Robert Gagnon

This is a review I did on a book called "The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Text and Hermeneutics" by Robert A. J. Gagnon.

Gagnon is a nasty piece of work who tries to make you believe the Bible condemns homosexuality, I believe he's teaching apostasy. Loving kindness stops at false teaching because false teaching needs to be weeded out before it chokes the vines that need to grow. Gagnon is the top anti-gay Theologian in the game (that he likes to brag) and his work is cited by entire church denominations as to why they should hold out against homosexuality. The fruit of his book and efforts have caused nothing but repel homosexuals from the true Gospel message, stopped Christians from any type of dialogue with gays and has caused believers to turn against each other.

Gagnon sees all gays as repugnant to God and considers them to be sexual narcissists, immoral, a threat to the church and even to the very fabric of society (all his own wordings). He will say the church should approach us with love while at the same time opposing the inclusion of gays in employment discrimination and hate crime laws. He has a snit if challenged in the media, but then will make a publicity event in responding back with long-winded rebukes.

The “practice” of Gay sex isn’t enough for his condemnation. He blurs the line that misleads his readers into believing the Bible also condemns same-sex attraction. Only when called on it, Gagnon reluctantly admits its reading into the text. He says Christian doctrine and morality should be based on scripture, tradition, reason, and experience and than goes about manipulating scripture, reason and experience to fit tradition. For him there cannot be anything outside of a man-woman construct or his made up term, “structural complementarity.” Gagnon’s interpretation of the biblical account of creation of two halves becoming a whole is just a re-hash of Aristophanes’ pagan belief, stir-fried into his own understanding of the biblical account of creation. In fact, he references Aristophanes elsewhere in his book, along with other pagan writers, in an attempt to give validity to his two halves becoming a whole theory, and though Aristophanes also makes a case for same sex unions, Gagnon conveniently ignores this. It’s no exaggeration in saying he sees most of the Good Book through these two halves-becoming-whole colored glasses. To start, the Hebrew word for “rib” in Geneses denotes a smaller part of a whole and not a complete half, as Gagnon believes. That God made a women for Adam because he saw he was lonely in the garden, and not to complete him before the eyes of God, is a simple and plain stated fact lost on Gagnon. Love and companionship was the aim of God with sexuality following; not the other way around. Gagnon believes we are the sum of what parts fit where.

This is Gagnon’s first watershed of a book and for the casual reader it's intimidating and seems as though he has never met a footnote he didn’t like; however, under deeper scrutiny it falls apart. He cites in his book bogus studies (13 instances) by the likes of discredited “researcher” and Holocaust revisionist Paul Cameron who, in 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” Cameron’s studies claim gays are more likely to be child abusers (“myth,” according to the American Psychological Association) and die at a younger age (“bad science,” according to the Center for Disease Control). Gagnon also claims that gays can be cured by reparative therapies, but offers not a shred of legitimate scientific evidence to substantiate his claim and ignores all studies proving not only their futility but also their resulting cause of mental harm. (For example, see “Treatments of Homosexuality in Britain since 1950 - An Oral History,” by Smith, Glenn, Bartlett and King, based on the experience of various patients). Extrapolating results from studies in one group, then applying it to another group excluded from the study, is a favorite, albeit deceptive, trick of his. His use of sub-par scientific data was counted in over 50 instances by accredited researchers Charles R. Peterson and Douglas A. Hedlund, (both Christians), who summed it up with this quote, “Instead of scholarly objectivity, Gagnon employs non-Biblical scientific words ambiguously.” It would appear that baring false witness is acceptable to Gagnon if it suits his own personal aim.

He likes to boasts that monogamous relationships are a rarity among gays, yet ignores substantially high divorce rates in the Church mirroring the general population. He downplays scripture on heterosexual divorce with the absurd claim for it not being a continual state of adultery, even going as far as stating that an incestuous, “loving,” heterosexual relationship is preferable to a gay relationship (stated by him in a private correspondence). This in itself should sound off alarms about him. He links homosexuality with other devious sexual behavior while demonstrating no proof of the Bible indicating such a link.

