Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Sunday 30 July, 02006

by Matthew Bartlett @ 2:15 pm

Gaz-guzzling a sin says AB of C [via David H]

42 responses to “”

  1. Matthew Baird says:

    Aint that the truth. Until we can get past this “resources were put here by God for man to do with as he please” mentality, we are bummed. Royally.

  2. Tim says:

    Could one of you hippies please define gas-guzzler for me? Should I feel guilty for not cycling to work every morning? Or for not owning a 1.1L Starlet?

  3. Matthew says:

    From the article: “…some people do need to drive big cars, [but] reckless disregard for the environment [is] against Christian teaching.” — which I take to mean gas-guzzling is more about a way of using transport rather than which particular car to own. E.g. the archbishop might frown on taking the starlet to the corner dairy twice daily, but smile on a DoC ranger in his big fat Jeep.

  4. Matthew Baird says:

    Yes. Let the guzzling fill the need. We are not charged to ignore natural resources, but neither are we charged to ignore the environment.

  5. Rudy says:

    Hmmm. Funny old world. Spiritual leaders are more concerned with the environment, than with proclaiming God’s Word faithfully.

    Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams:

    Homosexuality = ok, large cars = evil


  6. Tim says:

    Scenario: In 5 years time I have saved enough money to buy an old Ford Falcon and restore it. It uses heaps of fuel but I drive it because I love having that sort of power beneath my foot and it’s simply very cool. Sin?

    I remember having a discussion at 4b one day in which I was told I should consider taking the bus/train to work in Wainuiomata every morning from Oriental Bay. To which I replied, “stuff that, I got my degree so that I could get a high enough paying job that I wouldn’t have to take public transport”.

  7. Matthew Baird says:

    Re 5: Is not concern for the environment part of preaching the Word faithfully. Comment agreed to in spirit however.

    Re 6: There is a difference between being non-wasteful with resources and being a public transport-only type fellow. Also when is an engine too large? 2L? 3L? 1.5L with turbo? Lots on situation. However, methinks usign a large engined car to good purpose is better than say driving round all day to no purpose on a more efficient ride (mayhap like some boyracers I have seen)

  8. Rudy says:


    I know what you’re trying to say. And I agree – Christians should be shining examples of how to live in harmony with Creation – what W Berry calls “community”.

    R.Dreher wrote a very good book entitled “Crunchy Cons”, which recounts how Christians from a wide range of spiritual backgrounds are trying to “leave a lighter footprint”. All good stuff.

    But my point was that the Anglican Church has, over time, thrown away the core message of the Bible, and now, to stay “relevant” will jump on any bandwagon that comes along.

  9. Sambo says:

    Buying a prius = sin.

    I like the Arch Bishop of Canterbury – he seems to not be afraid to be less like a politician and more like Christ, in that I have seen/heard of him getting his hands dirty but not for publicitys sake.

    Rudy is right though, we should be more concerned about homosexuals than the environment. They are a much bigger threat to christianity. What with their shopping like women do and being presentably hygentic. Tut tut.

  10. Rudy says:

    RE: 9
    “Rudy is right though, we should be more concerned about homosexuals than the environment. They are a much bigger threat to christianity”

    That’s not fair Sambo. I never said anything like that. You are misrepresenting me – not very clever, and not very nice. (Not very Christ-like either…)

    How about commenting on what I say?

    Please illustrate to me how Rowan is less like a politician, and more like Christ. Examples?

    I wonder how familiar you are with Rowan’s theology?

    In his own writings, Rowan takes a pluralistic view of religion, he denies the divine authority of the Bible as the revealed Word of God, he disagrees with the Bible on the meaning of sin, and he denies the atoning and redemptive power of Christ’s death for our sins. Oh, and he doesn’t agree with the Bible on the topic of human sexuality.



  11. Tim says:

    And it might be worth mentioning that having seriously flawed theology is a sin because it’s lying…just to avoid the so-what-if-he-thinks-differently-on-a-few-issues argument.

  12. Matthew Baird says:

    Re 9: Me personally, I don’t fear adulterers as a threat to Christianity. Still I feel free to speak out against them as what they do is wrong. Same with homosexuality. People want to be free to do whatever-the-hell-they-want. Doesn’t make it right, etc. Also on the same note as with adulterers, I wouldn’t want to burn them at the stake or nuffin.

    Believe it or not, sometimes people oppose things for reasons other than fear.

  13. aaron says:

    What’s wrong, Rudy, with expressing someone’s position in terms that they would agree with?

    At least then we’d have an accurate view of what they actually say.

    Or perhaps you could quote AB RW writing that he “disagrees with the Bible on…”?

  14. aaron says:

    I don’t get you, Rudy.

    How does a few Reformed slogans help settle the matter of AB RW’s theology? Do you really think you’ve helped us understand what he actually thinks?

    Heaven forbid that we should take the effort to describe someone’s position in terms they’d recognise!

  15. D says:

    re 11.. Rubbish.

    I make all kinds of conceptual errors in my everyday examination of life around me. They are not ‘lies’, they are ‘mistakes’. Same goes for theology.

