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Posts for August, 2008

Gagnon Rants On And On

Timothy Kincaid

August 18th, 2008

gagnon.jpgRobert Gagnon doesn’t like to be challenged.

Perhaps that’s true of all of us. But Gagnon REALLY doesn’t like to be challenged, to the point where questioning his rather peculiar logic drives him to excesses of hyperbole and obsessive argumentativeness. This stuff just has to be read to be believed.

I’m not going to spend time on the substance of his latest postings (I didn’t find much). Mostly he makes wild declaration about what I “say” or rambles on and on repeating the unconvincing circular thinking and talking points he’s posted at least twice before, peppered with invective and denunciation. It’s kinda sad, really, but also very very funny.

Here are a few tidbits from Gagnon’s latest over-the-top “series of articles” refuting Box Turtle Kincaid:

First, here’s a selection from Box Turtle Kincaid’s Failure to Address Arguments on the Heidelberg Catechism and the Centurion Story (pdf, 8 pages).

Box Turtle Kincaid Grow Nastier as His Inability to Defend Rationally His Remarks Rises

His favorite word to describe detailed, reasoned responses to his numerous fallacies in argumentation is “rant” (translation: Kincaid feels overwhelmed by the number of rational arguments posed against him). My “jargonistic language,” which is nothing more than the normal language that scholars use for discussing historical-critical issues, upsets him (translation: Kincaid feels like he is out of his league).

Perhaps Dr. Gagnon truly believes that scholars use his imaginary term “homosexualist”. However, for the sake of his mental heath, I truly hope not.

And if you liked that, you have to read the opening sentences of Box Turtle Kincaid Continues to Attack with All Heat, No Light on the New “Authoritative Interpretation” (pdf, 7 pages):

In his new tirade (“Gagnon Revisited,” Aug. 10, 2008), Box Turtle Timothy Kincaid continues to respond in anger and fear, as evidenced by regular snide and hateful remarks, but with precious little rational thought. He apparently believes that, when it comes to facts, it is better to stick his head in the shell and (here unlike the quiet box turtle) scream from the shell.

And I am not kidding you that he closes this same piece with:

It is such a shame that Kincaid even now continues his pattern of misrepresenting arguments and evidence, leaving out crucial information for readers, making logical missteps, taking unprincipled positions, and spewing out angry snide remarks and ad hominem attacks. The level of personal culpability for deception and hatred on his part grows as the evidence against his position mounts.

All I can say is, “Wow”.

I’m sure that Gagnon genuinely thinks that his arguments are going to sway the Presbyterian court and that literalists are going to delight to discover that the story of the Roman Centurian was not at all as Scripture reports it. But even if one were inclined to agree with him, who wants the theologian in their corner to be this guy?

At this point I think I’ll put Robert Gagnon in the same category as LaBarbera, Barber, Marcavage and Hartline and not further comment on his blog-rants. Some folks are just beyond the pale.

UPDATE:

It must be a slow time in Dr. Gagnon’s life. He’s now updated his blog combining all six of his commentaries (57 pages) under one heading and added the following sidebar:

The mean-spirited homosexualist website, boxturtlebulletin.com, is aptly named, for the box turtle is easily confused and frightened by reality (though I don’t attribute meanness to the poor box turtle). A main writer for the site, Timothy Kincaid, underscores his own difficulties with logic, truth, and civil discourse in his multiple caustic postings regarding me. The more that I show, through rational argument, that his claims are baseless, the more he lashes out with bitter ad hominem attacks, referring falsely to my alleged “anti-gay bigotry,” “frothing indignation,” “homophobic rants,” “laughable proclamations,” “pomposity,” “tortured logic,” “wacky way of thinking,” “wild presumptions,” and “blatherings on.” In puerile fashion he asks where I went “to grammar school,” and what “junior high writing class” I had. Then he whines that he is a victim of “personal insults and hostility” simply because I patiently show why every one of his claims is without merit. Remarkable stuff.

Alas poor Dr. Gagnon. He doesn’t read any more carefully than he reasons or he’d know that I’ve never mentioned his “anti-gay bigotry” or his own “homophobic rants”.

And I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at how he patiently shows how every one of my claims is without merit. Oh, he’s a regular Job, he is.

