Reading Gagnon: What Went Wrong [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

I have really tried to be charitable to Gagnon’s book in my blog posts. Maybe I’ve been too charitable, since Gagnon doesn’t just “overstate” the conclusions in his biblical exegesis. He relentless forces all of the evidence into arguments that seem intended to annihilate even the possibility of an alternative interpretation.

It is more difficult for me to be charitable with his fifth chapter, however. In this last chapter — about one-third of his book — Gagnon attempts to refute as many arguments as he can think of which attempt to “override the Bible’s authority” by appealing to “general theological principles or contemporary scientific knowledge and experience” (p. 37).

While the first four chapters of Gagnon’s book could be read as an important contribution to biblical scholarship on homosexuality and sexual ethics, I’m afraid that the last chapter reads more like partisan talking points that can be used to attack and dismiss interpretations which differ with Gagnon’s particular interpretation of the Bible. Instead of seriously engaging the theological and modern scientific challenges to the Bible’s apparent position on homosexual practice, Gagnon’s mind is clearly made up, and he will come up with any argument he can, good or bad, to defend what he already thinks.
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Reading Gagnon: Two More Prejudices [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

In my first post about reading Gagnon, I wanted to be clear about the prejudices I brought to my reading. The first prejudice was that fidelity to the biblical message is important to me. Here are two more of my prejudices:

Second: I am aware that the Bible can be misread in dangerous ways. The denomination in which I was saved and educated and ordained — the Southern Baptist Convention (or whatever it wants to call itself now) — was founded in 1845 because Baptist slave-holders in the South wanted both to be foreign missionaries and to keep their slaves. While Baptists in the North objected to appointing slave-holding missionaries, the Southern Baptists defended the practice of slavery by appealing to the Bible.

In a recent editorial, my former Church History professor Bill J. Leonard, gives an example of Southern Baptist rhetoric about slavery:

In an 1822 address to the South Carolina legislature, Baptist pastor Richard Furman insisted: “Had the holding of slaves been a moral evil, it cannot be supposed, that the inspired Apostles, who feared no the faces of men, … would have tolerated it for a moment, in the Christian Church….” The biblical writers, Furman said, let the master/slave relationship “remain untouched, as being lawful and right.”

He concluded: “In proving this subject justifiable by Scriptural authority, its morality is also proved; for the Divine Law never sanctions immoral actions.” “Biblical defenses” of slavery flourished throughout the antebellum South.

Southern Baptists could defend the practice of slavery by appealing directly to the plain sense of scriptures like Ephesians 6:5-6: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”

Southern Baptists could defend the practice of slavery by asking the abolitionists, “Where is the scriptural condemnation of slavery? Where does the Bible advocate the abolition of slavery?” Southern Baptists knew that there is no such scripture, and they could accuse the abolitionists of being unfaithful and disobedient to God’s plan as revealed in the Bible. The slave-holders, not the abolitionists, were those truly faithful to the Bible.

Southern Baptists were wrong. [Read more...]


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