  16. Tim says:

    Re 14: So if a church is teaching people something that goes against the Bible’s teaching they are making mistakes, but not lying?

    Re 13: Aaron, take a chill pill.

  17. Richard D. Bartlett says:

    Re 6: Humbly, Tim, I have to ask what is the attraction to the vehicle? As in, I honestly don’t get it. I concur that an old V8 is V cool, without question. But is there some other quality beyond that, that I’m missing? And if not, I don’t understand how your cost-benefit analysis can come out favourably. Is the benefit of feeling pretty flippin’ cool enough to outweigh the combined costs of production, maintenance, and purchase of the vehicle, and more to the point, the environmental cost of moving 3000 pounds of steel around in order to transport 180 pounds of Tim, and the ethical cost of financially supporting either or both sides of the New Gulf War?

    As far as I can see, the only thing that tips the cost-benefit analysis in favour of buying such a vehicle is the effect of a flaw in our culture: the ignorance and arrogance caused by under- and mis-information that makes us think it is reasonable to pursue our unhealthy, irresponsible and violent consumptive impulses.

    P.S.: Besides being an exercise in ad hominum, what is the point of bringing the AB of C’s views on homos into a discussion about our excessively consumptive culture?

  18. D says:

    re: 15. It depends of course why they’re doing it, but yes.

    One word – intentionality.

    See, it’s not so hard…

  19. Tim says:

    Old Falcons, in fact most old Fords (and a few Holdens), are beautiful to look at. The lines, curves etc. are so much sexier than the ugly blocks that come off the production lines these days. So beauty would be the main attraction for me other than the coolness. It’d be kind of like buying a really expensive painting to put on your wall I suppose.

    I also like the idea of using an old car up before moving on to a new one. Kind of a recycling thing I guess. It’s sad when a car is taken off to the wreckers when, if it were properly cared for, the owners could get another 10 years motoring out of it. A recyclying issue I guess.

    I haven’t yet been convinced that buying fuel is directly supporting the New Gulf War.

    As an aside, if I were to ever own the aforementioned vehicle I would look at LPG to save on fuel.

  20. Tim says:

    D: If a rapist rapes, but thinks that what he is doing is okay, does that mean he is making a mistake but not sinning?

  21. Rudy says:

    Re: 13

    Aaron – What do you mean by “Reformed slogans”?

    Who’s Reformed here? I’ve been happily worshipping at an evangelical Anglican church for just over 2 years now…

    Sambo declared he admired Rowan for being “less like a politician and more like Christ”.

    I wondered if Sambo knew what Rowan’s theology was. How he regards Christ – how Rowan regards Christ’s death and its implications for us etc. I suggest Rowan is not at all like Christ, and his job as AB is in fact highly political.

    The reference to homosexuality, Richard, was my attempt to show how absurdly ironic the position of the Bishop of London and the Archbishop of Canterbury is. On the one hand they’ll bend and twist the Bible any which way they like to condone homosexuality, which the Bible clearly condemns, while on the other hand, they’ll decry as outright sin something the Bible is a bit vague on…

    D – RE:14. Ok, agreed. I also make mistakes in my thinking from time to time.

    However, you ignore the fundamental difference between the likes of you and me and Rowan. Unlike we two, Rowan has a position of authority in the Anglican Church. He has the responsibility to lead and teach his flock. If he’s teaching something clearly contrary to the Bible, I suggest it’s a little more serious than you or me having mistaken views.

    The Bible constantly warns us against false teachers, false teachings, the consequences of causing people to stumble etc.

    Anglican believers look to Rowan for leadership. I suggest his erronous teachings are a stumbling block for his followers.

  22. Rudy says:

    Richard – re: environmental costs.

    I suggest that your whole lifestyle is supporting the War for Oil.

    The clothes you wear, the food you eat, the way you get from A to B, the cool gadgets you play with – all require lots and lots of oil, whether in the form of plastics, fertilizers, etc. or as fuel.

    Merely focusing on Tim’s gas-guzzling pride and joy is taking the easy way out.

  23. aaron says:


    Re 21:

    By Reformed slogans I meant language that is (a) not using biblical imagery or terminology, (b) heavily invested in one tradition’s (the Reformed) perspective on historical debates about particular points of theology, (c) shorthand for those debates and the assumptions and context that goes with them.

    And to be fair, looking back at your comments in #10, I read in at least as much (if not more) Reformed sloganeering than you actually put there. My apologies for overreacting!

    However – I would still encourage you (us) to write about others’ positions in terms that they would agree with, and therefore ones that tell us what they really do say.

    For instance, based on your description, it’s impossible to distinguish Archbiship Williams from Bishop Spong, whereas in fact the two hold vastly different positions.

  24. david says:

    maybe it was a mistake/sin of me to provide Matt this link. maybe it was a waste of internetspace/oil/energy for me to spend my time forwarding that link to Matt. I don’t want to express any view in case it is misread and then people waste energy in replying. sigh.

    oh, btw, WCF, HC, BCF. There, some solid stuff for you all to ponder.

  25. D says:

    Re: 19. No. I have yet to meet one, have you?

    There is such a thing as culpable ignorance. My point was simply that you equating saying something incorrect lying is *way* overdone.

