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A friendly follow-up letter to Barry Lynn after my radio interview on his "Culture Shocks" program


by Robert A. J. Gagnon

Sept. 28, 2007


To listen to the radio broadcast go here.


Rev. Barry Lynn (UCC)

Executive Director of "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State"

Host, "Culture Shocks"

cc. Jimmy Creech, Director of the homosexualist group "Faith in Action"


Dear Barry, 

Thanks for having me on your show. Even though you were clearly not neutral, with you and Jimmy Creech feeding off of each other and the time very limited, I thoroughly enjoyed the time that we did have.

At times you would say that what Scripture says doesn’t matter anyway or shouldn’t be introduced into the public debate but at other times you would push for the view that Scripture does not speak with one voice or absolutely against homosexual practice. The two clashing perspectives gave me a bit of a whiplash. But I was, and am, happy to answer both.

If you want Jimmy Creech or some ‘bigger gun’ to debate me on specific passages of Scripture, like Spong or Gene Robinson (who actually are not big guns but probably know more than Creech) I would be happy to do that, whether in one program or stretched out over several programs. For example, you could devote one program to Jesus, one to Paul, one to the Old Testament, and one to whether appeals to Scripture are even valid. This would give us more time to hash out the positions on both sides.  

Becoming acquainted with my work. If you would care to read my views of what Scripture, philosophic reason, and the scientific evidence suggest about homosexual practice, you can start with my online article here:

Note: The philosophical, largely non-religious, argument (drawn from holistic male-female complementarity and comparisons to consensual incest and polyamory) is at the beginning, pp. 30-45; the use of analogies like slavery and women’s roles, pp. 90-100; the scientific evidence on pp. 114-30; the use of Scripture everywhere else, including the views of Jesus on pp. 30-34, 56-61 (for a table of contents to the article go here: On my views on hate crime legislation, with which you began the show, please go to and to 

Your confusions about what I say in my work. As it is, it appears that you (or some other source used by you) took some snippets from my work without reading in context or taking the time to read the arguments that substantiate my position. The online article that I cite above is only a small portion of my work but it is a good place to begin to get a summary of most of my major positions. Two clarifications on points in my work that you appear to be confused about:  

(1) “Threesomes.” You quoted the following from one of my online pieces:

We have also noted that faithful polyamorous arrangements—whether a traditional polygamous bond or non-traditional "threesomes" and the like—are not as severe a violation of God’s sexual norms as are homosexual unions. ("Case Not Made: A Response to Prof. John Thorp," p. 17)

Apparently you quoted it in an effort to show that arguments from the Bible are not relevant to the civil debate because, allegedly, I was making the illogical statement, from the Bible, that a bisexual polyamorous relationship would be worse than a monogamous homosexual relationship. But you misunderstood, on two counts. First, the argument made in this paper was directed to the Anglican Church in Canada, not to the civil sphere, so the argument from Scripture was quite appropriate in this context. Second, by “non-traditional 'threesomes'” I had in mind a heterosexual threesome with, say, two husbands for one wife, not a homosexual or bisexual form of threesome. Obviously homosexual practice combined with polyamory adds an additional offense to homosexual practice alone; with the homosexual or bisexual intercourse being worse than the polygamy. An analogy: Is adult consensual incest combined with polyamory worse than monogamous adult incest? Yes, but clearly the far worse component in polyamorous incest is the incest.

(2) Male-male vs. female-female intercourse. You made another reference to my work, saying that I have written in another article: "Is same-sex intercourse a relatively minor or major sin? Certainly texts from Leviticus and Paul indicate that same-sex intercourse, particularly between males, is to be treated as a major sin" (where you got the quote I am not sure). Your argued from this that this disparity between the reaction of Scripture's authors to male-male sex and the reaction of Scripture's authors to female-female sex is provoked by a male-dominated society and therefore should be rejected. But you have misunderstood my remark. Some circles in the ancient world regarded male-male intercourse as more offensive because female-female intercourse by its very nature did not involve penetration; mostly the Greco-Roman Gentile milieu regarded female-female intercourse as worse, and here largely on misogynistic grounds. Some, though, saw the two acts as equivalent. Leviticus addresses only male-male intercourse directly but that was likely because female-female intercourse was virtually unknown in ancient Near Eastern society, rare no doubt given the tight control on female sexuality, not because male homosexual practice was necessarily worse. When Paul addressed the matter in Romans 1:26-27 he treats them both as equally problematic. My phrase "particularly between males" does not mean that I believe that the authors of Scripture regard male-male intercourse as necessarily worse than male-male intercourse but rather that, because Leviticus mentions explicitly only male-male intercourse, the indications of opposition to homosexual practice in Scripture are stronger here than for female-female intercourse. There is a difference.

