2nd December 2003
In a surprise change
of journalistic style, rather than save the surprise for the end,
I'll lead off with an announcement. We are expecting our next child
in early May. We had the ten-week scan and with great relief we
saw the baby's tiny heart beat. It was still beating during a recent
visit to the midwife. It's amazing how such a tiny little organ
can be the focus of so much attention.
With the contemplation
of a new life come the thoughts of lifetime potential. What will
our child become? If he is a boy, he might work as a lawyer or a
teacher, even become a priest. If she is a girl, she might work
as a lawyer or a teacher, but she won't become a priest. She can't
become a priest.
Some of my friends, both
on and off this list, will think that I'm being old fashioned, out-dated,
or even misogynist to make such a claim. Why, women have to be allowed
to become anything a man can become! They have a right to it. Our
society has finally become enlightened enough to realise this, after
If we have a boy, he
can't become a mother. What? No argument? Isn't that some sort of
man-hating view? No, because we have no problem realising that a
male is ontologically incapable of being a mother, a sister, or
a daughter. That is to say it is contrary to the very nature of
When it comes to matters
of theology, we often think that God is what we say He is and therefore
acts as we say He does. In other words, if I believe that God makes
some women into priests, then He must do it and they must be priests.
The only problem in thinking that what I believe matters to God
is that it means forgetting Who is transcendently above whom in
the whole scheme of existence. However if, regardless of what some
have been enlightened by modernism to believe, God has never made
women priests, it doesn't matter what formulae are spoken by bishops
claiming to act on His behalf.
If you come from a tradition
(or anti-tradition) that doesn't understand the ordained ministry
in terms of priesthood, we can argue about that some other time.
That's not the essence of what I'm saying here and that's no excuse
for you to stop reading. The point is that things aren't what they
are because you believe that is what they are. They simply are.
They simply are because God simply is. He defines Himself and He
defines us, for that matter.
The only time in the
Gospels when followers deserted Jesus over a matter of theology
was when he questioned their understanding of ontology. When He
said they must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood, they couldn't
handle it - just like so many today. But it all comes down to what
is really real. Are the wine and the bread real because we can see
them and taste them and are the Body and Blood symbolic because
we do not sense Them? Are we the source and determiner of what is
real and what isn't?
Liberal theology wants
to avoid the Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of God as masculine
constructs. Surely God must be genderless Creator (well, as long
as It doesn't mess with evolution) and Redeemer (though since there
was no Adam and no Fall, we can't be sure from what we need to be
redeemed). The problem is that mere infinitesimally minute creatures
cannot just make God something He isn't. (Even if we were gigantic
creatures it wouldn't matter. We are still creatures.)
The Father is a Father
and the Son is a Son. The Son was incarnate as a male human with
Y chromosomes and outdoor plumbing. He died as a male and He rose
as a male and He sits at the right hand of the Father as a male.
Eternally the God-man Christ Jesus. Liberal theologians can emasculate
themselves all they want, but God is Who He is and He doesn't become
who we want Him to become.
Ontology is why we as
Orthodox have a bigger Bible than Protestants. The Old Testament
is not Holy Scripture because the Jews believe it to be so. It is
Scripture because Jesus held it to be so and thus the Apostles held
it to be so. The Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles,
because they got from Jesus what was or wasn't so.
This is why the Church
for more than 1500 years universally held the Old Testament to contain
those books which Protestants now call the Apocrypha. The Jewish
canon of the Bible, or "Tanakh", was decided upon by a
group of rabbis at Jamnia in AD 90. The rabbis were developing a
reinterpretation of their theology in light of the destruction of
Jerusalem. When Martin Luther rejected the Church canon of the Old
Testament in favour of the 39-book Jewish canon, he was, in effect,
saying that first century rabbis who had rejected Great Rabbi knew
better than those who sat at His feet and were entrust with His
The recent passage in
the US Congress of the ban on partial-birth abortion has reminded
me of the crux of the matter in the public debate over when life
begins: it isn't a debatable issue. Life is not a linguistic construct
that can be manipulated. It isn't something that is a result of
belief. It just is. You do not become less than a human being just
because I say you do. I can believe sincerely and completely that
you do not exist. This does not change your existence.
Neither can you change
the existence of an unborn child by legislation or by court judgment.
Whether or not it is a child is not a matter of opinion. This is
the great flaw in the idea that whether an unborn child lives or
dies is a matter of choice. Somehow, the ability to understand this
simple concept has been lost. No one except loonies like Peter Singer
would suggest that a child living outside the womb is sub-human
or that a two-year-old is less human than a twenty-two-year-old.
But place that child inside the womb, or in the case of partial-birth
abortion, outside the womb and in the outside world but for its
head in the birth canal, and suddenly there is room for differences
Finally, in the last
few weeks we have witnessed attempts on both sides of the Atlantic
to redefine marriage. In the Queen's Speech, the Government announced
that it would "maintain its commitment to increased equality
and social justice by bringing forward legislation on the registration
of civil partnerships between same sex couples." They haven't
called it "marriage" yet.
The Massachusetts Supreme
Judicial Court wasn't so hesitant. In Goodridge v. Dept. of Public
Health they ruled, "Our laws of civil marriage do not privilege
procreative heterosexual intercourse between married people above
every other form of adult intimacy and every other means of creating
a family," and further, "We construe civil marriage to
mean the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion
of all others." All I can say to them is construe away. They
can give it equal legal privileges. They can call it "marriage"
all they want, in judicial decisions, in statute books, or in a
landscape of peonies on the statehouse lawn.
Marriage is not a creation
of the state. Whenever the state does something other than reflect
the ontological reality of marriage as created by God from the beginning,
it is merely calling a spade a diamond. It can extend rights as
far as the horizon. It can conspire with the Devil to rip apart
the moral fabric of society. It can call good "evil" and
evil "good". But whether in its manifestation as the Massachusetts
Supreme Judicial Court, Her Majesty's Government, or any other civil
authority on this earth, it cannot create same-sex marriage.
Back to my original point.
I pray that our as-yet-unborn child will fulfil the potential God
has for him or her. I always pray that our already-born child will
do the same. I pray above all things they learn and remember that
they are who they are only because God is Who He is. And may God
Who is on His Throne keep them and preserve them always.