    Re: 20. To some extent I agree, but I feel most people who have taught me anything have taught me both good and evil. Somehow as human beings we can live with that. From the same tree, in fact, do come both good and bad fruit.

    So, if Rowan Atkinson thinks we should be tolerant towards the homosexual community, I would rather have that than the vast majority of christians who take a stance so poorly considered that they (a) have nothing to do with homosexuals (b) condemn them constantly whenever they have a chance and (c) Never take any time to understanding why they are in the position they’re in. My own thoughts on homosexuality is that it is like a barren woman in Jewish culture, which was seen as accursed by God and yet (I would say) not necessarily that woman’s fault.

    I would view homosexuality to be caused by our cultural malaise in such a way that pointing fingers at individual people may be insufficiently compassionate without the backup of a much wider ranging critique and some form of salvation through the community who is making the critiques’s lifestyle. I have only seen one or two churches who I think could even begin to make a move in this direction.

    FWIW I think the Bible more constantly warns us about stupid infighting, selfishness, and lack of love than it does about wrong teaching. Because the two are not so tightly linked, a failing in the latter without a failing in the former worries me less (at a given moment).

    It’s interesting, because in these debates people often talk about “logical consequences” of various teachings or beliefs. I think it’s striking that they’re not connected in the logical, causal manner that people often assume in 1 Corinthians 13 for instance.

    Theology, I would say will let you down (sooner or later). Hence I’m reluctant to take it as my north star, my guiding light. I would prefer to take the actions of a community as an embodiment of the love of Christ as my guide, with all the ambiguity that brings.

    Of course I would probably also say that focus on the former led to the lack of the latter such that a community like that is hard to find.

    FWIW, I admire the way that anabaptists manage to hold things together without jumping on each other the moment they disagree. They try to find unity through a shared way of life (imitative of Christ) rather than a detailed set of beliefs (which aren’t lies or mistakes!).

  26. D says:

    Oh yes, my postings are failing on the ‘relevance to this thread’ criteria.

    I use a sinful amount of petrol. I’m gonna stop soon, maybe.

    The sin lies in the cost to me and the impact of using up a resource unnecessarily fast when the alternative results in me getting good exercise and learning to take life at a slower pace.

    It has nothing to do with the perceived affects of my petrol consumption on global warming.

  27. aaron says:

    D, re 24: lots of good points, especially the anabaptist one. Amen.

  28. Tim says:

    D: I still disagree. But that’s ok.

  29. Hans says:

    Rowan Atkinson has no published views on gay sex as far as I know.

  30. Rudy says:

    D: I too disagree with 24. But I’m happy to leave it at that, since we seem to be talking past each other.

    Might be mistaking Rowan Atkinson with Rowan Williams the AB of Canterbury. Dunno why we (probably I) reverted to first names – not exactly de rigeur…sorry for the confusion!



  31. Hans says:

    D, you wrote: “My own thoughts on homosexuality is that it is like a barren woman in Jewish culture, which was seen as accursed by God and yet (I would say) not necessarily that woman’s fault.”

    So, is the homosexual cursed by God but the homosexuality is not their fault?

    Or, does society, wrongly, see homosexuals as cursed by God?

    Do you understand God to disapprove of homosexuality or do you think society disapproves of homosexuality and uses God as an excuse?

    It would seem clear to the point of the obvious to say that God sees homo sex as sin.

    God sees fornication and adultery as sin.

    God repeatedly, consistently condemns sexual sins.

    Homo sex is just another sexual sin, as far as I can see.

    The reason that many christians use one’s views on homo sex as a boundary marker for orthodoxy is simple. An acceptance of the validity of homosex is seen as putting current social mores above scripture.

    This in turn is seen as a sign of faithless liberalism.

    Probably correctly.

    However, the uncritical acceptance of one’s aversion to homo sex as a marker of sanctification is quite wrong.

    A lot of the violent rhetoric against homosexuality is not so much biblical christianity as red-neck conservatism.

  32. Hans says:

    re 18, Tim, I used to think that, in spite of your cyclopean red and black pseudo-machismo, you were a good bloke.

    However, the hymn of adoration that you have penned to clunky old fords and holdens has forced me to re-evaluate my erstwhile reasonably uncritical approbation of you.

    The cars in question may have some sort of “cool”, I think that the corrugated-iron HQ holden at Te Papa is not without merit for example, but beauty and functionality ought to be linked.

    The old holdens and fords suck juice, handle badly, accelerate poorly, stop reluctantly and rust enthusiatically.

    I would urge you to transfer you admiration to BMW, Audi, Porsche, VW, Peugeot, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Toyota, Nissan….. anything but aging Aussie monsters.

  33. Sambo says:

    Er, well, technically Holdens are British cars whilst still a subsidiary of General Motors. Holden is just the badge they put on Vauxhall’s in Austrilasia.

    I hardly think someones choice of car is a reason to change your opinion of them…

    … Unless they buy a prius.

  34. Tim says:

    Cortinas are British.

  35. D says:

    re: 31.

    Hans, I think I have a bit of an agenda here. Hence some preliminary comments are worth making. I agree with you tat least in that red-necked conservatism doesn’t help at all.

