October 30, 2012

Cultural Dissonance

Many conservative Christians are willing to acknowledge that the Scripture reflects the cultures of its time when it comes to social and economic issues, but seem to be unable to see the same influence of long-gone culture on attitudes towards sex and sexuality. They will sometimes find ingenious ways of sheltering the latter from a social or cultural critique or amendment, such as asserting that some things are creation ordinances while others are mere management of human weakness — which doesn't hold up well on examination, since some of the commands issued at creation have since been eliminated or ignored; or by claiming that the Law of Moses can neatly be divided between "civil" and "sacred" matters — a notion the theocrat Moses would have found to be very odd indeed.

It is fine to say that the church should not bend to the culture of this age, but also fair to point out that the church need not bend to the culture of some former age, merely on the grounds that the culture in question was dominant at the time the scriptures were recorded.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Deacon Charlie Perrin said...


This argument makes perfect sense; and for that reason it will be ignored by those on the right as they refuse to live in a reality based world.

JCF said...

Shrimp: Now 100% More Godly!

Gay Sex: Still Icky Abomination!


[Hope you're high&dry in your part of the Big Apple, Tobias]

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks Charlie and JCF. All relatively well here in the Bronx, a part with fairly high elevation.

I was actually thinking more about the role of women (sex) than Teh Gay (sexuality), but it all holds, especially when the cultures in question so confused sex and gender -- holding that certain characteristics were necessarily to be "masculine" or "feminine" and thus leading to many false conclusions.

Daniel Weir said...

Whenever the question of context is raised I recall the question that I was asked at my draft boards hearing c.1970: would I have refused to fight during WWII? The answer I gave - yes - was as absurd as the question because my pacifism was the product of my growing up in the Episcopal Church in the 50s and 60s. When we claim that our ethical position is context-free we are less likely to be able to see how our context shapes our position and less likely to be able to benefit from the insights of people with different contexts. This is why the Anglican Communion is so valuable, in a way that it may be harder for the Roman Catholic Church to be. We have developed diverse ways of being Anglican and can be enriched as we learn from one another. Attempts to limit that diversity using some presumed context-free standard will, in so far as they succeed, make the Communion less valuable. To paraphrase H.C.N. Williams, erstwhile Provost of Coventry, what kind of Communion would our Communion be if every Church in it were just like ours?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Daniel. Good examples and a good reminder. Some would say that "pure objectivity" is God's province alone, though I'm not completely convinced of that, given my penchant for process theology! But surely at least God is the ultimate context.