Other matters:

Choice. At one point you summarized my view of causation of homosexuality as “choice.” This was an inaccurate summary, even in your subsequent qualification. As I stated in the broadcast, causation is multi-factorial: predisposing congenital factors, environmental factors (including macrocultural and microcultural influences), personal psychology, and incremental choices (which may or may not be blind choices). To summarize this under the single rubric “choice” is not to hear what I said. 

Jesus. Your argument at the end of the broadcast that Jesus cited “male and female” (Genesis 1:27) and “man” and “woman” (Genesis 2:24) only because “more people are attracted to persons of the opposite gender” Is incorrect. Jesus constructs an argument that limits the number of persons in a sexual bond to two by citing these two texts from Genesis that have only one point in common: the twoness (dimorphism) of the sexes that God has established as the foundation for sexual bonds. Given that Jesus predicated his argument on the twoness of sexual bonds on the foundation of the twoness of the sexes, same-sex intercourse would be a more severe violation of God’s standards for him than polyamory. For the foundation must be more important than the structure built on the foundation.  There are plenty of historical contextual arguments for regarding Jesus' view on homosexual practice as tantamount to his view of incest (something that Jesus also said nothing explicitly about but about which there is no historical uncertainty for Jesus' position). See a brief summary of twelve main arguments at the end of my article on Jesus and the centurion at Jesus did not spend time speaking against homosexual practice for the obvious reason that no Jew in first-century Palestine was advocating the practice or known to be engaging in it. Instead he simply embraced Scripture's unequivocal stance on the subject, premised his position on other sexual issues on it, and moved on to those over which some dispute existed in Judaism.

Format. The format of the show was interesting. At times you were even-handed in directing the conversation, but generally your direction seemed designed for you to get the first word and Creech the last: starting with an assertion or question by you to me (often in the Jeopardy-style "frame your answer in the form of a question"), letting me speak, and then giving Creech the rebuttal position to every question, with little allowance for me to respond unless I seized the moment to do so. In the end you and Creech combined for 19 minutes espousing a homosexualist line while I had about 12 minutes to defend a two-sexes prerequisite. In spite of all this, I enjoyed the experience and trust that it will be helpful to your hearers. A couple of times I felt cut off a bit abruptly but also felt that I talked over either you or Creech on two occasions (eager to respond since you and Creech were getting 50% more time to make your case than I was to make mine). Overall the conversation was civil.

Again, thanks for having me on and I hope you will do so again in the future.






A postscript on Creech’s use of exploitation and orientation arguments. I don’t think that it is misrepresenting Jimmy Creech to say that he is not a scholar of the Bible or of the ancient world. I dare say that he would admit as much himself. Please listen to the following conclusions by scholars who strongly agree with your and Creech’s position that homosexual unions are good things but acknowledge honestly what the text of Scripture in its historical context actually says: 

Thomas K. Hubbard, a classics scholar from the University of Texas, has produced the definitive sourcebook (with good introductions and annotations) of Greco-Roman texts treating the issue of homosexual practice. You will remember that Rev. Creech stated that the ancients knew nothing akin to our view of “homosexual orientation.” Here’s what a real scholar has to say: 

Homosexuality in this era [viz., of the early imperial age of Rome] may have ceased to be merely another practice of personal pleasure and began to be viewed as an essential and central category of personal identity, exclusive of and antithetical to heterosexual orientation. (Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents [University of California Press, 2003], 386) 