Much of his exegetical arguments depend on making and maintaining a link between homosexuality with other forms of abhorrent sexual behavior (rape, pedophilia, etc) merely because he personally believes this to be true. His take on the Sodom story is, at best, a stretch (see my take on Sodom HERE). The first connection between homosexuality and Sodom was not referenced in original scripture but was, in fact, incorporated just prior to the 2nd century, yet he seems to think that the homosexuality/Sodom connection is peppered throughout the Bible. Gagnon’s take on homosexual rape in the Bible, making Homosexual rape speak on homosexual relationships, is offensive to any serious scholar. Homosexual rape is not a reflection of homosexuality anymore than Dinah & Shechem’s heterosexual rape is a reflection of heterosexuality.

Gagnon frequently attacks other scholars that speak from textual silence yet he does the same thing with Jesus on homosexuality. He believes that since the Jewish traditional understanding of homosexuality was negative, Jesus must have fallen in line with it and likewise with the Apostle Paul. There are several problems with this, not least is begging the question; if the Levitical passage was understood as a blanket condemnation of homosexuality, why did it take a period of a thousand years before the Talmud (Jewish commentary on the Bible) state it as a perversion? Gagnon would have us believe the issue weighed heavily with the Jews, yet no case of male homosexuality was ever brought before the Sanhedrin (Jewish court of the land) before or after Jesus. The one account of a Rabbi attempting to bring a prohibition to lesbianism was in the 3rd century and it was soundly rejected. To the ancient Jews, the Levitical passages only concerned anal sex and nothing was ever enforced, it certainly wasn’t important enough to find room to be written about in the Gospels if in fact it was ever brought up to Jesus at all (unlike the problematic issues with heterosexual marriage he was asked to answer, and by the way, the only time he even bothered to speak on marriage). Simply put, homosexuality by all historical accounts, or lack of, was of little importance in the life of the everyday Jewish population of 1st century Jerusalem, much like the sodomy laws of today. Most of Paul’s converts were pagan Gentiles to the Christian faith and ignorant of the Jewish view on homosexuality; Paul never bothered to teach it to them and the early church followed in kind. Paul went through great pains to explain his “dying off” from the old law (Gal.2:15-21) and was in complete favor of, and had a total reliance on, a “new” law which was the only one that brought new life; a law that replaced “be fruitful and multiply,” with “seek ye the Kingdom first."

The lack of clear-cut, though hinted at, gay relationships in the Bible to prove a point is also faulty. He sees it as proof that the creation story of the man and woman procreation line as set in stone, ignoring Jesus’ statement on “born” eunuchs in Matt.19:11, 12 (Eunuchs being gay men is historically understood; I reference the work of researcher/author Faris Malik and Theologian Ragnhild Schanke) and how our Savior lived his personal life as well with Paul (though I am not implying this in a homosexual context).

The fact that the key players (Moses, Jacob, etc), whose story's are detailed in the Bible happen not to be gay, says nothing about those who were. There are more instances of polygamy than monogamy in the Biblical narrative, so did God mean it to be the standard because there are more details or accounts of it? How do we know the other players in scripture like Tabitha in Acts.9:36 or Dionysius in Acts.17:34 did not have a desire for their own sex? It is Heterosexist arrogance (a term that infuriates Gagnon) to say gays existed only outside of the Bible.

Arguing from tradition and the sayings from church fathers is also a poor attempt by him to support his arguments. Tradition has been an excuse for everything from exploiting the environment and exploiting the animal kingdom to the subjugation of woman because of the mistaken understanding of what taking “Dominion” in Genesis actually means. More of a case can be made for the protection of the environment and the care of animals from Genesis than anything supporting Gagnon’s theory of two becoming one in opposite sex unions; yet those subjects are largely ignored by the Christian world. As for the church fathers, even though the input they gave the early church is the reason why we have it as it is today, they were still imperfect men with imperfect views that ranged from rabid antisemitism and sexism that bordered on hatred of women, to seeing indigenous persons as less than human.

