A Response to The Church and Homosexuality - by Jeffrey John

david at virtueonline.org david at virtueonline.org
Fri Jul 9 17:33:09 EDT 2010

A Response to The Church and Homosexuality-Some Post Lambeth Reflections by Jeffrey John 1998

A Partial Response to Jeffrey John

by Jay Haug 
Special to Virtueonline 
July 5, 2010

I read this in its entirety due to the issue of Jeffrey John's candidacy for Bishop of Southwark. So many of his arguments appear reasonable, particularly because, in areas other than sexuality, Jeffrey John claims to be orthodox. I say "appear" because this is just a cursory view on my part, without a detailed exposure to his writings. However, like all intellectual developments including Darwinism and Freudianism, if your beginning premise is erroneous, you will never recover no matter how logically you proceed to your conclusion.

John's erroneous premise is that homosexual relationships are the same as marriages on the inside, therefore we should accept them. His argument is "spiritual" in the sense that he bases it on "love." Scripture, however, argues from "nature" and the bodies we have been given by God. Archbishop William Temple describes Christianity as 'the most materialistic of all religions" and he is correct. 

The whole of the biblical "one flesh" argument derives from the way God has created bodies that house our souls and spirits. John's arguments appear spiritual but they are essentially gnostic in root. Ethereal arguments with no incarnational basis in real human bodies or in "one flesh" marriage. Paul even uses the same "one flesh" argument to warn against uniting oneself with a prostitute. (I Cor. 6:16) By the way, a big thank you must go out to our Roman Catholic friends here who have refused to put asunder sex and procreation. The total unhinging of these two is a big reason for our problems today.

According to John, gay relationships are the same as heterosexual ones with the one exception that they are engaged in by same-sex attracted people. This argument does permanent damage to the biblical witness and uniqueness of male-female marriage, not to mention the argument in Ephesians 5 where Paul refers to marriage between a man and a woman as a type of Christ and His church. A further question: if God's plan is to reconcile all things to Himself, then a world in which men are settling down with men and women with women would seem like a step backward from its fulfillment, would it not? This would be a world where the sexes are increasingly giving up on each other. People who believe " a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" are increasingly heading to this reality. Households without men by choice and lesbianism are its signposts. So is the disappearance of the masculine man. Admittedly, there is nothing more different than men and women. But God has chosen male-female marriage as a sign of His plan for the ultimate reconciliation of all things in Christ. Furthermore, John's equating of homosexual relations to the fight over women's ordination is unconvincing to evangelicals who hold that the issue is not whether women can be priests but whether it is wise to make them priests. (Or as some would argue so many of them priests).

His best argument is his honesty over the marriage/divorce/remarriage issue because of our Lord's clear teaching on it. However, the problem over divorce and re-marriage is what to do with an order God has already given, not attempting a fundamental change of that order, which gay marriage/blessings would be. They are certainly not equivalent. Though I do appreciate his concern about consistency, it appears to be self-serving. It's somewhat like the far-left anti-war crowd who told us we should be fighting in Afghanistan rather than in Iraq. However, when we finally took the war to Afghanistan, they didn't want to fight there either. Conclusion: the war the far left wants to fight is never the one we are fighting now. I suspect Jeffrey John would not want the church to marry every divorced couple no matter what the circumstance just to prove a point about alleged hypocrisy over gay relationships.

Jeffrey John is completely right about John Shelby Spong of whom John rightly states that Spong's pro-gay marriage stand emanates from Christian revisionism at best and outright atheism at worst. However, John will have a tough time finding what he wants, a coalition of otherwise orthodox catholic Anglicans who support gay unions/marriages. The reality is that most who are visibly advocating for this end are in league with Spong's radicalism and not Jeffrey John's appeal to orthodoxy apart from the gay issue. However, my guess is that at its core the difference between John and Spong is more a difference of tactics than true theological divergence. Like the IRA and the Islamists, the theological revisionists have an inside game and an outside game, a terrorist wing and a political wing. John is heading up the political wing with an assist from Rowan Williams. Spong is content to build theological explosive devices in his basement hoping that the "cultured despisers of Christianity" will still give him an audience as long as he has breath.

---Jay Haug is a free-lance writer living in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. He is a member of Redeemer Anglican Church, Jacksonville

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