Robert Gagnon capitulates to Nardelli

Timothy Kincaid

September 7th, 2012

I love Dr. Robert Gagnon; I truly do. He delights me regularly.

I’ve never encountered someone so convinced of his theological and intellectual superiority, yet transparent in his lack of logic or consistent thought. Watching him jump through hoops to simultaneously believe completely contradictory teachings and seeing the steps he takes to try and support his positions leaves me laughing out loud.

But he’s disappointed me in his public dispute with Jean-Fabrice Nardelli, a classical philologist at l’Université de Provence. In July, we hosted a monograph by Nardelli in which he systematically illustrated that Gagnon’s assertions in his book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, were a bit, ahem, lacking:

The level of naivety, superficiality and incompetence in this section of his book, whether on matters technical 76 or on issues of interpretation 77, puts the other existing accounts of Mesopotamian homosexuality by fellow evangelicals (those in Wold, Out of Order. Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, Grand Rapids, 1998, or Davidson) on a class apart, despite their insufficiencies linguistic and text-critical and their ideological shortcomings. Even if one eschews a comparison between Gagnon’s text and the best short survey at hand 78, his pages have no claim to be called a fair review of the Egyptian, Levantine and Assyro-Babylonian traces of male-male sex and affect 79. Was it really so difficult, for a biblical scholar untrained in the relevant languages but accustomed to juggling with Semitic documents and their huge critical literature, to reap the benefits of the best scholarship in the field and then proceed without compromising the indispensable awareness that even the most reasonable conclusions grounded in solid facts and arrived at by a sturdy-looking network of conjectures might be found, in the end, to be fallacious and not square really well with the evidence 80 ? The unpretending L’homosexualité dans le Proche-Orient ancien et la Bible by T. Römer and L. Bonjour (Geneva, 2005), pp. 13-35, 80-102, shows that it was no superhuman task, simply one which demanded care, modesty, the control of the limits, philological and anthropological, between which the sense is to be fought within the primary documents, and a strong sense of self-effacement. In the place of it, we are dealing with a scholar who holds his farthing candle to the sun, but remains silent whenever a difficulty unmapped in his sources crosses his path.

As has always been his habit, Gagnon responded without hesitation and sought to intimidate his opponent. His rather bizarre choice of attack was to obsess on the numbers of pages of each (a rather revelatory peek into his thinking which certainly helps explain his seemingly-endless ranting diatribes).

Nardelli obsesses on relatively minor points of the book, such as a ridiculous three-and-a-half page critique (pp. 9-12) of a three-sentence observation that I make about the Greek word epithumia (Ἐπιθυμίᾳ), “desire,” and another three pages (pp. 22-24) on a short paragraph in my book on Jesus’ use of the term raka in Matt 5:22 (and otherwise no discussion of a 43-page chapter of Jesus).

Gagnon (who often posts multi-part rebuttals) warned the reader that this was “In process as time and interest permits” and ends his mere 7 pages with “to be continued…”.

But after Nardelli clearly, in a detailed rejoinder, illustrated the extent to which Gagnon was lacking in adequate scholarship to undertake the debate, Gagnon became silent.

As day after day slid by, week after week passed, I marveled. I’ve never seen him hesitate for a moment to whip out 20 or 30 pages in response to the slightest criticism or imagined slight. And here he was allowing Nardelli’s words hold the place of final statement. Totally out of character.

But now it has become clear. Though he hasn’t found time or interest to address the latest round, he has found time and interest to (laughable) reconcile his position that gays are invariable condemned to hell and the doctrine of eternal security (but that’s left to perhaps a separate commentary).

Gagnon has moved on. His “to be continued…” must mean “… at some date so far distant that I hope no one recalls that I’ve been corrected and refuted by one who is better skilled and more principled.”

Gagnon has laid down his arms and retreated to fight on another front. So very sad. I could have used a chuckle.


September 7th, 2012

“I’ve never encountered someone so convinced of his theological and intellectual superiority, yet transparent in his lack of logic or consistent thought.”

Robert P. George

Mark Miner

September 7th, 2012

By no means. He’s just busy, and the level of discourse at which he & Nardelli are operating is one in which very different response times are appropriate, as compared to the blogosphere. 20 days is FOREVER in blog-land; all the other trolls will already have moved on to other topics. 20 days is as nothing for scholars who have to be in command of enormous amounts of material in very obscure languages from 20-30 centuries in the past. I spoke to him at the Conversation w/Robinson in San Diego, and I think BTB and I are both too familiar with Gagnon’s character and his commitments to doubt that future anti-Nardelli material is forthcoming, in due time. The nub of the matter is that Gagnon is coming from a place of moral law, in which NO MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE DO IT (and how much they enjoy it!) it’s still sin. So Nardelli is free to multiply examples of homosexy behavior from cultures all over the world; they don’t move Gagnon an inch.
—Mark Miner, a fan of both Gagnon and Nardelli, and eagerly awaiting the next installment!

