June 24th, 2008
Robert Gagnon is an anti-gay hero. He is the leading theologian in the camp of those who believe that homosexuality is the worst of all possible sins. Look in the footnotes of any homophobic rant and you’ll find that their anti-gay interpretation of Scripture was likely provided by Dr. Gagnon.
Today the Christian Post reports that Gagnon continues on his crusade.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) places importance on the Heidelberg Catechism, a series of questions and answers used for teaching Reformed doctrine. Approved in 1563, it’s been translated a number of times and into many languages. The PC(USA) uses the Miller-Osterhaven translation from 1962 in its Book of Confessions.
However the 1962 translation included language that was not present in the original version. Specifically, it condemned “homosexual perversion”, a concept that was absent from the Heidelberg Catechism in 1563. Thirty-two members from the denomination’s ten seminaries signed a petition calling for a better translation.
Robert Gagnon disagrees.
In support of the current version, Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary argues that the original German text alludes to the Scripture passage 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which, in the New English Bible translation, lists “homosexual perversion.”
“The spirit of the text of the Catechism is clear enough. It is the exact opposite of the attempt now being made to make the Confessions open to homosexual practice,” Gagnon said in a written argument last week. “The attempt at retranslation is not about history and honesty but ideology and a homosexualist agenda.”
I agree that this debate is about ideology. But I would suggest that it is his own that causes Gagnon to insist that the Catechism be translated to state the words that should be on the page rather than the ones that are there.
This is hardly the first time that Gagnon has decided that homophobia trumps written witness.
Most Christians will be familiar with the story of the Roman Centurian whose servant was healed by Jesus. This story is found in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 and goes like this:
A Roman Centurian came to Jesus about his servant who was paralyzed and suffering. Jesus offered to go heal him.
The Centurian countered that he was a man of authority and his servants did his command and that surely Jesus was a man of authority and could just say the word and the healing would be done. Jesus commended his faith and told him to go home and that his servant was healed.
Jesus commented on how this Roman, a Gentile, had more faith than was found in all of Israel.
Traditionally, this story has been understood to be the historical reporting of a miracle of Christ and one which demonstrated God’s intent to spread the Gospel to Gentiles. Few questioned the authenticity of the story or read much else into it.
But then some scholars began to look into the peculiar usage of language in the story and came to believe that considering the language and the culture in which it was written, it made most sense that the servant who was healed would have been better translated as “same-sex love slave” or what we might today refer to as a “boy-toy”.
Gagnon is, characteristically, dismissive. Insulting, one might say. But he takes a response that, I think, is playing with fire.
In essence he says that the authors of the books of Matthew and Luke made a mistake and told the story incorrectly. God’s divine inspiration got it wrong.
He argues that really the Roman was not Roman but a Jew, that the servant was not a servant but a son, and that the part about Jesus finding faith in Gentiles was just made up and not something Christ had ever said.
I think that Gagnon is taking steps that ultimately will not prove to be beneficial to those who seek to use him as an anti-gay source. His desire to read what isn’t there and to ignore what is present will not sit well with those who insist on a literalist interpretation of Scripture.
And those who are looking for a less word-for-word approach to doctrine are already capable of finding within the message of Christ an extravagant welcome that includes gay and lesbian Christians.
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
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On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
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