Gavin Ashenden, some-time chaplain to the late queen, after long soul-searching left the Anglican church for Roman Catholicism, around three years ago. That’s out of the frying pan into the fire as far as I can see, but I respect his conscience and his intellect, and indeed his work helped me bottom out some of the ideas in my own e-book on the Great Deception, Seeing through Smoke. He was unwilling to live by lies.
Well, now he has done a thoughtful piece on the Church of England’s recent decision, in his stark but apt words, to “pronounce blessing on sin.” He notes that as soon as that decision had been made a few days ago, the talk started to be about removing gendered speech from liturgies and so on altogether. Are we surprised? We shouldn’t be.
Incidentally the best line I heard about that was the wit who pointed out that since the Bible clearly shows God’s preferred pronouns to be He/Him/His, the use of other pronouns for him is a clear case of mis-gendering which no amount of white-supremacist liberal theologising can excuse. The progressives won’t see it that way, of course.
But going backwards down the causal chain from this decision to bless same-sex couples but not permit their matrimony, Ashenden points out how the spark for the whole cascade was feminism. This latter is still mistaken by many Christians as being about “equality of worth,” when it always was, and is increasingly, about the abolition of created difference, not to mention redefining God himself.
Now, to me the connection between feminism and sexual confusion is simply a sociological axiom. As I’ve written before, I studied social psychology at Cambridge at the very time when it was beginning to be said that gender (meaning at that time the entire persona, not simply stereotypical behaviours) is something assigned at birth, rather than by God through biology. The roots of that thinking are clear – it derived from the then-fashionable feminism of Simone de Beauvoir, who was pretty well the first to argue against the biological truth of “la difference,” and to popularise the idea that anything men can do, girls can do (usually better – until transgenderism came along). It was a small step from that to saying that the sexual differences glaringly obvious in all cultures must be sociologically mediated, however ingrained in practice.
In my last church, which had Brethren roots with a genuinely oppressive attitude to women from which it had been slowly emerging, we elders grappled with what the Bible actually taught. We found that, with the best will in the world, we could not get around the teaching on complementary gender roles without sidestepping the Scriptures. Oddly enough, at a Spring Harvest leaders’ seminar, which was pushing the identical role of women in the church, one of my co-elders raised our problems with the seminar leader. “That just doesn’t seem to be what we’ve found in Scripture,” he agonised.
The reply? “You’re probably right.” That was an unusually candid admission. When I flagged up the imminent problem of single-sex marriage in the Baptist Church in 2019 (my prophecy has come true, as I wrote recently) my then minister went away and did some research, coming back to the leadership with an excellent timeline of the “slippery slope” in sexual and gender ethics. Near the top of his chronological list was an entry for “feminism.” A fellow-elder (once a lecturer in higher education) raised a loud protest – you just couldn’t link such a matter of common justice as women’s rights with homosexual marriage!
But you can, actually, if you’re thorough. In this instance my brother was prioritising a secular concept of “justice” over the theological work of applying inspired Scripture for our day. As I’ve shown above, though, even apart from the Bible there is a steady conceptual path from feminism through to Queer Theory and, as Ashenden rightly, but sadly, points out, to the paedophilia we are seeing pushed though “Drag Queen Story Hour” and so on.
That conceptual path is inevitable once you take the single step of changing from a biblical epistemology, in which we are radically subject to, and accountable to, the God who created us and who instructs and corrects us through his word (2 Tim. 3:16), to a secular epistemology based on human wisdom, desire and, increasingly, a sense of victimhood. The point is that once the authority of Scripture is relativised, the word of God is inevitably downgraded below the word of man. That was true when I was a commenter at BioLogos, where the authority of the Bible, and even of Jesus, was routinely placed below that of science, and it’s as true when intersectionality is granted priority.
And so in the now long-done-deal of the women’s ministry debate, the subjective feeling of “I am called by God to be a priest,” was bound to trump any and every biblical case for men-only leadership, because the subjective epistemology trumped the objective authority of God’s word. Nobody would even think of suggesting, “Perhaps you are wrong about your calling?” Any hermeneutical work done to explain away the what the Bible said on the matter was post hoc and, as our Spring Harvest seminar leader admitted, not that convincing. It always up ended with recourse to “cultural conditioning” on the part of the Bible writers, rather than any admission of our own cultural conditioning.
And so when Justin Welby was talking to Peter Tatchell outside the synod last week, the latter’s claim that refusing gay marriage was exactly equivalent to banning inter-racial marriage was accepted by Welby unchallenged. Welby may have been ignorant on the science that skin colour is biologically determined, whereas there is no good evidence that homosexual orientation is. But as an archbishop (to my shame converted in the same Evangelical church I went to when I lived in London) he should have been able to point out that the Bible says all the nations were created by God equal, whereas it says that homosexual relationships are sinful. Any equivalence of the two cases is false – but plausible once feelings become your route to knowledge.
That is especially so when the new religion now informing your epistemology places a premium on feelings of victimhood. Another of Welby’s interlocuters outside the synod claimed that he has experienced more homophobia in the Church of England than in Zambia. We’ll pass over the question of the truth, and even the meaning, of that. But “People hate me because I’m a homosexual, and therefore the Church should bless gay relationships” is about as logical as making someone Church Treasurer because he incurred condemnation for advocating the theft of church funds. As I said above, our churches, and particularly our denominational hierarchies, have judged the Bible for its supposed cultural bias without any awareness of their own.
And cultural conditioning is, indeed, the root problem. Russians, mainly Orthodox people, are no less charitable than us, but retain the biblical viewpoint rather than the new Western one. Hungary, a Catholic nation, likewise. Muslims, 24% of the world’s population, also reject it. And if an article in yesterday’s Daily Mail is true, leaders representing 75% of the Anglicans across the world have denied the Church of England’s new stance, and look like rejecting the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury himself as a result.
In fact, like so much else in the world, dependence on the Western hegemony seems to be what determines governments’ positions on this issue. And the propaganda in the media governs the opinions of the masses, as I noted back in 2015 on this matter, long before COVID proved it to be a universal truth. As multipolarity takes hold, though, Westerners are going to find themselves in a diminishing minority in their moral outlook, just as they will in the economic sphere.
When will Christians learn that that he who is wedded to the Spirit of the Age soon finds himself a widower? Well, the discovery will come to individuals, one by one, as they are convicted by the Spirit of God that his word is, indeed, truth for the bride of Christ. It will be very hard for such people to stay within the Established Church.