Timothy Kincaid

September 7th, 2012

Hunter, I appreciate the challenge. And I have to say that you presented a good contender. (you get bonus points for that)

But George’s logic at least has enough consistency to have a veneer of thoughtfulness. If not, we would not so enjoy when Rob Tisinai illustrates its inconsistency.

With Gagnon it really requires a deep and abiding faith (in Gagnon) to get through the first few paragraphs without laughing.

So while I think Robert George comes close, I gotta stick with Robert Gagnon.


September 8th, 2012

I’m not seriously challenging your choice of Gagnon — happily, in this instance, I’m not all that familiar with this writings, but he’s not that far out of the fold on that score, from what I do know.

I have, however, done my own dissection of one of George’s pieces, and logic doesn’t play a large role. The one I remember was a very elaborate “argument” that was completely circular, starting off with Catholic doctrine on marriage and ending with — Catholic doctrine on marriage.

When it comes right down to it, they’re both hacks, they’re both intellectually dishonest, and I doubt that either of them could reason his way through a grocery store without help.


September 8th, 2012

“I’ve never encountered someone so convinced of his theological and intellectual superiority, yet transparent in his lack of logic or consistent thought.”

FWIW, makes me think of Newt Gingrich, whose effortless falsehoods cover history, politics AND theology. Is Gagnon the Gingrich of theology?

Ben in Oakland

September 8th, 2012

“Watching him jump through hoops to simultaneously believe completely contradictory teachings and seeing the steps he takes to try and support his positions leaves me laughing out loud.”

said the Red Queen in Alice, “I can believe six impossible things before breakfast.”

From the encyclopedia of psychology Freud on projection and reaction formations.”A type of defense mechanism whereby unacceptable, anxiety-causing emotions or impulses are masked by an exaggerated version of the opposite emotions or impulses.”

exactly who is the Well Read Queen?


September 8th, 2012

Timothy, Timothy, Timothy. Tsk-tsk. Are you baiting the man? Melikes! :)

Richard Rush

September 8th, 2012

It’s interesting that Robert George has been brought up in this discussion. Several times in the past I’ve thought that Gagnon is a Robert George wannabe*. They both seem to have one exceptionally strong area of intelligence:

Several years ago I watched a video debate between George and someone whose name I can’t remember. I don’t even remember the subject. But I do remember listening to George, and concluding that he had an exceptional ability to absorb, retain, and easily recall vast amounts of information. But in my view, he was woefully lacking in the intelligence required to properly connect the dots in a rational way (or maybe he was just unwilling). I felt he was using his command of information-recall to perpetrate a snow-job. And that’s how I see Robert Gagnon.

*Robert Gagnon is Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, whereas Robert George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University.

William O'Donnell

September 9th, 2012

I will reply to the task and article at hand. This is about the published work of Gagnon and Nardelli. I do not understand why there is a tangential movement to Robert George???? All analogies should remain aside. But please allow me one aside.

Ten years ago I sent an email to a Roman Catholic Theologian at CTU and an adviser to my Master’s work there to fill me in on her thoughts of the Princeton educated, self-appointed, god-head, Gagnon.

She, Sister Barbara Bowe, RSCJ, ThD, (Harvard University) – A student of Helmut Kester and Krister Stendahl) replied in her email that “no one listens to him[Gagnon]”, and his career will go far “with his church.”

Sister Barbara is deceased and she is half right on all accounts:

1. No one really listens to him.
2. His career will go far.

Whatever you glean from her statements, which I admire, she was full aware that I turned to science, abandoned the Catholic church (as I do not possess the gift of faith), and focused my mind to Molecular Biology.

What does this mean? I repeat Gagnon’s formal charge to all his foes, like Jean-Fabrice Nardelli:

“He is not a Biblical Scholar.”

There is no record that Nardelli made the above-mentions claim!

From the outset of his Review, Nardelli only wished to tackle Gagnon’s review of science, his review of Greco-Roman studies, and his review of Pauline texts.

One must remember that Paul was a Jew/convert ‘christian.’ Paul should never be praised for bringing his Jewish, god-fearing, misogynist life into Christian history. BUT DON’T WE ALL LOVE THE TYRANT? HE TELLS US HOW TO LIVE A BETTER LIFE!

However, Christianity was/and was not unified until the 3rd Century (the Tyrant Constantine and the Council of Nicea).

GAGNON can make whatever theological conclusions he wants BASED ONLY ON HIS ABILITY TO INTERPRET SCRIPTURE – Princeton University said he could.

Gagnon is NOT, however, allowed to make claims beyond his theological scope (a worthless study I might add, except to vilify and falsely educate the ignorant, which he does daily in the classroom and on his website – where he is a politician).

In short: Gagnon is not a scientist, he is not a mathematician, he is not statistician, he is not a molecular biologist, he is not cellular biologist, he is not a psychologist, and he IS NO Historian (Nardelli has shown this).

Gagnon is an online, Facebook creature, who uses his Princeton work to tell the world how it should think, act, behave, and grovel at the knees of his own god, who created nothing from the beginning of time.

Ben in Oakland

September 9th, 2012

Microscopic quibble, William.

4th century, not 3rd.

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