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism

Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality

Timothy Kincaid

August 10th, 2008

gagnon.jpgSomehow it appears that I’ve gotten into a blog battle with anti-gay theologian Dr. Robert Gagnon. The amusement with which I’ve approached his often-wacky proclamations has not sat well with the good doctor and he’s seen fit to fling back adjectives and hyperbole in response.

And, like so very many of the anti-gays, he doesn’t read carefully, makes wild assumptions, and lashes out indiscriminately. It almost makes you wonder if Gagnon had the same Junior High writing class as Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber, and James Hartline.

In Box Turtle Kincaid Peddles Distorted Orthodoxy Test While Promoting Immorality, Gagnon takes great offense over my commentary questioning his propensity to finding words on a page that appear not have been written there. In fact, he felt compelled to answer in two volumes.

Part 1: The Problem with the Call for Retranslating the Heidelberg Catechism (“PDF version with proper pagination and format”, 5 pages) deals with the issue of a Catechism which some in the church wish to have revised back to its original wording. Because the additions (in 1962, I believe) condemn “homosexual perversion”, Gagnon isn’t about to let it go without a whine.

His reasons, while way too lengthy and numerous to discuss, are worth reading if you appreciate pomposity and self importance. Some are quite comical. For example: “Changing any text in the PCUSA Book of Confessions is a time-consuming (and costly) process” and the only reason for revisiting the translation is “a less-than-fully-honest homosexualist agenda”. And, my favorite, the reasons the German Catechism didn’t have “homosexual perversion” in it originally was because “it would scandalize children.”

But for pure comedy sake, Part 1 doesn’t even hold a candle to Part 2: Jesus’ Distance Healing of an Official’s “Boy” and Kincaid’s Bogus Charge of My “Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine”.

In this 19 page rant, Gagnon repeats all the reasons why it is simply impossible that the “homosexualists” could possibly have a correct understanding of the story about Jesus healing the servant (or slave) of the Roman Centurion. And to do so Gagnon lays out again his supposition that the Roman Centurion was neither Roman nor Centurion and the story is about a Jewish civic official and his son.

As in my original post, i do not make any assumptions about the historicity of the Biblical tale (a fact which avoided Gagnon’s notice). I have no notion as to whether the individual under discussion was Jewish or Roman, civic or military, or whether the suffering one was a slave, a lover, or a son. I even allow for the possibility that the tale is allegorical in nature and does not seek to accurately record a historical occurance.

But I do know at least a bit about the two warring schools of thought in Christianity. And I know that Gagnon pitches his tent with those who see Scripture in terms of sin, condemnation, judgment and wrath.

And I also know that the others in that camp are not much impressed by claims that the words of the Bible are in error. I’ve sat through too many sermons which included statements like, “Jesus told the woman at the well to go and sin no more. He didn’t tell her sin sometimes, or only when she wanted, but the word of God says SIN NO MORE. Can I get an amen?”

If the Bible says that Jesus healed the servant of a Roman Centurion, then by golly He did. The Bible said it, they believe it, and that settles it.

So I repeat what I said back in June:

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.

I don’t much care whether Gagnon lists 12 reasons why he thinks Jesus wouldn’t be running with the homosexualists (or homosexualistarians or any other sneer word he wants to create). And while I find his assumptions to be laughable, I’m not going to spend time trying to refute him.

Instead I’ll just provide you with just one of Gagnon’s many wacky statements, one which I think tells us what he’s all about. Although Gagnon seems to conflate Jim and me into one, he does find on the site those whom he seems to consider to be his intellectual equals, those with whom he finds common cause, allies and buddies one might say:

Actually his treatment of me, disrespectful and distorted as it is, is one of Kincaid’s “kinder and gentler” moments. Elsewhere (here I peruse only a few of his articles) we encounter such descriptions as “paranoid,” “incoherent,” “nutbaggery,” “frothing lunacy,” “lunatic ranting,” and “despicable coward.” He calls Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth “Porno Pete” and Matt Barber, Director for Cultural Affairs with Liberty Counsel, as “Bam Bam.”

Sally Kern. Orson Scott Card. Matt “Bam Bam” Barber (his boxing name). Peter La Barbera.

