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Counting on pointed fingers

12 December 2014

Adrian Thatcher finds strange methodology behind this accusation

The Judas Church: An obsession with sex
Kevin Carey
Sacristy Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.69 (Use code CT670 )

THIS is a quirky intrusion into Anglican squabbles about sex. The aim of the book is to "explore" the thesis that the Bible is "more con­cerned with power, wealth, and social and procedural justice than it is with sexual ethics". The thesis is found proved, and the conclusion reached that the Church has betrayed the marginalised and the poor by concentrating dispro­portionately upon sex, when it should have been concerned to a much greater extent with injustice. "Judas handed back the silver and killed himself. We should hand back the silver and do better."

The method adopted in order to explore the thesis is almost bizarre. Carey isolates three broad clusters of issues, "Sexuality and gender" (S), "Power and wealth" (P), and "Procedural justice and mercy'" (J). He then isolates every single instance of each issue in the whole Bible and the Apocrypha (yes, really), categorising each passage with one of the letters, S, P, or J. If they are "relevant" to today's squabbles, they are given a + sign: if they are irrelevant they get a ‒.

Passages about love generally score three times, being included in all categories S, P, and J. The totals add up. For the entire biblical corpus, the total S score is 337, with 199 entries ranked S‒, and 138 ranked S+. P+ adds up to 352, and J+ to 150. The thesis is regarded as supported by the evidence. Small chapters (on Scripture, Tradition, and Experience) find similar emphases on sex to the detriment of the more important issues.

There are huge problems, of course, with the method: the de­­limiting of passages before they are counted; their classification; the assessment of relevance; interpre­tation. The author is irked by the filibustering of conservative attempts to arrive at a credible sexual ethic.

However zany the method, it may convince "those who hold to the principle of sola scriptura" that their emphasis on sex is "dispropor­tion­ate".

Dr Adrian Thatcher is Professor of Applied Theology at the University of Exeter.




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