    My initial thoughts on homosexuality were prompted by a quite perverse desire to see whether I could turn black into white, whether I could find a way to emphasize particular parts of the Biblical narrative in order to find a way to support homosexuals. I undertook that exercise partly because I have a friend who has a really strong position against homosexuality, and I figured if I could convince him then I might have an interesting exegetical case. Additionally it is by strongly arguing a position that you gain insight into its strengths and weaknesses if you are aware of your own biases and movements (within a hermeneutical circle). Another reason was that a writer whose philosophical musings I had found really helpful had a pro-gay agenda which I had read quite a bit of (as many people have told me, his ‘problem’ was that he had too many gay friends). The final reason is that the homophobic attitude many people (particularly Christians that I have been associated with) have against gays as those who would destroy the fabric of society and go against ‘nature’ seems so heavily overdone that I have wondered what it was that these people are so concerned about, what are they trying to protect, why does this issue loom so heavily on their minds.

    This has all been taking place in the context of my thoughts about creation order which is something I would make a detailed study of if I had spare time. Let me scratch a few notes on that subject:
    (a) What is ‘nature’, and what is ‘natural’? If they are considered to be ‘built-in’ to the ‘structure’ of the cosmos, where is their grounding?
    (b) What relation do enduring traditions have with the structure of the world?
    (c) How does the world look, ‘structurally’ post and pre-fall? My understanding of the world would like to maintain that the structure of the world is unchanged post-fall but the direction of human hearts has changed. What does it mean to maintain that direction is the problem in a world which seem to have a great multitude of ‘structural’ evils, or evils which are so deeply embedded in our way of life that they might as well be structural which leads back to (b).
    (d) The structure of the world appears to be modified (if not interfered with) by God’s actions in salvation. In particular the structure of the world was unable to bring salvation but only bring about condemnation some texts appear to say. What relation do these texts bear to other parts of our experience that we feel intuitively are embedded in the very fabric of the world?
    (e) In essence, does the manner in which Jesus brought about salvation suggest that the focus on structural issues should be withdrawn? Is the order of the world, seen through the salvation brought about by Jesus somehow more fluid?
    (f) In particular, with regard to evil, can this simply be identified with, say, “what God clearly forbids in the Bible?”? Difficult questions would then need to be asked about why God commands certain things and forbids others. Whether these can be known apriori and for all time for instance.
    (g) With regard to (f), What does it mean for Christians to proclaim redemption? Does it simply relate to the proclamation of “God’s Word” or does it involve a more active and responsible path of articulating a path of redemption *relative* to a particular cultural context?
    (h) The Reformed tradition in which I spent a large part of my life emphasized authority, obedience, submission control, intellectual truth and doing what is right (in terms of a moral code). That same community is frequently charged of being unloving. In my view, love does find its position within this framework as the core or essential part of it (which results in certain critical ethical elements being overlooked I believe). This seems problematic. Additionally, claims with reference to the structure of the world are frequently mechanisms by which responsibility is avoided. The centrality of law in the Reformed tradition, it has been argued (for instance by J P A Mekkes in Dutch which I cannot read) that this obscures the importance of love in the biblical story.
    (i) The emphases in (h) seem to militate against the approach taken place by those made free in Christ (in Acts 15, Romans 8 and Galatians esp. 3:4-11).
    (j) Normative commands based on the structure of the world do not seem directly applicable to a broken world. To say to the barren woman, “Remove your barrenness” or to the couple who divorced “Undo your divorce” while this would be nice, it is often true that we must bear the scars of irreversible decisions we and others make. Normative views of the world often do not give adequate guidance to creatures in a fallen world. It seems homosexuality may bear some component which hereditary and another component which is by choice and circumstance. These may not be reversible. As God hates divorce, perhaps in a like manner he hates homosexuality. But that does not mean that homosexuals or divorced people should necessarily be excised from the body of Christ.
    (k) There is also the difficult situation of hermaphrodites whose sexual tendencies (I understand) can go either way or may be unstable. These people need understanding and love and condemnation on the basis of an understanding of created order which fails to take into account the corruption of this which has led to their condition is harsh and unloving and as such I condemn it.

    These seems to me critical questions and points which need to be dealt with prior to a detailed discussion of homosexuality.

    I distrust what is normal, what is “just the way things are” and especially, what is true. Because lies masquerading as truth are generally the most powerful lies. The less they are noticed, discussed and the more intuitive, natural and embedded in our world, the more damage and destruction they can achieve, whether or not it is recognized or discovered. So it seems, to me (at least partly, I have always been the devil’s advocate) that an issue should be controverted to the extent that the issue is seen to be uncontrovertible. ha! :-)

    At present I am not convinced by the arguments of Richard Hays (against any form of acceptance of homosexuality) or Boswell (strongly towards acceptance of homosexuality). Most authors I have read end up basing their case on “creation order” in Genesis. The texts in the Old Testament and New Testament (in particular Romans 1) specifically understood to refer to homosexuality appear to be textually debatable and tend to be limited to, for instance male homosexual acts.

