Robert A. J. Gagnon

Responses to Reviews of    

The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics     (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001)      




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Praise for The Bible and Homosexual Practice

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A list of blurbs, reviews, or comments that testify to the book's significance for the church's debate on the Bible and homosexual practice. The scholars providing such material are, in alphabetical order: Kenneth Bailey, James Barr, C. K. Barrett, John Barton, Jürgen Becker, Brevard Childs, C. E. B. Cranfield, James D. G. Dunn, E. Earle Ellis, Gabriel Fackre, Robert F. Hull; Craig Koester, I. Howard Marshall, Ulrich Mauser, Scot McKnight, Bruce Metzger, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Martti Nissinen, John Nolland, Richard Ostling, J. I. Packer, Marion Soards, Max Stackhouse, Willard Swartley, Charles H. Talbert, Frank Thielman, Duane Watson, Gordon J. Wenham, Stephen Westerholm, and David F. Wright.



"Prof. Robert Gagnon's Response to Eric Thurman's Review in Review of Biblical Literature: On Paying Attention to Paul's Reasons for Rejecting Homosexual Practice"

(Nov. 2003)

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A response to a doctoral student who is a disciple of the radical postmodernist and deconstructionist New Testament scholar, Stephen Moore. Thurman argues that it is "intellectually irresponsible" of me to "privilege Paul's intent." He thinks that Paul's view on homosexual practice should be treated as the product of misogyny (women hating), irrespective of whether Paul opposed homosexual practice primarily on the grounds that it threatened male dominance over women. According to Thurman, because Paul inhabited a "symbolic world" predicated on "female inferiority," Paul's stance on homosexual practice can be criticized as misogynist even if the evidence indicates that his main motivation lay elsewhere (i.e., the Genesis creation paradigm and attention to male-female structural complementarity). If you are confused by Thurman's rationale, rest assured: the problem does not reside in your thinking.




"Prof. Robert Gagnon's Response to Prof. William Countryman's Review in Anglican Theological Review: On Careful Scholarship"

(Sept. 2003)

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A response to a partisan attack on my work by a homosexual Anglican New Testament scholar who teaches at The Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif. Countryman--who thinks that "the gospel allows no rule against" bestiality, polygamy, homosexual acts, pornography, incest not involving children, and prostitution--charges me with a lack of care in exegesis and argumentation. He cites only a few alleged examples but even these underscore his own scholarly carelessness. This response will be particularly helpful for those who want further information about: (1) why Jude 7, in addition to the Sodom story and the historical Jesus, provides further evidence of a consensus biblical position against homosexual practice; (2) why a creation/nature argument resides in the biblical text and so is not a natural law theory anachronistically imposed from outside the text; and (3) why cultural supports for homosexual behavior are likely to increase the incidence of homosexuality.




"Prof. Robert Gagnon on Prof. Jack Rogers's Comments: Misrepresenting the Nature Argument"

Dec. 2001

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Jack Rogers, emeritus professor of theology at San Francisco Theological Seminary and moderator of the 213th (2001-2002) General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) delivered an address entitled "The Church We Are Called To Be" to the 2001 Covenant Network Conference (Nov. 2). In the address Rogers took a swipe at my book, claiming that it was "not actually based on revelation but on natural law"; moreover, that "we are not really arguing about the Bible . . . but about prevailing assumptions in contemporary culture." I take on this misrepresentation of my work in three sections: "Scripture and nature as first- and second-order arguments"; "On not confusing the meaning of "nature"; and "Arguing about the Bible and a truncated image of the "accepting Jesus." For a more recent, and comprehensive, rebuttal of Rogers's views, see my article "Bad Reasons for Changing One's Mind: Jack Rogers's Temple Prostitution Argument and Other False Starts" (pdf and html).



"Prof. Robert Gagnon on Prof. Elizabeth Johnson's Review: A Witness Without Commandments?"

Jan. 2002

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Beth Johnson, professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, wrote a review of my book shortly after we debated one another at First Scots Presbyterian Church in Charleston, SC. The review was entitled: "The Bible: Rule Book or Witness to God?" as if the Bible could only be a witness to God if it lacked commandments. This response refutes that supposition as well as various inaccurate representations of my book's message.




"The Wink-Gagnon Exchange Published in Christian Century"

June 2002



In the June 5-12, 2002 issue of Christian Century, Walter Wink--who had once complained about "how sub-Christian most of [the debate about the Bible and homosexuality] has been," urging others "to transcend our verbal violence and put-downs, and to learn how to love, cherish, and value those whose positions are different from our own"--wrote a vitriolic, ad hominem review of my book, "To Hell With Gays?" (pp. 32-34). Christian Century not only commissioned/published the review and supplied the inflammatory title (which Wink says that he likes) but also did so after editorializing in the immediately preceding issue about the need to "treat with dignity others who hold contrary opinions," especially in debates about homosexuality. After some prodding, Christian Century agreed to publish my abbreviated 3000-word response to Wink's review, which appeared in the Aug. 14-27, 2002 issue (pp. 40-43)--though only on the condition that Wink be allowed an additional reply of equal length to my article (pp. 43-44; note: Wink chose, however, to contribute a reply of only 1000 words). My response discusses: (1) A consensus on Paul? (2) The relevance of the creation stories; (3) The use of analogies; (4) Wink's claim that "The Bible has no sex ethic"; (5) The social-scientific evidence; and (6) Serial, unrepentant sin and its consequences. Readers interested in a full-length version of my response should consult "A Response" immediately below. Christian Century allowed me a 700-word follow-up letter, which appeared in the Oct. 9-22, 2002 issue (p. 67). Readers interested in my full-length rejoinder to Wink's reply should consult "A Rejoinder" below. Wink was allowed a response to my letter but apparently opted not to respond.



"A Response to Walter Wink's Christian Century Review" 


The full-length (12,000-word), unpublished version of my published response to Wink's review of my book.



"No Universally Valid Sex Standards? A Rejoinder to Walter Wink's Views on the Bible and Homosexual Practice"


The full-length version of my 700-word rejoinder to Wink's reply, published in Christian Century. The piece takes on Wink's claim that the notion of divine judgment that might exclude anyone from the kingdom of God is "reprehensible," a "cruel abuse of religious power," and "unworthy of . . . Christian faith"; and that the biblical portrait of Jesus proclaiming such judgment should be attributed to Matthew's "unresolved anger." Excluding all judgment material found only in Matthew's Gospel (as well as John's Gospel), I show how the theme of divine judgment and potential exclusion from God's kingdom constitutes a significant part of Jesus' message in the remaining strands of Gospel tradition. Originally this rejoinder also contained an extended discussion of Wink's claim that there are no universally valid sex precepts, given the defunct status of an alleged sixteen biblical sexual mores. That material was moved to an article critiquing Wink's own view of the Bible and homosexuality, under the same title and published in Horizons in Biblical Theology and now available online here.