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Biblical Scholarship on Homosexuality

11 Jun

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. 

Dr. Robert Gagnon – What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality? from Pure Passion on Vimeo.

 

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3 responses to “Biblical Scholarship on Homosexuality

  1. StraightGrandmother

    June 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Mark,
    I would never recommend Robert Gagnon to anybody. Are you aware of his lying anti gay statements? Here I just picked one from his book that you seem to me to be promoting.

    “Homosexuality Is Linked To Pedophilia”

    Gagnon: “The Affirmation Of A Same-Sex Lifestyle Will Increase The Incidence Of Pedophilic Activity.” In his 2002 book, “The Bible and Homosexual Practice,” Gagnon wrote:

    A second negative effect of societal endorsement of homosexuality has to do with the problem of pedophilia and its role in “recruiting” homosexuals into the fold. There can be little doubt that affirmation of a same-sex lifestyle will increase the incidence of pedophilic activity, regardless of society’s attempt to distinguish the two. The greater the latitude given to sexual expression, the more likelihood there will be of people crossing the line into illicit conduct. Indeed, a substantial body of literature emanating from the homosexual community entertains the morality of adult-adolescent sex. The gay community as a whole has not vigorously and swiftly rejected this development. Indeed, homosexual groups in other countries have been at the forefront of efforts to lower the age for sexual consent.

    Although the majority of homosexuals are not pedophiles and do not publicly promote pedophilia, the incidence of same-sex pedophilic behavior is disproportionately high. [“The Bible and Homosexual Practice,” via RobGagnon.net, September 2002,

    http://equalitymatters.org/factcheck/201206210002

    You can read a lot more of them at EqyalityMatter.org just search his name at that website.

    Oh an by the way, interesting factoid. What is the age of consent for sexual relations in the Independent State of Vatican City? age 14

     
  2. Mark

    June 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    The section you are quoting appears to be his sociocultural observations rather than theology proper.

    What I am recommending is his expertise in biblical and theological scholarship. I think whether people agree or disagree with him, they recognize that he is a very good scholar in biblical studies. I am not in favor of dismissing a scholar’s work based upon allegations of (or documented evidence by a group like equality matters) of an anti-gay bias.

    Wouldn’t you agree that there is a point at which the scholarship itself has to be addressed on its terms?

     
  3. StraightGrandmother

    June 25, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Mark, I don’t know. I see your point that you just want to recommend his straight up Biblical expertise. If that is all he did, yeah.

    But he does much more than that, which is fully documented. The things he says are just wild. Did you read them? When we talk about anti gay animus we are talking about Gagnon. What your side preaches from the pulpit Mark the young will learn and apply in our public schools. Did you read about that young boy in the Bronx who was attacked for being gay and he has lost his right eye. Just happened last week.

    Gagnon is not merely a “Biblical Scholar” He is to be a featured speaker for the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) Ruth Institute will host its annual “It Takes A Family To Raise A Village” (ITAF) conference, which is geared towards introducing students to prominent anti-gay activists in order to prepare them to defend “natural marriage.” One of the speakers attending the event is Robert Gagnon, an Associate Professor of the New Testament with a history of linking homosexuality to pedophilia, promoting “ex-gay” therapy, and condemning homosexuality as unhealthy and dysfunctional.

    If he stuck to scholarship and teaching his flock that would be one thing but he lies in order to influence. You should be able to win by telling the truth, you should not have to resort to lying. He campaigned against including sexual minorities in the Hate Crimes Law. Homosexuality is not unhealthy or dysfunctional. And in Regnerus research 43% of the survey respondents report having anal sex so certainly this cannot be called a gay thing.

    Gagnon is much more than simply a Biblical Scholar, that is merely his platform, his jumping off point, and in light of reading about his activities, no I would NOT recommend him. Because I think when you recommend him you are recommending the WHOLE him, and the WHOLE him is not very pretty. The WHOLE him is anti gay animus. Surely there are others you can recommend that do not attempt to publicly falsely link pedophilia with homosexuality.

    I am trying to think of a good analogy not related to this issue, here how about this. Would you say that Nixon was one of our greatest Presidents because he was the first President to visit China, improved relations with the Soviet Union and ended the Vietnam War. Knowing that he lied to Congress, is caught on tape being anti Semitic, and is our only President to have resigned office. If you had to pick a President to recommend to your students as being one of the “Great” Political Leaders of the 20th Century to read and study, from a whole lot of them available, would you pick Nixon?

     

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