    So my interim solutions subject to a great many qualifications (and I’m nervous about mentioning it at all) is:
    (1) The fundamental problem with the world prior to the creation of Eve was that Adam was, basically, lonely.
    (2) Eve was a helper to Adam. In terms of a symbolic worldview, this is the normative pattern shown in creation.
    (3) Post-fall the world was cursed. The children of Adam and daughters of Eve no longer followed normative patterns, and to an extent in various times and places this reached the level of an enduring tradition. Hence non-normative behaviour occurred (eg. Sodom and Gomorrah) for which God’s judgment was severe.
    (3a) Failure of human relationships in the Bible is generally seen to be a failure of commitment to God.
    (4) Inadequate commitment and non-creationally normative relationships were condemned as Israel was set to be a light to the nations and as such was a geographically, politically religious “holy”/set aside community.
    (5) Israel was rather poor at acting as a normative community. In fact, Plan A (salvation via Israel and creation) was a notable failure.
    (6) God’s Plan B involved the coming of Jesus to rise above the law (which could only condemn) to bring salvation to inexcusable ungodly humanity (warts and all).
    (7) In light of this the redeemed community needs to work out what salvation means in a particular context. Hence, eating of meat sacrificed to idols may be ok. Woman may not speak with their heads uncovered. Slavery is not the norm for the Christian community. Woman have power over their husband’s bodies etc.
    (7a) In particular the church is not the socially, culturally isolated group that Israel was hence they are more integrated with their culture and complicit in the evils that arise in it.
    (8) In the place I find myself today, homosexuality is part of our culture’s general rebellion against God. While I have known only one Christian homosexual and a one or two non-Christian homosexual and one tranvestite, my personal observations about these people are:
    * they tend to be marginalized, and have had a troubled past (typically violence)
    * they may have been unable to find committed partners of the opposite gender.
    In fact I can’ find the exact words to describe my impression of homosexuals. They elude me.
    (9) I believe their homosexuality takes place in this context. It may be that it is part of a culture which has turned its back on Christianity and the path to destruction. Nevertheless it involves much more than an individual’s “personal decision”. In fact, it may be that the emphases of individualism are what have left us more lonely, and more open to non-normative actions to try to overcome that loneliness.
    (10) Hence while not believing homosexuality is an acceptable Christian life style (and neither is being divorced), in the culture we find ourselves I believe it should be accepted as part of the “mess” we are in.
    (11) Hence gays should be brought into the Christian community (as all Christians are, warts and all) and while it should be noted that homosexuality is not seen as an acceptable part of the Christian lifestyle (and therefore such people shoud not generally be in prominent public positions), these people should be accepted in the same manner people with (effectively) incurable conditions made via lifestyle choices or our wider cultural malaise (eg. AIDs, barrenness, divorce, chronic depression etc.)
    (12) (11) is particularly urgent given the reaction of red-necked conservatives and fundamentalist Christians to gays. To those who are marginalized within society (eg. Prostitutes, government officials etc.) Jesus spent a great deal of time partying with and getting to know.
    (13) I will regard as suspicious the condemnation of homosexuality by Christians who are not ‘close to the coal-face’ (hehe). Furthermore, condemnantion without the opening up of support and possibility for change goes against the heart of Christianity.

    These thoughts are a little sketchy. In the last five years I have been unable to find a stable position on homosexuality. I have good friends on both sides of the debate.

    While a good part of me feels (intuitively) that homosexuality is against the way God intended the world to be, that is a too simple delineation of the state-of-affairs as we find it today. Additionally many of my friends in favour of giving increased love and acceptance of the gay community seem to be broadly aligned with my understanding of the message of Jesus and a way of communicating that which is relevant and brings salvation in the present day.

    So at least partly (against my own ‘better judgment’) I trust the experience of those whose love and care are greater than mine and whose contact with the affected group is greater. For at the end of the day, knowledge will fail. I suppose in some ways I am offering up a challenge for those who disagree with me to go further than give textual evidence against my position, because textual evidence in and of itself is not something which is compelling to me if it stands alone.

    From a Reformed/reformational point more insight on the issues involved in normative judgments can be found in:
    “An Ethos of Compassion and the Integrity of Creation” edited by Brian J. Walsh, Hendrik Hart and Robert E. VanderVennen which is a compilation of about 20 essays examining ethics in relation to creation. I have further references available to anyone interested in more musings on creation order and normativity.

    A few final comments before I fall asleep.
    * Order is generally seen as emanating from God toward creation in traditional philosophy. If order was to be seen as emanating from creation in response to God it would be more flexible and involve greater responsibility but also a very different approach to each issue.
    * Who is right and wrong in the gay debate matters less than whether gay people receive comfort and support from their marginalized position. In fact, in the spirit of Christianity this matters more.
    * The disproportionate emphasis this topic receives in certain circles is indicative of deeper problems IMNSHO.

