March 23, 2007

Thought for 3/23/07

Heterosexists can’t recognize the tune because they’re obsessed with the instrumentation.

— Tobias Haller

18 comments:

Barbara said...

Tobias,
You "may" be over-geberalizing just a bit (how's that for Anglican understatement) but I laughed out loud. Some of us are trying to here the tune. Peace and blessings for sharing with us all.

-frank said...

Quite true.

Gregory House said...

Perhaps it's because we are paying attention to the tune (the Scriptures) that the instruments are important.

Tobias said...

Gregory,
Hmmm. I don't think so. I think if we were paying attention to the Scriptures we would realize how unimportant the instruments are -- flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom, after all, and there is no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven, yet we are told it is full of music.

Nina said...

Precisely.

A good aphorism is a joy forever.

Dave said...

"flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom..."

But every week at Eucharist I'm reminded that they are the only things that could open the gates therein.

Dualism encroaches, Tobias...

Tobias said...

Dave,
You seem to confuse Paul's doctrine of the distinction between the world of the "flesh" and the world of the "spirit" with dualism. I do not.

However, if it came to it, I would join C.S. Lewis in preferring dualism to what appears to me to be a kind of idolatry that elevates earthly phenomena to a place that belongs only to God.

Dave said...

I prefer no kind of reductionism, but I try to let what is distinct remain distinct. Bodies are important, but they're not everything. That marriage as we understand it will not be part of the heavenly order doesn't mean we can ignore material physical responsibilities. Even Lewis's Platonism allowed for deep participation between the material and the ideal. I prefer Maritain to Lewis here but I won't pursue that distinction into the exalted realms of our last discussion. I can only beg off that you all but called me out with this post.

And Paul's rejection of "flesh" of course was a rejection of sin and the fallenness that flesh exhibited, not a rejection of material bodies as such. So I'm agreeing with you there and I'm not sure where that leaves us... : )

Tobias said...

Dave,

I don't think I called you out, rather I responded to your suggestion that I was veering towards dualism -- a very seriour accusation in my book. I would humbly suggest that my nominalism is a good safeguard against dualism, which is rather more likely to be at home with idealism. But I think we settled our different points of metaphysical viewpoint and see no need to revisit that particular discussion.

The "idolatry" I am referring to is the neo-pagan hieros gamos theology that is infecting the thinking of otherwise orthodox Christians. This comes up in its mildest (but most pernicious) form in statements such as "the divine image in humanity is incomplete without both male and female." That this view was espoused by Barth, by the Episcopal House of Bishops' theology committee, and by Pope John Paul II just goes to show how far a bad idea can penetrate when people become overzealous in their defence of heterosexual marriage. Aquinas dealt with this erroneous (and in fact, tending to heretical) notion and refuted it centuries ago. But it's popping up all over the blogosphere these days as if it were consistent with orthodoxy.

Dave said...

re: "called out" -- I was referring the music reference in your aphorism, which harkened back to our other discussion about music and morality.

Dave said...

Some points on which I think we agree:

Dualism is a problem.

Idealism (of the Platonic sort at least) tends towards dualism.

The Imago is complete in both genders, without complementarity.

Tobias said...

Ah, I see. Yes, that thought did arise from our other conversation, and I thought it warranted posting as "an aphorism" in a somewhat modified form.

If you would like to see some earlier reflection on the matter, you can check out Inside and Outside which summarizes some of the main points in my way of seeing the issue.

If (as it seems) our difference of opinion is the result of a metaphysical difference of point of view, then I think our discussion is fruitless, though we may still learn something from one another even if we do not agree in the end. I always welcome reasoned argument, but if it is to reach a conclusion, rather than merely be edifying, it has to proceed from mutually agreed upon premises. It appears that it is at that fundamental level we disagree.

Tobias said...

Dave,
I posted my earlier comment as you were sending yours. Yes, these are three things we agree on!
Tobias

Tobias said...

Over at his web site, (link below) gregory house m.div. is falsely accusing me of gnosticism. Perhaps he doesn't understand what gnosticism is, in spite of his M.Div.

Gnosticsm is a vague term, but in this context it refers to a denail of the goodness of the material world, or even of the reality of the material world.

