I follow a great many blogs in Anglican land and spend a fair amount of time looking at them. I am also on the ENS and ACNS mailing list as well as a lurker on HOBD. As a result, I am generally pretty much up to date on what’s going on in the Episcopal and Anglican worlds. However I mostly lurk and I haven’t posted on any of the hot topics for a while.
Mark Harris recently pointed to a review in The Living Church by Ephraim Radner of Tobias Haller’s book, Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-Sexuality. (I have to confess that I do not follow The Living Church, Stand Firm, or other right wing publications or blogs and depend on others to point me to them. Rev. Ivan Ackeroff is particularly good at that.)
In reading Ephraim Radner’s review I was struck by two things. Consider this sentence from Radner: “Because the arguments are not actually founded on comparative research, however, they will never convince those who are not already persuaded.” This provides an insight into where Radner is coming from – as Richard Helmer points out in the comments at Mark Harris’s blog, Radner and his ilk base their approach on “top-down” theology. Radner’s statement is also, to my mind, disingenuous. His own arguments, at least in this polemical review, “will never convince those who are not already persuaded.”
As Bill Morehead points out also in the comments at Mark’s blog, there is an excellent (and favorable) review by Charles Hefling of Reasonable and Holy in the current (Winter 2010) issue of the Anglican Theological Review. As Hefling says, Tobias’s method is very much that of Hooker. His project is similar to Hooker’s, too -- “that of answering and controverting a stated position, strongly held, on matters of practical import for the church as a whole.” Tobias’ approach is largely biblical, explicitly taking the bible as we have received it. Radner complains that he does not also take the “coherent meaning and authority of the text,” persumably as defined by Radner and his party.
Which brings me to the second thing I was struck by. I recently read a piece by Elizabeth Kaeton in which she said that often in discussions in the church of same sexuality the discussants shift the ground to say it is really about biblical authority and that this is a form of avoidance of the real issue. (I know I’m not doing justice to her point, and I don’t feel up to tracking down what she actually said.) I would assert that next to the ick factor the question of authority (the authority of the hierarchy, the authority of scripture, the authority of tradition, the authority of reason, and the authority of experience) is precisely at the heart of the dispute over same sexuality.
To state it baldly, for some of us who call ourselves Christians, experience and reason trump tradition, hierarchy, and scripture. That is to say, we interpret scripture and the tradition using the lens of experience and reason.
I wrote the above a few days ago. Since then, Tobias has posted on the topic and one comment especially, by Fr. Gregory, pointed out the necessary (but unacknowledged) hypocrisy implicit in Radner's review. Fr. Gregory refers to "the question of whether any scholar, committed de facto to a set of pre-existing truths which he cannot question and does not declare, can serious[ly] and objectively review a work which basically questions those pre-existing truths." His implied answer is of course "No." But this raises for me the question of those of us who know from our own experience that we must reject any interpretation of scripture that condemns all same sex behavior out of hand. Can we listen to the other side with any more openness than they can listen to us?