    I suspect this post will be considered cannon fodder by some people. But hey, if it wasn’t me writing it, I doubt I could resist either ;-)

    I’m not sure what you will think Hans. Your perspective in 31 seems to be a great deal more simple than mine. I have always struggled with being able to reach simple positions which were generally applicable to society at large. Christians in general think the solutions to the problems of society can be found on the surface (generally of their Bibles) and that very little hard work and study needs to be done in understanding the situations they are addressing. I suspect you will accuse me of not seeing what is plain and obvious (that’s what always happens…)

    I am sad about this. At work I finished writing a 20 page preliminary study on a significant capital investment (say $6M). This will then be reviewed by my boss, other people I work with, external consultants and be subject to more detailed work which will occur over quite a period of time (years) and all its flaws and weaknesses will no doubt be exposed. Ethical issues like this require no less expertise, study, understanding and consultation. And yet the Christian community is generally unwilling to put funds into training and study to do this work, but is (curiously) surprised by its irrelevance to the larger world.


    Sorry about the scattered nature of these thoughts. This is ridiculously long for a blog entry.

  36. D says:

    Oh yes.

    I am not a closet homosexual.

    (I could possibly bring to bear certain evidence from certain females that this is unlikely…)

  37. Rudy says:

    D – you win on volume.

    I still disagree.

  38. aaron says:


    Thank you for those careful observations. These points really resonate with me:

    (10) Hence while not believing homosexuality is an acceptable Christian life style (and neither is being divorced), in the culture we find ourselves I believe it should be accepted as part of the “mess” we are in.
    (11) Hence gays should be brought into the Christian community (as all Christians are, warts and all) and while it should be noted that homosexuality is not seen as an acceptable part of the Christian lifestyle (and therefore such people shoud not generally be in prominent public positions), these people should be accepted in the same manner people with (effectively) incurable conditions made via lifestyle choices or our wider cultural malaise (eg. AIDs, barrenness, divorce, chronic depression etc.)
    (12) (11) is particularly urgent given the reaction of red-necked conservatives and fundamentalist Christians to gays. To those who are marginalized within society (eg. Prostitutes, government officials etc.) Jesus spent a great deal of time partying with and getting to know.
    (13) I will regard as suspicious the condemnation of homosexuality by Christians who are not ‘close to the coal-face’ (hehe). Furthermore, condemnantion without the opening up of support and possibility for change goes against the heart of Christianity.

    I have recently been challenged to read some work by [insert forgotten name – a guy in Auckland] who has done some very careful work on the cultural contextualisation and semantic range of the words that we generally equate to “homosexuality”. I have not yet done this, perhaps because (if I am very honest) I fear the challenge to my present convictions.

    However, I am fully aware that even the notion of homosex-uality is a modern construct. It is built upon privatised ‘pleasure-essense’ sexuality that is very different from the world of religious and socially-driven acts that produced most of the scriptural writings. I am not sure that the two are commensurable.

    This leads me to think that this comment…

    In fact, it may be that the emphases of individualism are what have left us more lonely, and more open to non-normative actions to try to overcome that loneliness.

    is very perceptive. I am convinced that our usual rhetoric about sexuality is incredibly shallow, all too often simply assuming the grounding norms of our cultural milieu (privatisation, individualisation, ego-oriented needs fulfilment, and pleasure-consumption). It desperately needs challenging at a far greater depth than the conclusion “homosexuality is wrong”.

    This challenge should not merely be more ammo for the ‘culture wars’. It should be a prophetic stand by the church against the slavery that we all live in. Some of us exhibit more of that slavery than others – icons of the general malaise. In the same way, particular persons were demon-possessed in Israel of Jesus’ day, because the nation was so darkened and idolatrous – not because the persons asked for it.

    For those who are icons of brokenness, who have a concentration of struggle and perplexity in one or another area, we others should have the deepest compassion. This compassion is a way of saying, with one part standing for the whole, that God loves the whole world in all its brokeness, and He is right there healing it.

  39. D says:

    re: 37, I’m sorry. It’s just that discussion on an issue like this is more than a blog can handle, really…

    re: 38. Excellent Azza, you and I have been at each other on this issue before I think. I particularly appreciate your last paragraph.

  40. Hans says:

    D, you have written a very lengthy post which contains much to interact with and respond to. I am however, not sure that Matts blog (in a comment thread attached to a post about whatever it was) is the place to have or continue a very long discussion on homo sex.

    I will limit myself to a couple of reactions. I am afraid I do not know who you are or where you live or I would suggest that a chat over a glass of wine would be more profitable. Whatever.

    Although, with your apparent implication that my views on homosexuality are “simple”, based on a “surface” application of the bible in an excessively “generalised” way and the result of little work or study, you may not deign to meet me.;-)

    Anyway, a couple of thoughts:

    1) You appear to say: “The fundamental problem with creation was that Adam was lonely” Ummm, not tenable at all really. Was there a fundamental problem with creation??? God said that it was not good for man to be alone. Genesis does not say that Adam was lonely.

    2-5)I am more or less on the same page as you with those points.

    6) “Jesus as plan B” is not very…..elegant. Jesus as a second plan to fix the world by a somewhat baffled God appears to be implied by your formulation. Jesus as plan B is a view out of synch with the belief that Jesus is the point of the world. The incarnation of Jesus has been the high point of history. Jesus Our Lord, Redeemer, Creator, Saviour and Life is not really plan B.

    Jesus did not come to rise above the Law, He came to fulfil it.