And Robert Gagnon.

(and just where did they all go to grammar school?)

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

Gagnon Revisited

Timothy Kincaid

August 10th, 2008

gagnon.jpgSince I last expressed my opinions about the flaws in his logic, Dr. Robert Gagnon has devoted nearly 40 pages to refuting “Box Turtle Kincaid”. Sadly, the more he writes, the less I find him to be of principled, thoughtful, reasoning intellect.

In Why Box Turtle Kincaid Continues to Be Logic-Challenged and Now Also Principle-Challenged (pdf 15 pages), Gagnon continues the debate over whether his or not his logic was tortured when he offered his proclamation that the high court of the Presbyterian Church USA could and should continue to rule that ordinations of gay persons cannot occur .

Gagnon rightly notes that I quoted the wrong item in my last piece. I referred not to the Authoritative Interpretation from 2008 but to an Advisory Opinion from 2006. That truly is embarrassing. Gagnon believes this mistake says something about my credibility.

The correct full text of the Authoritative Opinion is

“The 218th General Assembly (2008) affirms the authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 approved by the 217th General Assembly (2006). Further, the 218th General Assembly (2008), pursuant to G-13.0112, interprets the requirements of G-6.0108 to apply equally to all ordination standards of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Section G-6.0108 requires examining bodies to give prayerful and careful consideration, on an individual, case-by-case basis, to any departure from an ordination standard in matters of belief or practice that a candidate may declare during examination. However, the examining body is not required to accept a departure from standards, and cannot excuse a candidate’s inability to perform the constitutional functions unique to his or her office (such as administration of the sacraments).”

But while I did use the 2006 opinion to bolster my claim, it was not essential to my argument. My premise is that the General Assembly approved this Opinion as an effort to correct the court’s determination and to allow for gay ordination. It allowed a gay applicant to conscientiously object (the practice of scrupling) to the fidelity and chastity standard and for the board to consider such an applicant for ordination.

Or as Jerry L. Van Marter, in an article on the PCUSA website put it:

The authoritative interpretation reaffirms the scrupling practice affirmed by the 217th General Assembly … and effectively overturns a recent General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission ruling — Bush vs. Presbytery of Pittsburgh — that G-6.0106b, the commonly called “fidelity and chastity” ordination standard, cannot be scrupled.

I continue to contend that returning to the court and saying, “you can and should override the General Assembly and its clear intent” because of technicalities of language (ie loopholes) is notion unlikely to succeed.

Gagnon explains at great length why he disagrees. I keep trying to shortcut Dr. Gagnon’s convoluted arguments, which seems only to drive him to rage. But at the risk of yet another screed, this seems to be his logic:

  • When the A.I. says “apply equally” it doesn’t really mean equally because some requirements are essential.
  • And because it is the function of ordaining bodies to ordain those in agreement with the Book of Order, ordaining gay candidates would be a violation of the function of the bodies which would invalidate their ability to perform their function. Therefore these ordaining bodies themselves become invalid.

And if that doesn’t adequately paraphrase Gagnon’s mysterious loophole, I give up. It is, to my view, far too tortured a treatment of language and logic to make sense to anyone who isn’t looking for some peculiar view that conforms to their presumptions. Those interested in determining for themselves whether Gagnon is making clear, logical, persuasive arguments can read for themselves.

It also seems to me that the General Assembly of the PCUSA has rejected Gagnon’s peculiar notions. He wrote a long piece sharing just this same logic with the world after the A.I. was prepared for presentation and, as best I can tell, both the pro and the anti side responded with a resounding yawn.

Next Gagnon tries to argue that the General Assembly didn’t express its intent.

Although gay ordination was the hottest and most contested issue, and although the measure passed with 54% of the vote, he asks, “How do I know how each and every member of the General Assembly interpreted the words of the 2008 A.I.”

Instead he presents a picture of a body of “confused commissioners” unsure what they were voting on (I envision British comedy with elderly half-deaf clerics yelling into each other’s ear-horn, “what did he say? HomoWHATualists”). As evidence of this confusion, Gagnon shares

When I made the observation to the committee that approving this overture would mean that there would no longer be any identifiable churchwide essentials for ordination, not even for faith in Christ or fidelity in marriage, I got many puzzled and confused looks.

