August 29, 2013

Continuing Discussions Down Under

I've been engaged in a sometimes interesting, sometimes slightly frustrating, Internet conversation on Peter Carrell's blog. It's on the usual topic, same-sex marriage, and I became involved because one of the commenters there alleged as how he had refuted my "trenchant argument" in Reasonable and Holy concerning the necessity of procreation for marriage. His response involved an appeal to the subjunctive, noting that an infertile mixed-sex couple would be capable of procreation if they were capable of procreation, while a same-sex couple would be in a different class. As I noted in my response, this does not actually address the issue of whether procreation is essential to marriage, but only restates that there is a difference between same- and mixed-sex couples, a fact which, on the ground of the participants, no one I know of contests. "Virtual procreation" is essentially meaningless both on logical and moral grounds, and returning the discussion to the relative sex of the couple is circular argument. Even Dr Radner gets into the discussion at one point, and I welcome the opportunity for further conversation with him.

The conversation then quickly moved on to what I regard as some rather thin but fulsomely expressed arguments alleging some kind of likeness between a mixed-sex married couple and the Persons of the Trinity, but I found these suggestions to be confusing if not erroneous (as to Trinitarian doctrine.) Again, no one is arguing that there isn't a difference between a same- and a mixed-sex couple as far as the relative sexes of each couple is concerned. The point of debate is whether this difference constitutes a reason to restrict marriage to mixed-sex couples. It seems that "being able to be analogized to the Trinity" is not a requirement. It is really not ultimately a possibility as the Trinity is not fully analogous to anything in the created order.

As far as the "difference" in the Trinity goes, my argument is that any individual is "different" from (or as the English say, "to") any other; that the difference between the Father and the Son is relational, not substantial (to be technical, a difference in hypostasis, not ousia, in which each is personally distinct by relationship yet each is by nature "God") just as the difference between spouses — as spouses — is relational (a spouse is a spouse by virtue of relation to the other spouse, yet still complete in themselves as individual persons each of whom is by nature fully "human") and that this is the case regardless of the gender of the spouses.

There are a number of other side-streams and assertions in the conversation, including a brief foray into the thesis that the original human was an androgyne split in two (as in Plato's Symposium), but as I note that view does not hold up to a close reading of Genesis 1-3 or how the text was used in the NT references to it.

I commend the whole conversation to those with the patience to wade through it. I hope it provides more light than heat. I continue these conversations largely because they reassure me that I'm headed in the right direction. As I've said before, it isn't for me to convince the prosecution, but the jury.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Erika Baker said...

I'm intrigued by your last sentence.
Who is the jury?
If we take the polity of individual national churches as the baseline, then the jury is the body of those who eventually vote on a change in official policy regarding lgbt relationships.

To that extent, we have to convince enough persecutors to end up with a friendly jury.

I think that process is well under way, the anti arguments are getting flimsier and flimsier and ever more abstruse.
The majority of people can no longer follow them but can detect the homophobia that underpins them.

Tobias Haller said...

Erika, to my mind the "jury" is the vast bulk of church members, who do not share the negative views of many in the "leadership" -- a fact about which apparently the Archbishop of Canterbury is now finally aware.

The "prosecution" consists of a fairly small batch of vocal critics of same-sex marriage, who, as you say, are rapidly losing their case as they fail actually to make it, and insist on either logical fallacies or mere reassertion, or arguments of novel sophistication that cloud the discussion and are perceived as opaque or special pleading -- as in the peculiar invocations of the Trinity in the referenced dialogue.

I acknowledge that some even of these prosecutors (not persecutors necessarily!) will change their minds in the long run. I've seen it happen, and the trend is that way with them or without them.

Erika Baker said...

I suppose it depends on the reason for wanting to convince the jury.
If we want general acceptance, then we've already convinced those who oppose us, the majority of churchgoers is not bothered about homosexuality and tired of this debate.

But if we want real change in the Communion then that must include official recognition of our relationships, in church after church after church.
For the CoE that means convincing enough of those who are currently against it so that any proposals for formal change can eventually make it through General Synod.

I suppose I'm still stunned by the November vote on women's bishops, all progress scuppered by a small number of people when the jury, the majority of churchgoers, is thoroughly in favour.

Tobias Haller said...

Erika, it seems to me that only a few of the "prosecutors" will change their tune any time soon; and that is likely true whether they are bishops, members of synod, or noisy folk in the pew. From my perspective, most of the strongest negative voices -- like our "Anglican Communion Institute" -- have little or no standing in the synodical government of the church. There was a time when we had a number of vocally negative bishops, but most of them have died, retired, or left the church in a huff.

The English situation will likely take longer to work out and through -- I'd say TEC is at least a generation ahead of the CoE in terms of a change of heart and mind, and things go slower in England due to establishment and a host of other attitudes. So you folks may need to work harder on changing the views of those with the votes -- whether conceived of as jury or not.

Tobias Haller said...

I wasn't entirely clear... I meant my perspective in TEC.

JCF said...

"Again, no one is arguing that there isn't a difference between a same- and a mixed-sex couple as far as the relative sexes of each couple is concerned"

Well, if we're talking strictly chromosomal sex, it's a tautology: same-sex is same-sex, mixed-sex is mixed-sex.

But even this ignores the intersexed and, in important ways, the extent to which chromosomal sex really isn't very relevent. [I don't *for sure* know my own chromosomal sex, do you? Does anyone, except (probably), transsexual persons receiving hormonal therapy? The vast majority of us just ASSUME our sex chromosomes, based upon our assigned "M" or "F" at birth, in turn based upon our genital morphology.]

At any rate, some of w/ typical sex chromosomes, have very different senses of gender: different from (to ;-/) the perceived norm of masculine XY, and feminine XX.

In short, I'm even arguing what you say no one's arguing, nevermind all the OTHER {canards} the anti-SSM side has come up with! ;-p

Tobias Haller said...

I"m not sure "tautology" is the right word. If what people are saying is that same-sex marriage is impossible, they do so on the ground that it is not the same as mixed-sex marriage; that is, "marriage requires that the couple be mixed in terms of sex." My point is that they have not been able to come up with a reason in support of that thesis that is itself rational. Much of it just boils down to an insistence that "difference" is what makes marriage possible -- but that is the very thing that needs to be proven.

Perhaps the distinction between tautology and petitio principii is not all that great.

I take your point on the genetic issue. Ultimately what the anti argument boils down to is sexism: that the Y chromosome is morally determinative, and that there must be at least one (and no more than one) in the mix of a marriage! What they will do when and if the Y chromosome disappears (in humans, as some researchers contend may happen with 10,000 years) remains to be seen.