Gagnon’s take on the Apostle Paul’s use of Malakoi (literally, ‘Softie’) in 1 Corinthians, and Arsenokoitai (literally, “Male lying the beds”) in 1 Timothy, has, in my opinion, been soundly refuted since the writing of Gagnon’s book. In an attempt to narrow the definition of Malakoi by using selective historical references, Gagnon can only then come up with the anti-gay interpretation concerning Arsenokoitai (see my take on Arsenokoitai HERE).

Aside from other non-biblical aspects in Gagnon’s book, he utilizes the Apostle Paul to drive the nail in his anti-gay coffin. It really boils down to what bias of the interpreter you want to believe. Paul may not have been the biggest proponent of gay relationships, but he was no fan of heterosexual ones either (1 Cor.7:7). What slips by most translators, including Gagnon, is Paul breaking the Male/Female mold from Genesis with what he states in Gal.3:28, “There is neither Jew NOR Greek, slave NOR free, there is no male AND (often miss-translated as ‘nor’) female; for you are all one in Christ.” Paul’s use of the word ‘AND’ instead of ‘NOR’ in that one instance is no accident (Gen. 1:27) and THAT should be the final say of Paul on the matter.

With quack science, shoddy exegesis, half readings, and carefully thought out omissions, Gagnon selectively takes the little he wants then leaves the rest without discussion. He could no doubt write a lengthy thesis on a haiku and still get it wrong. He anticipates people to not delve into the cracks of what he puts forth because he argues his connect-the-dots way of reading Scripture so exhaustively. As a gay man writing about an overzealous ‘straight’ scholar who said he’s only in the debate because he was drawn into it, I cannot tell you his heart, but I see Gagnon the man. He is quick to point out the sexual orientation of his critics. His refusal to budge on whether gays should be treated justly in a non-Christian secular society along with everyone else is very telling and speaks more about him than he is willing to reveal. It is interesting how religious conservatives have championed him, though Gagnon will be the first to say the Bible is not wholly inspired, including words attributed to Jesus and Paul.

The love Jesus said would be the measuring rod to tell the world we are His as well as a love Paul said will be the only thing left standing after everything else has fallen away, is just a side-note buried and forgotten by Gagnon because he's too busy giving us anatomy lessons to care.

You cannot find a condemnation of homosexuality outside of rape, exploitation, or Idolatry.
God will allow the pleading of ignorance because of tradition for only so long. Judaism believes all of the Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai including the future understanding of it; an understanding that was expected to evolve and change, so it can reach out to coming generations as the living word of God. The people that God gave the Law to understood that (Matt.23:2), Paul re-iterated it (1 Cor.2:15, 10:15), and Jesus expected nothing less (Luke.12:57, John.7:24).

I truly believe that history will paint Gagnon as he truly is: a one-man hate show only bigots clapped to.


Tanya said...

Superbly written!
Thank-you for taking the time to write this review.
Thank-you for the passion that God has given you to spread the truth of his gospel.
Thank-you for being a true disciple of our glorious Lord & Savior. These are truths about the gospel that I share with my own children, so at NO time would they ever feel justified in bigotry...intolerence & self righteousness is a form of bigotry & hate period. This is such a hush, hush taboo subject in the Christian community. It is heartbreaking to watch good Christian men & women be completely fooled by false doctrines & false teachings & as a result become self righteous in their own beliefs (which is determental to their own growth as believers & followers of Christ) Thanks again for opening doors that have been closed for far too long!
Blessings & love,

rottenqueerchristian said...

You're right Tanya, I have seen loving Christian men and women turn into another creature when it comes to homosexuals (tells you the origin of the spirit behind the strong feelings). Even if they believe it is sin, they have to know the Church has treated it as a "greater THAN" sin, but most won't even budge on THAT. The lost world doesn't see a beautiful Bride of Christ it's drawn too, instead they see a pushy "Bridezilla" it's afraid of.

lolbiochem said...

This should be stored in the archives of "blog post masterpieces".

rottenqueerchristian said...

Thanks for taking the time to read it. How did you find it?