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Professor Bob Gagnon's Demolition of Newsweek's Lisa Miller

Robert Gagnon, a professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, simply demolishes Lisa Miller's Newsweek article that offered a "biblical" defense of same-sex unions.

Professor Gagnon's demolition is a wonder to behold, a majestic disassembling of a series of horrid arguments. You can find the entire piece here. Here's an excerpt:

A male-female prerequisite is powerfully evident throughout the pages of Scripture. Every biblical narrative, law, proverb, exhortation, metaphor, and poetry that has anything to do with sexual relations presupposes such a prerequisite. Even the male-dominated society of ancient Israel imaged itself as Yahweh’s wife so as to avoid any connotation of a marriage between members of the same sex (an image replicated in the New Testament as regards Christ and his bride, the church). There are plenty of laws in the Old Testament delimiting acceptable and unacceptable sexual relationships between a man and a woman. Never is there any attempt to make such a distinction for same-sex sexual relationships, for the obvious reason that no homosexual relationships are deemed acceptable.

Miller makes much of the fact that the Bible condemns homosexual practice only in “a handful of passages,” while neglecting a number of relevant texts: the narratives of Sodom and of the Levite at Gibeah; the texts from Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History dealing with cultic figures known to play the female role in sex with men (the qedeshim); the interpretation of the Sodom story in Ezekiel, Jude, and 2 Peter; Jesus’ discussion of marriage in Mark 10 (parallel in Matthew 19); and Paul’s mention of “men who lie with a male” in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10 (for a discussion of why these texts indict homosexual practice per se go here, pp. 46-50, 56-57, 72-73).

What of Miller’s argument based on frequency of explicit mention? Bestiality is mentioned even less in the Bible than homosexual practice and incest gets only comparable treatment, yet who would be so foolish as to argue that Jews and Christians in antiquity would have regarded sex with an animal or sex with one’s mother as inconsequential offenses? Infrequency of mention is often an indicator that the matter in question is foundational rather than insignificant. You don’t have to talk a lot about something that most everyone agrees with and that few persons, if any, violate.

Scripture’s male-female prerequisite for marriage and its attendant rejection of homosexual behavior is pervasive throughout both Testaments of Scripture (i.e. it is everywhere presumed in sexual discussions even when not explicitly mentioned); it is absolute (i.e. no exceptions are ever given, unlike even incest and polyamory); it is strongly proscribed (i.e. every mention of it in Scripture indicates that it is regarded as a foundational violation of sexual ethics); and it is countercultural (i.e. we know of no other culture in the ancient Near East or Greco-Roman Mediterranean basin more consistently and strongly opposed to homosexual practice). If this doesn’t qualify as a core value in sexual ethics in Scripture, there is no such thing as a core value in any religious or philosophical tradition.

Comments (9)

I'm glad you've discovered Robert Gagnon. His book, "The Bible and Homosexual Practice" set the standard for scholarship on this subject matter.

As a layperson with only a layperson's training on these matters, I have no "two cents" of my own to offer when scholars debate the meaning of specific scriptural words, but I can follow the debate and see who is standing at the end. Gagnon's demolishing of Lisa Miller's argument is typical, and few of his debate opponents are willing to return to the ring with him a second time as one round tends to damage their reputations as scholars--he's that good.

Let me recommend his website at www.robgagnon.net. It contains a wealth of material and is definitely worth exploring. Enjoy.

Bruce Byrne

Whew. "Demolition" is too light a word for this, I think. It's a clobbering, followed by an evisceration, then a cremation, ending with a scattering of ashes in such a way as that they can never be recovered.

Is there a word for that?

The word is Gagnon.

Addison Leitch and John H. Gerstner used to be on the faculty of Pittsburg Theological Seminary. It is wonderful that they still have a faculty member who can rightly exposit the Word off God.

Miller has been Gagnonized.

The Bible says a lot of things. Many public essays have been written and recited on some of the more extreme topics - like slavery (perfectly OK) and women's rights (non-existent.) They were written sarcastically, to be sure (I hope.)

The basic and only consideration is not "what the Bible says," since it says a lot of things, but rather "what the speaker chooses to extract" from everything the Bible says, in order to "prove" his selfish point. We should not call these people "religious" zealots but rather "quasi-religious", because they are motivated not by any love of God, but by their own self-interested intolerance and cruelty, and have organized to use the names of Religion and God as a front to cover their self-centered rampages. The Bible talks about "LOVE" in very favorable terms, in many places. Why not pick those references, instead of the Sodom & Gommorah story? The answer, of course, is that the anti-gay campaign is not really based on the Bible but rather on the personal bigotry of the campaigners. They use the Bible to try to support their prejudices - the only possible ghostly vapor of support - and it becomes a real case of taking the Lord's name in vain, twisting Religion to suit their personal ends.

Mr. Zisk, instead of addressing anti-abolitionists and "the anti-gay campaign," no representatives of whom seem to be here, why not address some of what Dr. Gagnon says?

I have acquired Robert A. J. Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice Texts and Hermeneutics. Gagnon offers a thorough analysis of the biblical texts related to homosexuality. He shows that the Bible everywhere and always defines same sex intercourse as sin.
Conservatives in all Christian traditions will find the book valuable.

God created man and women uniquely compatible and complimentary, and are alone joined by God in marriage, which Genesis as well as Jesus both specifies. (Gn. 2:18-24; Mt. 19:8) The Bible only condemns - by design and decree, in principle and by precept - and never sanctions homosexual relations wherever it is manifestly dealt with, and the injunctions against it are part of the transcendent and immutable moral law. (Lv. 18:22; Rm. 1:26,27)

Gagnon, though not even a full fundamentalist, is the foremost Christian apologist in countering the prolixity of pro homosexual polemics, showing them to be spurious, and ultimately requiring negating the authority of the Bible, and or the use of a hermeneutic which would negate any moral law.

An extensive examination and refutation of such attempts can also be seen here: http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/Homosex_versus_the_Bible.html Thanks be to God.

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