Reading Gagnon: Getting Ready [Scot]

This week, Scot Miller is blogging about Robert Gagnon’s book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, which many readers of this blog are sure will convince Scot and me that we’re wrong about the gays. -TJ

To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of Robert A. J. Gagnon until I read a comment on Tony’s blog giving credit to Gagnon for presenting “overwhelming evidence of the Bible’s unequivocal opposition to homosexual behavior.”

I have since discovered that Tony’s commentator is not alone in his praise of Gagnon. In fact, so many people seem to appeal to Gagnon in defense of the traditional notion that homosexual practice is a sin that Tony thought that someone should address Gagnon’s magnum opus, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (2001).

Since regular readers of Tony’s blog know that Tony has many books to read on his desk and his bedside and his easy chair, he asked me to review Gagnon’s book.

First of all, Tony and I would like to thank Rev. Joseph Hedden, Jr., pastor of Emmanuel Reformed Church of the United Church of Christ in Export, PA, for letting me borrow his copy of Gagnon’s book. Pastor Hedden is a gentleman and a scholar and a generous soul for lending me a book which he purchased for $39. (I took very good care of the book, Joseph, and I promise to return it as soon as I’m finished blogging about it.) Please check out Pastor Hedden’s blog at

Before I launch into my review of Gagnon (I hope to post five more times about the book), I think it’s important for me to disclose how I am approaching Gagnon’s book.

In his classic work, Truth and Method (2nd rev. ed), Hans Georg-Gadamer argues that understanding requires developing an awareness of one’s biases, that “all understanding inevitably involves some prejudice” because prejudice is inescapable (Truth and Method, p. 270).

Each of us begins in a particular place at a particular time with particular assumptions. It is part of the human condition that we already bring these fore-understandings and anticipatory judgments to every act of interpretation.

So having a prejudice isn’t necessarily bad; indeed, Gadamer rejects the idea that prejudice something necessarily negative, for one can have good prejudices, like the prejudice to be open to the meaning of a text.

The problem is when one is unaware of one’s prejudices and substitutes one’s own prejudice for understanding the object of interpretation. So it is always important to be aware of one’s situation in approaching the text. (If you’re interested, Andrew Crome of the University of Manchester has a helpful discussion of Gadamer and Prejudice in Interpretation.)

I would like to disclose three of my prejudices I brought to my reading of Gagnon. Since this post is already too long, I’ll offer the first of my prejudices in this post, and two other prejudices in my next post.

[Read more…]

Awaken Yourself…To a Free Book!

This post is part of the Patheos Book Club. Check out the Book Club for more posts on this book, an interview with the authors, and for responses from the editors.

Publishing is not dead. At least not as measured by the books that arrive on my doorstep every day to review and blurb. (Or maybe these publishers are all sending me books purely for my own edification. Bahahaha!)

About a lot of these books, I think: the folks who read my blog would probably like this. Some of those I get around to reviewing, and others get added to piles (with the best of intentions). Well, one came in the mail recently that I really do think will appeal to many of you. It’s Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation by David Benner.

Benner is a psychologist and spiritual director. In this book, he uses that expertise to examine mysticism, and to ultimately propose that mystical union with the Divine is possible. This isn’t a new proposal in Christianity, to be sure, but Benner’s book is significant for those of us who are drawn to mysticism but are also chastened by our training in the sciences. He writes,

Any awakening is, in effect, a response to an awareness of realities beyond our present self-organization. Such awareness of of these realities calls us to redefine and realign our self in relationship to transcendent realities that exist beyond our present awareness.

Patheos has a copy of this excellent book to give away. Anyone who signs up for my email list (or updates or confirms their subscription) will be entered to win. You can do that here. I’ll draw a name at random on the Monday after Easter.

[UPDATE: The book was won by Michelle Colon — Congrats!]

Too Late for Emergent?

Bill Walker has a very thoughtful post that is only partly about my new book on the atonement. More importantly, he has some excellent reflections on the theology — or lack thereof — of the emergent movement:

Over the past five years or so there seems to have been a climax and subsequent decline in optimism and enthusiasm surrounding the Emergent Church conversation.  Of course those on the conservative evangelical side have always dismissed the movement as heterodox and a return to theological liberalism, but even some of the more sympathetic critics that often describe themselves as “missional” have expressed concern about a lack of theological leadership.  There’s been no shortage of deconstruction and even ecclesial innovation amid this group, but the common question remains: what is it exactly that so-called emergents believe?

Be sure to read the rest: Bill Walker | Blog.

Restore the “Vagina”!

Yes, you can buy this shirt by clicking on it.

Loyal readers will know that my friend, Rachel Held Evans, has been pressured by her Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson, to remove the word “vagina” from her forthcoming book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master. The publisher, it seems, fears that Christian bookstore will not stock the book if it contains that word.

The problems with this are too numerous to enumerate. Among them:

  1. Many Christian (read, conservative evangelical) bookstores won’t stock her book anyway, because they’ll consider it “feminist.”
  2. Even if they do, they won’t sell many copies.
  3. Wait, there are still Christian bookstores?
  4. Wait, there are still bookstores?

I could go on. But there are lots of other GREAT reasons for Thomas Nelson to reconsider this decision, and they’re being posted on an Amazon petition. Like the fact that “vagina” is the least offensive term for that body part, and that speaking about the sexual organs euphemistically (“private parts”) leads to more patriarchy and more misogyny — not to mention is exacerbates evangelical fear of human sexuality.

So, do Rachel a favor and sign the petition. You can also leave a comment on Michael Hyatt’s blog. He’s the chairman and former CEO of Thomas Nelson.

UPDATE from Rachel here.