Just last week I provided a webinar for a church in Richmond. They were doing a series on Hot Topics, and I was unable to attend due to my teaching schedule. But the pastor there provided an overview of my recent book, Homosexuality and the Christian, and I joined in afterwards for some Q and A.
Although I am usually asked about the scientific research related to causation and change, I also like to speak to the research we have done on sexual identity development, particularly the role of attributions in making meaning out of one’s experience of same-sex attraction. With Christian audiences, however, there is also the question of biblical studies. For evangelicals, this is the key issue, as it is typically given greater weight than other sources of information, such as scientific findings, personal stories/experiences, and Christian history (although each of these is also typically given consideration and the ‘weight’ given to each may vary from person to person and among various denominations).
I am not typically able to do justice to the complexities surrounding biblical studies, and I try hard to resist the temptation to proof text from just a few passages and in a way that does not really demonstrate thoughtful analysis of the biblical texts.
So let me point out that there are several resources that address the biblical issues. Among those resources, many biblical scholars recognize that Robert Gagnon’s book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001), provides the most complete analysis of biblical texts related to homosexuality. Indeed, one of the reviewers at the time of its publication, James Barr (Vanderbilt) wrote:
This is a brilliant, original, and highly important work, displaying meticulous biblical scholarship, and indispensable even for those who disagree with the author.
Let me point out that this book is quite thorough. It weighs in at just under 500 pages, so it may not be the light summer reading you were hoping for.
One of the criticisms people have had with Gagnon is how he communicates his scholarship to his audience. Critics have shared that they find him rather stinging in how he talks about these issues. I am not sure what to say about that. My interest is in the quality of the scholarship, although I recognize that personality and delivery will be factored in by many.
What I will note is that a few years ago Gagnon did a video for Pure Passion in which he discusses these issues in some detail. The free summary teaching by Gagnon shows a very accessible overview of several of the main issues that arise in biblical scholarship and contemporary cultural discussions about homosexuality. These include discussions about moral regulations versus civil and ceremonial regulations, what it means to truly love others (and how an emphasis on tolerance may be misleading), the ‘silence of Jesus’ discussion, and more. For those who may have have the time to digest the 500 pages of biblical scholarship, this video may be a good start. You might also be interested in this book with Dan Via that presents two contrasting views of the scholarship in this area. I also mentioned in a previous post a book by William Web that provides a similar perspective but applies it to common misunderstandings of these issues.