    We are not saved to continue being “warts and all” humans, we are saved , transformed, restored, to do the good works that He has prepared for us to do.

    7) I do not feel that your list of church member actions is identifiable with the meaning of salvation.

    I agree that homo sex has become normal because of the fall. Homo sex is natural in that sense.

    All sin/brokeness has become”normalised” by the fall. we are “natural thieves, liars, sexual sinners, murderers etc etc.

    I agree that it is simply silly to claim that homo sex is wrong because it is “unnatural”, it is in fact very natural indeed.

    Homo sex is wrong because God says so.

    That is why we need saving.

    You predicted that I would accuse you of not seeing what I hold to be plain and obvious.

    No, I feel that you are making things too simple.

    We need to factor in God’s “Godness”. His ownership of the cosmos, His Love for what He has made, His anger at how what He has made has been damaged, killed, destroyed, perverted and blasphemed.

    We need never to lose sight of His Love that transcends His righteous anger and leads Him to humiliate Himself as the “running Father” for his Children.

    At the same time, we need to realise that all is for His Glory, it really is all about God.

    Nothing simple about any of the questions or answers.

    At the same time, it is all very simple, Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden light. That is also true.

    Pax Vobiscum, even though you are a self confessed perpetual advocatus diaboli

  41. aaron says:

    Hans, this is powerful imagery:

    We need never to lose sight of His Love that transcends His righteous anger and leads Him to humiliate Himself as the “running Father” for his Children.

    The humiliation of God is language well worth repeating, I think.

  42. D says:

    re: 40. Hans, I think a chat over a glass of wine would be a most excellent idea. Unfortunately most of my visits to your neck of the woods are fleeting at present.

    Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t plan ahead. I propose several glasses of wine at your place on Friday, 22nd June 2007. (I’d like to make it earlier, but I don’t anticipate a spare moment in my busy schedule until then… ). What’s more we’ll make it my shout although you may need to indicate your preference in wine.

    In the remaining three hundred odd days, here’s some mutterings which may or may not be worth thinking about.

    I’d like to concentrate on three areas which we are probably approaching from slightly different angles. They relate to:
    (a) what sin is
    (b) the way the christian community should respond in relation to sin and salvation
    (c) implications of this for christian community practices

    My comments are general and not directed exclusively towards homosexuality but they provide some thoughts on how members of the Christian community might be able to profitably discuss that issue among others. At the very least they indicate something of how I would like to be able to respond to important issues within a community.

    (a) In the medieval period, an important theological discussion (possibly over a glass of wine or port) was whether something was a sin because God said so or God said it was a sin because that’s what it was. Were God’s commands on sin arbitrary, as a test for humanity (as the ‘ol apple on the tree appeared to be) or was there some deeper reason why God said some “things” were sins and others weren’t.

    So what are the vital ingredients to committing a “sin”? Many good Christians would look at me and explain that asking this question is an indication that I’m the problem here (incidentally, though my memory is faint, I suspect this might have been Luther’s response, something about God creating certain places in hell for people who ask that question). But still, in my mind the question is persistent (what can I say…).

    A little more on that below. But on the face of it, it seems defining a sin as a list of actions we can quote Bible texts for will be inadequate. This appears particularly pressing in the situations we find ourselves in today where the Bible speaks less (and less univocally) about some issues than we might like eg. care for the environment, global moral-political incommensurability, woman’s rights, the actions of relatively wealthy countries towards developing countries, the increasing issues that our scientific-technical abilities bring (which many consider to be caused by Biblical teachings on humanity’s dominance over the world) in agriculture and medical ethics (for example), etc.

    In short, I think too narrow a definition of sin based upon an arbitrary command of God which we are aware of through the Bible will result in an unclear understanding of how to respond to sin (and will fail to recognize certain sins, particularly in an incipient form.)

    For my money I prefer to replace the word ‘sin’ with the word ‘evil’. It connotes better for some reason.

    My own take on the medieval question is that God’s world is ordered in such a way that the pieces fit together (exactly why that is remains a good question). Good is that which God blesses and which bears good fruit. Evil is forbidden by God because it breaks and tears, damages and destroys, kills, hurts, oppresses and enslaves. (And as Galatians 5 says, such evil acts and sins are pretty much obvious. The Christian message is that – to a large extent – only those who are enlightened by the Spirit of God and walking in the life of Jesus can see this). And for this reason those following ‘The life of Christ’ find his burden to be light and his yoke easy (sometimes a little too easy IMNSHO).

    (b) My reading of a nexus of important texts – specifically, Acts 15, the book of Galatians, Romans 8 and 14:1-9 (esp), indicate to me that Christians are required to do hard work in evaluating what is an appropriate way to live as children of a redeemed world.

    In Acts 15, there were two parties, one who felt that God’s command was such that unless you were circumcised you couldn’t be saved. Peter (his actions not withstanding) proclaimed that the un-circumcised had also received God’s spirit and that the Jewish party of Christians should not put that to the test. And pragmatically he felt that it was important not to make life too difficult for these Gentiles. It’s interesting to note that the things he suggested that should be emphasized (Acts 15:20 for those who are following) still have a distinctly Jewish flavour to them. Today these would not be as prominent I suspect.

