Monday, November 19, 2012

TBLA(4): The question of truth

One of the corollaries of my last post is: given that the church has the authority to decide what is right and what is not right (the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven) - how are we to do make such a determination?

This is simply 'the question of truth' - that is, the truth shall set us free, nothing that is true is foreign to Jesus, so the pursuit of truth is something that necessarily leads us into the light. This does not mean that 'truth' as a construct can be placed in an antagonistic relationship to the gospel, in order that one must be defeated. It is more a question of humility and willingness to be challenged.

One of the most ignored instructions from the infamous Lambeth Conference of 1998 was surely the injunction to listen to the homosexual Christian community about their understandings and experience. It is not possible to listen in the relevant sense if there is an irrevocable commitment to "you are a sinner". However, if listening is genuinely entered into, then so does the Holy Spirit - and together, the truth of a situation becomes discernible.

One of the best books that I have read on this subject is Gareth Moore's "A Question of Truth". He makes the argument there that it is not good enough to appeal to authority. If we believe - as Christians have always maintained that they do believe - in a God of order and reason, then that reason and order is open to an appreciation by the community. This is what drives the theological question. In his book, Moore slowly takes apart the standard Roman Catholic dogma and simply points out that 'this is not true'.

So for my purposes, this is another foundational plank in the overall argument. If we are to come to a proper understanding of the nature of Christian marriage, appeals to authority are insufficient, however important the authority may be (and it is not an accident that I began this sequence with Jesus' own teaching). We must be able to demonstrate the truth of our position.

To that end, I will in due course be drawing on contemporary scientific research about sexuality. If anyone wants a hint as to what sort of thing I'll be using, have a look at this book.


  1. I'm following the series with interest, but I think you need to be aware of the potential problems with scientific research on sexuality. This isn't to denigrate the scientific method, just to point out the particular problems of researching this topic. If you want to study the sex life of lions, you can do it in the wild; obviously not possible with humans. So you're reliant on volunteers, either to be questioned or to be measured physiologically. How do scientists get representative samples of people, how do they ensure that their own biases don't affect the questions asked and conclusions drawn and how do they decide what counts as someone's sexuality? To give one example, if someone says they are heterosexual and yet physiological measurement of them indicates arousal by sexual images of their own sex, what should be deduced about their sexuality?

  2. Hi Magistra, thanks for joining in. I think you're right - so often the science of human nature is simply the science of american college students - but I'm mainly going to be drawing on anthropological stuff, ie looking at how other cultures 'do' sexuality, and what that shows us about what is 'innate' and what is 'culturally specific' (square quotes are there for a reason).


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