Creech also argues that the biblical writers could not have been opposing homosexual practice absolutely. Yet even in the non-Jewish milieu of the Mediterranean basin, “literature of the first century C.E. bears witness to an increasing polarization of attitudes toward homosexual activity, ranging from frank acknowledgment and public display of sexual indulgence on the part of leading Roman citizens to severe moral condemnation of all homosexual acts” (Hubbard, Homosexuality in Greece and Rome, 383, emphasis added). That their position was understood as absolute opposition, no exceptions, is evident from their argument about male-female complementarity: “Basic to the heterosexual position [against homosexual practice in the ancient world] is the characteristic Stoic appeal to the providence of Nature, which has matched and fitted the sexes to each other” (Thomas K. Hubbard, Homosexuality in Greece and Rome, 444). “Some kind of argument from ‘design’ seems to lurk in the background of Cicero’s, Seneca’s, and Musonius’ claims [against homosexual practice]” (Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality [Oxford University Press, 1999], 242). Ancient writers “who appeal to nature against same-sex eros find it convenient to concentrate on the more or less obvious uses of the orifices of the body to suggest the proper channel for the more diffused sexual impulses of the body” (William R. Schoedel, “Same-Sex Eros,” Homosexuality, Science, and the “Plain Sense” of Scripture [ed. D. Balch; Eerdmans, 2000], 46). [Note: Williams and Schoedel are both highly respected classics scholars and both are supportive of gay and lesbian unions in our society.]  

Those Gentile moralists opposing homosexual practice absolutely were a minority of the elite in Greece and Rome but the fact that they existed at all indicates the absurdity of arguing that any Jew at this time, including Jesus and Paul, might have been open to committed same-sex sexual bonds. The culture of ancient Israel, continuing on in early Judaism, is one that can only be characterized as the most implacably opposed to homosexual practice of any known culture in the ancient Near East and Greco-Roman Mediterranean basin. 

Louis Crompton in the massive Homosexuality and Civilization (Harvard University Press, 2003) has written:  

According to [one] interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at “bona fide” homosexuals in committed relationships. But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian. (p. 114)

Similarly, Bernadette Brooten (Harvard, Brandeis), a self-acknowledged lesbian who has written the most important book on lesbianism in antiquity and its relation to early Christianity (especially Rom 1:26), at least from a pro-homosex perspective, criticized both John Boswell and Robin Scroggs for their use of an exploitation argument:  

Boswell . . . argued that . . . “The early Christian church does not appear to have opposed homosexual behavior per se.” The sources on female homoeroticism that I present in this book run absolutely counter to [this conclusion]. (p. 11) 

If . . . the dehumanizing aspects of pederasty motivated Paul to condemn sexual relations between males, then why did he condemn relations between females in the same sentence? . . . Rom 1:27, like Lev 18:22 and 20:13, condemns all males in male-male relationships regardless of age, making it unlikely that lack of mutuality or concern for the passive boy were Paul’s central concerns. . . . The ancient sources, which rarely speak of sexual relations between women and girls, undermine Robin Scroggs’s theory that Paul opposed homosexuality as pederasty. (Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996], 253 n. 106, 257, 361) 

She also criticized the use of an orientation argument: 

Paul could have believed that tribades [the active female partners in a female homosexual bond], the ancient kinaidoi [the passive male partners in a male homosexual bond], and other sexually unorthodox persons were born that way and yet still condemn them as unnatural and shameful. . . . I believe that Paul used the word “exchanged” to indicate that people knew the natural sexual order of the universe and left it behind. . . . I see Paul as condemning all forms of homoeroticism as the unnatural acts of people who had turned away from God. (p. 244)

Martti Nissinen, a Finnish Bible scholar who has written the best book on the Bible and homosexuality from a pro-homosex perspective and whose work I heavily critique in The Bible and Homosexual Practice (precisely because it is the best on the other side), acknowledges in one of his more candid moments:  

Paul does not mention tribades or kinaidoi, that is, female and male persons who were habitually involved in homoerotic relationships, but if he knew about them (and there is every reason to believe that he did), it is difficult to think that, because of their apparent ‘orientation,’ he would not have included them in Romans 1:24-27. . . . For him, there is no individual inversion or inclination that would make this conduct less culpable. . . . Presumably nothing would have made Paul approve homoerotic behavior. (Homoeroticism in the Biblical World [Fortress, 1998], 109-12)

The scholars above are the best on the side of those supporting homosexualist ideology. It is troubling to find Jimmy Creech who, though I’m sure a nice person, is a non-scholar arguing positions about Scripture that the best homosexualist scholars would not support.


Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D. is associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He can be reached at


  © 2007 Robert A. J. Gagnon