Here I straddle: I can do no other
by Melvin Tinker, Anglican Ink:
The report from the House of Bishops on Marriage and Same-sex Relationships is not without its admirers and detractors in equal measure. I want to come at the report and the responses to it, especially from evangelicals who have given it more than a generous welcome, from a slightly different angle.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the magisterial Reformation. The iconic picture of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle may seem light years away from the blog blitz that has resulted from the House of Bishops tentatively presenting their proposals to a mildly interested press conference. I want to argue that at least one of Augustinian monk’s arguments is penetratingly relevant to the current Anglican scene on the whole matter of same-sex relations and the constellation of issues surrounding it.
A Luther moment
It is there in theses 21, “A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.”
For Luther the theologians of glory extrapolate from what they see in nature to the supernatural being of God. This underlies much of the present thinking of the gay identity problem in the Church. The fundamental stance is that this is the way God has made me, (with the odd Bible verse thrown in to back it up as in the Bishop’s report ‘The Psalmist rejoices that human beings are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139.13).’), which in turn is confirmed by a secular society’s view that personal identity is not simply connected with sexual identity, but that the latter is the dominant, defining feature. This results in a belief in a god who is very much like us who, invariably, affirms us. This is nothing less than an attempt to domesticate God. [See Kevin J Vanhoozer, Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Christianity (Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, 2016) 40]
The resulting god is, in fact, no god at all. As Feuerbach argued (with which Luther would have agreed) such religion is nothing but an idolatrous, human construction. It is “a dream, in which our conceptions and emotions appear to us as separate existences, beings out of ourselves.” [Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, trans, George Eliot (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1989), 204.]
This religion of glory is little more than what was described by Sigmund Freud: the future of an illusion, a preference for one’s own thoughts about God.