Thursday 20 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod Part 2

Dr Thomas Soding 
After Professor Pelletier had explained how Jesus had got it all wrong about marriage Professor Doctor Thomas Soding of Bochum took the floor (I bet some of you reading my previous note thought that he was another invention of Peter Simple but no he is for real). He spoke in German but I am reading from the French translation.

He starts with a quotation from Mark 13:14 "He who reads must understand". From that he says that the Bible was not written to stifle questions as to moral and religious orientations but to make suggestions and help us to formulate good responses. It therefore must be interpreted faithfully but creatively. He says one must distinguish or dissociate Holy Scripture from any earlier interpretative tradition so that it can be re-intepreted afresh. Having referred to Pope Benedict XVI's "Verbum Domini" which constantly refers to 'living tradition' this seems a bit of a contradiction. Professor Soding goes on to say that the Bible is not the Christian Life itself but "a system of navigation which shows arrivals and departures, intineraries and bottlenecks, toll booths and service stations". I wonder if he has got the Bible muddled up with his Tomtom GPS. I am surprised he does not mention speed cameras at some point. Perhaps he thinks his Tomtom is the voice of conscience? "Go left, go right, aargh! turn around and retrace your steps".

St Mark: Visibly unimpressed
Well actually St Mark was not talking about understanding the Bible but understanding his reference to the Abomination of Desolation. Here we have in the Professor's talk an Abomination of Waffle, Incomprehensibility and Contradiction. He goes on to talk about the 'Vote Christique' by which I suppose he means what Christ said, being merely one person with a vote. He says that the teaching on marriage is pretty clear and the Synod should make such recognisable by everyone. Good idea but he then says that precisely because the teaching is so clear it is an open question! The teaching must not be rigorist but merciful in an opening to the future in three aspects:

  1. Christ developed the teaching starting with Genesis and it can therefore be developed further and there are drafts for this – presumably Professor Soding and other eminent theologians have these in their briefcases!
  2. The Petrine privilege could be developed. Whereas that applied to somebody who was married to a pagan and became a Christian and could be released in the interests of preserving their Faith – presumably because it would have been impossible to go on living with the pagan, Professor Soding now proposes that where one party gives up the Faith and becomes a pagan the marriage might be dissolved in the interest of the Faith of the other party. But he says adultery is adultery therefore a grave sin and "God himself can dissolve a marriage if the alliance of believers with him, concluded by Baptism, cannot be saved by any other means." So we could have the situation where someone says to God "If you do not dissolve my marriage I will cease to believe in you" and Professor Soding thinks the Church should oblige. Where on earth has his Tomtom led him?
  3. The interpretation of the 6th commandment as forbidding all sex outside of marriage is rather rigid in his view. "The stratification of the Biblical constant is more complex." It needs looking at again. Jesus did not tell the woman taken in adultery not to sin again but merely to review her conduct. With the Samaritan woman he makes her a messenger of Faith ignoring, in Professor Soding's view, her irregular situation. Again those who do not have the gift of celibacy should not be regarded as an obstinate sinner if the marriage has broken down and they are committing adultery elsewhere. If they have not the gift of celibacy then we must accept their adultery.
    A marriage is concluded, once and for all, with consummation but adultery is repeated with each act of adultery so absolution is not possible. For Professor Soding this represents a contradiction if the fault which has led to the adultery is regretted and the wound has cicatrised. Actually cicatrised does not necessarily mean healed but merely sealed with a scab – the wound is no longer open. What fault is there that someone commits in a marriage that leads them to adultery? A fault by one party might be a factor in leading the other party to adultery in seeking solace but how can they then regret the initial fault of the other party as if the fault was their sin? There is a similar muddle in the Instrumentum Laboris 2015 – perhaps he had a hand in it?

God calls us to live in peace therefore the Synod must give peace to the divorced and remarried. Professor Soding says the Synod must find a way to solve this conundrum. I wonder what Dr Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht would have to say about all this.


  1. Printable words fail me. I think St Nicholas would have dealt this man a swift smack in the teeth.

  2. He says one must distinguish or dissociate Holy Scripture from any earlier interpretative tradition so that it can be re-interpreted afresh.
    Has Professor Doctor Thomas Soding thought of applying to become a Minister in the Church of Scotland?
    "Currently, the Church of Scotland understands 'the Word of God which is contained in the
    Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the supreme rule of faith and life'. In the
    seventeenth century, this Church, with other branches of the Reformed Church, accepted the
    following statement as a 'subordinate standard', giving assistance in the correct interpretation of the
    Scriptures. There has been much debate in the Church recently, some believing that this document
    is now too 'time conditioned' to function adequately in the way required while others consider the
    Confession to be a vital bulwark of the Church's faith and indeed of its identity.
    Although, however, the Westminster Confession retains its status, the General Assembly of 1986
    declared that it no longer affirmed certain parts, indeed 'dissociated itself' from certain clauses and
    did not require its office-bearers to believe them. The General Assembly has agreed that ministers,
    deacons and elders at ordination have to assent to the Confession and its role, but, at the same time,
    it is made clear that this is a 'subordinate' standard (to Holy Scripture) and therefore open to
    challenge on the basis of further study of Scripture.

  3. I can just imagine people like Professor Soding, if they had been alive at the time, screaming at Jesus: "You cannot be serious!"


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