I do not however, fall into either error. I assert the Pauline teaching that the material world is not of ultimate importance. That does not mean it is of no importance, and the difference is crucial. For yes, our bodies are real, and it does matter what we do with, in and through them. My argument is actually about bodies: what it is we do with them. And I am addressing the the biological determinism which gregory house appears to advance: that the "form follows function" to such an extent that to perform an act he believes to be at variance with the form is to fall into sin. In this, he veers towards gnosticism's opposite, which is not orthodoxy, but idolatry, in which the material becomes of primary importance. His final comment that Paul's teaching would lead to bestiality is indicative of his lack of understanding these distinctions. An animal is not a human being. The problem is that gregory is exalting the sexual difference to such an extent that he is incapable of seeing the human likeness, which reflects the divine likeness, in all human beings.

This comment on bestiality, and his use of the analogy of Narcissus, who fell in love with his reflection, lead me to suggest that gregory doesn't really understand bodies all that well. Another person, of the same or the opposite sex, is not a reflection (an illusion, as the gnostics would say) -- but is a real other person. It is not a question of denying the reality of the flesh, but about, precisely discerning the limits to which that flesh may or may not be engaged in a loving relationship -- what is the right relationship with the "other." Gregory follows the well-worn path of the tradition that the sexual difference between male and female is determinative and limiting. I do understand that traditional view, but one need not leap into gnosticism in order to dissent from it. That is where we disagree, and it has nothing to do with gnosticism, but rather with a kind of formal biological determinism raised to a level of theology and moral law. I do not by any means deny that some have so pressed it within the Christian tradition -- but as I pointed out above, an over-exaltation of the sexual difference leads to ideas such as hieros gamos theology, and is very foreign to the teaching of Christ and of Saint Paul on the actual subject of marriage, and the lack of ultimate import to the sexual difference, which, according to Paul at least, is of no significance "in Christ."

Tobias said...

In further response to Micah, posted over at Greg's place:

Paul says -- and I agree with him -- that the flesh itself is relatively unimportant in comparison with the spirit -- though what we do "in" it -- is.

I think you [Micah] are making a confusion common in much reflection on Paul -- common because we are used to seeing the terms as synomyms: but "flesh" and "body" do not mean the same thing for Paul. The "flesh" represents all that is passible, fallible, fading, etc., while the body can indeed "put on immortality" by a process of spiritual regeneration. But it is "changed" in the process from "physical" to "spiritual"; the resurrection, while "bodily," is not "fleshly."

Paul consistently envisions a hierarchy in which the Spirit is superior to the Flesh, not just in 1 Corinthians but in Romans and Galatians. He does it in his teaching on the resurrection and in his debates over circumcision. These are the distinctions to which I am pointing; if this is gnosticism, then Paul is a gnostic.

I would challenge you to point to any Pauline teaching in which he declares the Flesh to be equal to the Spirit. On the other hand, if what you really want to argue is that certain acts condemned by Paul are morally wrong, I can understand your position; but it seems to me to have little to do with gnosticsm, which is a red herring in this discussion.

Surely the point of the Narcissus legend, with which Greg began the discussion, is that Narcissus rejected real relationships with real people in exchange for an empty relationship with an image. He became "gnostic" by refusing homosexual conduct! That hardly makes the case Greg appears to wish to make.

Frank Sonnek said...

Homosexuality is a phenomenon. it is not a proposition, philosophy, theory, moral position or doctrine that can be argued into our out of existance as we could with calvinism. Homosexuality simply is.

Elephants exist. The rightness or wrongness of elephant-dom can be debated on a number of levels, especially if one owns a china shop on a street where elephants roam wild. It is useful however to begin the discussion with what an elephant is, and how you would know one if you saw one. No one here seems to have a clue as to what a homosexuality in fact is.

Frank Sonnek said...

Homosexuality is a phenomenon. it is not a proposition, philosophy, theory, moral position or doctrine that can be argued into our out of existance as we could with calvinism. Homosexuality simply is.

Elephants exist. The rightness or wrongness of elephant-dom can be debated on a number of levels, especially if one owns a china shop on a street where elephants roam wild.

It is useful however to begin the discussion with what an elephant is, and how you would know one if you saw one.

If you actually cared about what elephants thought about your comments, you would strive for a description with which a typical elephant could easily self-identify. Rules of politeness are never out of place.

No one here seems to have a clue as to what a homosexual or homosexuality is.

Tobias said...

Frank,
Part of the problem is that a significant number of "conservatives" deny that "homosexuals" exist. They see only actions, not persons. Some others even deny the existence of "sexual orientation." Needless to say, I think both of these denials are just that. I would define a homosexual person as a person who experiences sexual attraction to a person of the same sex. This would be true whether they acknowledge it, enjoy it, or act on it. It is the disposition that I think is indicative.