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A good disagreement?

A review on Martin Davie's new book, 'What Does the Bible Really Say?, LT 2021

The current Living in Love & Faith (LLF) process which the Church of England is rolling out across the country kindly invites us to ‘a series of humble conversations, supported by teaching and learning resources, to equip the church in discerning God’s will in relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage’. Leaving aside for the moment the obvious question: ‘hasn’t God already revealed His will to us on these subjects - in his word?’ we might ask ourselves what prospects are there of a successful outcome to the process.


The LLF book itself isn’t totally optimistic. In part four: ‘Seeking answers: how do we hear God?’ six different areas are explored. The Bible, Church, creation, cultural context, experience and conscience & prayer and guidance. It is encouraging to see that the Bible is listed first but not that it seems to have equal weight to all the others (although to be fair it is the longest chapter). In this section we have the following paragraph:


‘In November 2010, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, asked the Church of England’s General Synod how people who read the same Bible, and share the same baptism, could come to such diverse conclusions about human sexuality. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, returned to this question in his final Presidential address to Synod in July 2019, saying that ‘Nine years later there has been little, if any, progress in answering it.’ (LLF: Christian teaching and learning about identity, sexuality and marriage, pg. 277).


Martin Davie’s new and timely book: What does the Bible really say? Addressing Revisionist Arguments on Sexuality and the Bible - gives us a strong clue towards the answer to the former ABC’s question. The book was conceived as rebuttals on Davie’s website (Reflections of an Anglican Theologian) to ten articles posted on the ViaMedia.News site under the heading of ‘Does the Bible Really Say...?’ Those were written by leading academic sexual revisionists, mainly from inside the Church of England.


In this very readable one hundred and eleven page book, Martin Davie succinctly summarises the revisionist viewpoint from each original blog whose titles ranged from ‘Does the Bible really (DTBR) say that sex outside marriage is wrong? to DTBR give us a clear definition to marriage? and DTBR say that a family needs a ‘mummy and a daddy’? Etc.


Martin Davie gently points out the weaknesses, inconsistencies and fallacies in the arguments of those who would change Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. As we read Davie’s book it becomes clear that we don’t have two supposedly different versions of true Christianity who hold different but equally valid views.


We have a theological liberal and philosophically secular movement masquerading as Christian which have decided that what God has always called sin, a departure from the Bible’s moral and relational code on sexuality, is no longer so. They then go to the Bible and view scripture with their cultural lenses firmly on. The amount of special pleading, reading presumptions back into the text and clear eigesis is astounding. It is reader-response hermeneutics at its worse. Those liberals who say the Bible is clear on condemning sex outside marriage (such as Walter Wink, Diarmaid McCulloch and J.R. Daniel Kirk (no relation!)) but then say that we don’t have to submit to those views, are at least being intellectually honest.


In view of two very different hermeneutical underpinning of the orthodox and revisionist streams - there appears to be no way of squaring this circle. And it seems clear that the whole process of LLF discussions and its material is aimed at coming to the pre-programmed conclusion ‘let’s graciously agree to disagree’.


The titles of the original set of articles that Davie responds to, seem to echo the words of an early revisionist in Gen 3.1 who asked ‘Did God really say...?’ Back then God’s word was first doubted and rejected, as we are now being asked to do today. Paradise was lost with tragic and far reaching consequences for the whole human race. The fate of the Church will be no better if we succumb again to the honeyed words of the latest revisionists. So, Martin Davie does us all a service when he answers the sceptics overall question with a resounding ‘Yes’ and concisely explains the weaknesses in the revisionist’s arguments.

To buy Martin's new book 'What does the Bible really say?' click here 

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Revd Daniel Kirk is Vicar of St Michaels Gidea Park

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