    The tone of Galatians indicates to me that we cannot hide our responsibility behind a law. In Galatians 2, discussing the ‘Acts 15 incident’, Paul discusses the risk that in trying to work out for the new community how to live and be justified before God, we run the risk of going astray (by using our freedom to act in such a way that it appears as though Christ promotes sin, Gal 2:17). And that’s a real risk which is why all decisions need to be made provisionally and wisely. But this risk cannot be avoided by refusing to make decisions, or making decisions which turn a given situation into concrete (often the case with conservative Christians who see Christian ethics primarily as the working out of principles). And so it is, salvation must be worked out in fear and trembling.

    What I see in these texts is a community of faith examining what is important to the love of our neighbour and of God, and moving forward tentatively, saying “This is more important”, “This appears to be a stumbling block”, “This should not be an obstacle between those to whom God has given faith” etc. etc. I get the impression of a dynamic process (as opposed to fixed commands given for all time, a priori known to us through certain Biblical texts or principles). In the Jerusalem incident a lot of the thinking from Peter and Paul seems to be deeply contextual and related to the problems the new Christians were facing in everyday life.

    Clearly on this sketch, finding our way as to what is good or evil (helpful or unhelpful, clean or impure, obedient or sinful) in the Christian community may be difficult in certain ‘boundary’ situations where it seems it could go either way. On my view, the Christian community would need to approach this recognizing that it has a certain freedom to make such decisions but responsibility to make that decision wisely and to be prepared to revisit it as circumstances change and time passes and the Spirit of God brings things to light.

    [FWIW, to anticipate an objection, this is a responsibility which would be not autonomous, but a responsibility before the face of God (seen as part of the continuing story of the New Testament and the saints before us).]

    (c) This all connects with salvation because I see the redeemed community as God’s primary instrument of salvation (at the present-time), as co-workers with God (a la 1 Corinthians).

    To me salvation is in the New Testament predominantly a very concrete down-to-earth action. It involves things like:
    * Sharing your food with those who have none (we’re talking bread and potatoes)
    * Making sacrifices for others recognizing that we are slaves (doulos) of Jesus (FWIW, I think one of the most interesting studies I would like to read on the New Testament is its usage of slavery/oppression/heirs/brothers language. Someone write it for me or tell me where it’s been written!)
    * Worshipping God
    * Forgiving those who have debts owed to you (we’re talking money)
    * Working towards redeeming all of our world wherever the effects of the fall are felt.
    * The restoration of justice and mercy, particularly for marginalized people (widows, orphans, strangers, prostitutes, tax-gatherers) etc.
    * Working from the basic perspective that salvation is freedom and moving away from requiring others to hold ethnic concerns, customs, traditions (even theologies!).

    Salvation is the kind of thing the later Old Testament prophets proclaimed in rich concrete terms – proclamations which were claimed by Jesus as applying to himself. Things like:
    * good news to the poor
    * freedom to prisoners
    * recovery of sight to the blind
    * release to those under oppression

    In my understanding salvation’s primary referent is to the way the redeemed people live and the life they bring to those around them.

    A long time ago, a friend wrote an article entitled, ‘Demythologizing the Gospel’ which he confesses was written polemically and he would tend to write it a different way now, but I agree with much of what he says here:

    Perhaps one of the most striking ways the Christian community needs to function is by recognizing its own brokenness. Somehow (God only knows), broken people living broken lives are somehow meant to bring healing and salvation, not only to each other but to the whole world.

    It strikes me as particularly important to realize that for most of us there are threads of our lives which get pulled, stretched, cut or damaged in such a way that we can’t repair them and must simply live with the consequences. Sometimes we may even know what a repair would look like, but we lack the wherewithal to be able to make it on our own.

    Part of life as Christians should involve a recognition that (there appears to be) structural damage to our world and our own lives, things which seem difficult to heal. Sometimes we get the flu. Other times we get AIDs. Sometimes the damage disappears with time, sometimes it mars our ability to respond openly to the future.

    Redemption and salvation of all that we are is more than we ever achieve in this world. And yet somehow we manage to put up with each other and pull together (most of the time rather poorly it seems).

    It would seem a sign of wisdom to realize that sometimes healing may take a few moments of quiet conversation and yet other times weeks or months may be required. Still other times, healing may be a process spanning decades with results which may not be evident for a long time (if at all). In these times, it is a mark of our faith, hope and love that we bear with each other insofar as we can, insofar as this is wise, insofar as we can preserve our unity (we should note to our shame that the New Testament epistles have an almost recklessly pragmatic concern for church unity and purity).

    So with regard to complicated questions of ethics and who can be included in the Christian community, I guess one issue I would like to discuss with you would be how you would respond to dysfunctional people or people whose lives have been deeply damaged (even in ways which seem to be ‘their fault’ or their ‘sin’). This is particularly relevant in a debate on homosexuality.

    Anyhow, time is passing. That’s probably all I’ve got to say for now until we have a face-to-face discussion (if you’d like it, that is).

    Finally, the internet being a place where tempers flare, I would like to thank you for the tone of your comments in this discussion.

    Over & out…

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