians) is one of accepting the competence of the church to speak authoritatively on moral issues. That is, do we assume that each of us reasons out individually what we think is right and wrong, based on our own interpretations of scripture, various theological writings over the centuries, etc., or is there a divinely-constituted body that guides us in these decisions. (Or is this a false dichotomy? And, if we say that it is, then what is the basis of our moral reasoning?)

If the answer is a resounding no, then I think, apart from a certain type of Biblical fundamentalism, that it would be very difficult to make a universally persuasive argument against same-sex relations. However, I suggest that it would be equally difficult to make a universally persuasive argument against any number of things which I (and most people) would find to be morally abhorrent. Which is not to say that this proves that such a position is incorrect; it is necessary, though, to consider everything that such a position implies.

If, on the other hand, we would look to the church for guidance in such matters, it is necessary to establish what is meant by "the church," and whether the entity thus recognized has spoken univocally on the particular issue in question.

When these preliminaries are addressed, I believe that only then would it be possible to consider the merits (or lack thereof) of arguments in favor of, or opposed to, same-sex relations.

Michael said...

Well said, Paul Goings.

Aaronorear, I'm not sure those who cannot procreate as things currently stand are excluded. If the communion of the marriage bond is indeed a microcosm of the communion of the Holy Trinity, intended for the theosis of those involved, that they may more readily enter into the energies of that Trinity, then we can't forget that part of those energies is the generation of life. Repeatedly in the services, we hear of the "life-creating Trinity".

Certainly from an Orthodox perspective, that infertility, or that human beings cease to be able to reproduce over time, is one of the effects of the fall is simply a basic part of our understanding of the human condition. All of us live under the conditions of the fall and it affects us all in one way or another. Human beings in their fully deified state are to fully share in the life-creating energies of God. The fact that creation is fallen means that it is to be expected that we shall see evidence of that not being fully realised. That does not prevent us from offering the various prayers at weddings that they may be gladdened with fertility and virtuous offspring "for the continuation of their race" because we believe that, through our theosis, Christ's Resurrection calls us beyond the world's fallenness into the likeness of God, which is the fulfilment of our existence. That may or may not be fully realised during our earthly lives but we still pray for it, whether the couple are a fertile couple in their 30s, an infertile couple in their 20s, or an elderly couple in their 80s.

Now, to be fair, as Geoff has said, in Anglican circles this has generally not been the prevailing understanding of marriage, (if it has featured at all), and most arguments within Anglicanism usually do not approach the matter from this perspective. I suppose I just wanted to show that, within a wider Christian context, it really isn't that difficult to see how it makes sense.

JCF said...

Human beings in their fully deified state are to fully share in the life-creating energies of God.

OK, this I get (and can affirm).

But this???

infertility, or that human beings cease to be able to reproduce over time, is one of the effects of the fall is simply a basic part of our understanding of the human condition.

If Adam&Eve hadn't eaten that d*mned apple, there would never have been menopause (or falling sperm counts)?

Seriously: "the life-creating energies of God" are to be defined DOWN to merely Sperm/Egg reproduction?

Um, not convinced, on the face of it---much less, that said argument is "simply a basic part of our understanding of the human condition." ["our" being what? "Bishops in communion w/ the Ecumenical Patriarch"? Well, since my Double-X'd tribe have never even been deemed capable of being part of that "august body", count me out on accepting their authority! ;-/]

Geoff said...

I can understand the tradition that all of our human physical frailty happened at the fall, although I'd agree that it's hardly a given. What puzzles me is how they can derive a different position on infertility from that premise than on homosexuality (which presumably, on the same model, is similarly a result of the fall).