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 hills-church.org.

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.

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A Better Atonement: When Atonement Begins

This week, as we prepare for Good Friday and Easter, we’ll have a post every morning about the atonement. Some will be by me, and some by guests. And don’t forget to check out the Storify and Tumbler, both tracking atonement this week. You can read all of the posts, and my past posts on this topic, here.

This morning, Fuller Seminary professor Daniel Kirk . Be sure to check out Daniel’s new book, Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?: A Narrative Approach to the Problem of Pauline Christianity.

Died for Our Sins

“Jesus died for our sins.” Often, the problem with this core piece of our common Christian confession is that we think we know what it means. And so we limit our understanding of the fullness of the atonement.

Hearing this confession, many of us immediately home in the problem of guilt. Jesus is the means God provides so that sin’s guilt might be forgiven.

This is one way that scripture talks about Jesus’ death. But even when speaking of forgiveness of sins, guilt isn’t always the Bible’s primary concern.

In Colossians 1 we read, “God rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son; in him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Forgiveness is not merely about having guilt forgiven. Forgiveness becomes the means by which we are freed from an enslaving tyrant.

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If Jesus’ Crucifixion Is the Solution, What’s the Problem?

A Better Atonement cover

I’ve got an article on Patheos’s homepage. It’s on — you guessed it — the atonement. It’s a summary of my thoughts on the issue (so far):

Christians know why Jesus died: He died for our sins. That’s what we’re taught from the earliest days of Sunday school.

And we all know how he died: A particularly gruesome form of public execution known as crucifixion.

But many Christians are less sure of how it works. How is it that Jesus’ death accomplishes the forgiveness of my sin? By what cosmic mechanism does that take place?

In other words, there comes a time in every Christian’s life when the Sunday School answer, “Jesus died for my sins,” falls short. We want to know how it works.

Read the rest: If Jesus’ Crucifixion Is the Solution, What’s the Problem?

A Better Atonement: Your Turn

We’re on the brink of Holy Week. I have been absolutely heartened at the robust conversation that we’ve been having on this blog around the atonement. It’s not an easy topic, I know. But it is extremely valuable.

So, next week, I’m going to post on the atonement every morning. (In the afternoon, Scot will be guest posting on Gagnon’s book, which will be great.) And I’m really hoping that you will join the conversation. I’ve set up a Storify and a Tumbler for the Atonement.

Here’s how you can join in: if you reflect on the atonement over the next week or so, let us know. Post your sermons, blog posts, Facebooks, tweets, for the rest of us to interact with.

You can join the Storify stream by posting your tweets with #ABetterAtonement.

You can post to the Tumblr by sending an email to fubrauf476@tumblr.com. You can also submit a post directly here.

Let us know about your post, sermon, even your tweet. We’re all in this together.

You can read all of the posts, and my past posts on this topic, here.



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