Yes. I have no doubt that he did.

While I have never attended the PCUSA General Assembly, I have attended a great many conventions. And I know that on significant and major issues those who may not understand the complexities of wording turn to those with whom they find alliance. I sincerely doubt that you could find anyone voting who was not aware of that this vote would allow local bodies to ordain gay applicants.

That Gagnon is willing to pretend otherwise suggests to me that he is either deceptive or seeking to delude himself. Which is really rather sad.

In his Point IV, he goes on to tell us why he thinks that I’m principle-challenged. In short, it’s because I criticize him for looking for loopholes in the Authoritative Interpretation while I employ the practice of looking for loopholes through technicalities when it serves my “homosexualist interest” (He doesn’t provide any actual examples of my doing so.)

This argument quickly morphs into an assertion that if I were to be principled, I would have to insist on supporting Gagnon’s view – a bit of a presumptuous definition of “principled”, I think. It’s all a little silly and a little sad so I’ll just let the reader decide whether my “overall argument here is unprincipled”.

And I will let history decide whether the PCUSA’s General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission will say, “Lookie there, Gagnon’s long-winded rant about essentials overrides the clear intent of the General Assembly”. But I sincerely doubt it.

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

My Very Favorite Gagnonism

Timothy Kincaid

August 10th, 2008

In Robert Gagnon’s latest condemnation of me, Box Turtle Bulletin, and all the “homosexualists” that comment here, he selects a passage from the book of Matthew to illustrate why “the ‘historical Jesus’ would have opposed homosexual practice”.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

You may have heard of Matthew 7:1-6. You may even have thought it was about acceptance and tolerance and withholding judgment of others. Well not according to Gagnon:

Jesus’ saying about not giving what is “holy” to the “dogs” (Matt 7:6), an apparent allusion to Deuteronomic law (Deut 23:17-18) and texts in 1-2 Kings that indict the qedeshim, self-designated “holy ones” identified as “dogs” for their attempt to erase their masculinity by serving as the passive-receptive partners in man-male intercourse.

I kid you not! Robert Gagnon believes the text on not judging is really a condemnation of bottom boys.

But I guess the good news is that Jesus loves tops.

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic

Timothy Kincaid

August 2nd, 2008

gagnon.jpgFirst a little background

The Presbyterian Church (USA), like many mainline churches, struggles with its approach to gay and lesbian parishioners. The denomination, on a whole, is fairly welcoming of gay and lesbian Christians but is sharply divided about allowing them to have positions of leadership.

The most vocal activist against gay persons in the church is Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Gagnon has written extensively – and creatively – about how Scripture supports his theological presumptions about gay persons.

Earlier this year the church’s General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission ruled that local ordaining bodies must adhere to standards of fidelity and chastity in considering ordination thereby banning ordination of gay persons.

But in June the General Assembly met and one of the contentious issues addressed was homosexual ordination. Those who support full inclusion of gay persons in the life of the church won a number of issues including a deletion of the language that bans gay clergy. And, because a change in language requires ratification of the presbyteries, in the meanwhile the Assembly provided a reinterpretation of a provision of the Book of Order dealing with ordination.

Gagnon, fresh off the loss, declared that the intention and direction of the General Assembly could be ignored. Relying on a Christian Post article that reported his contention, I interpreted Gagnon’s argument as follows:

Not liking the vote at the General Assembly, Gagnon has decided that it doesn’t really have to be recognized. Because the vote guides ordaining bodies rather than the judicial commission directly, Gagnon thinks he’s found a loophole.

… Gagnon thinks that the church’s judicial commission can reverse the decision of the General Assembly.

Gagnon’s Response

Dr. Gagnon did not agree with my assessment of his position and wrote a rebuttal on his website (pdf) entitled, Is Box Turtle Kinkaid Logic-Challenged?

Amusing, Gagnon misspells my name, refers to our site as “homosexualist”, babbles a bit about box turtles, and rather oddly discusses my “obsessive efforts to promote [my] homosexual behavior.” But eventually he gets around to the point of his piece, declaring that I misunderstand his point.

Gagnon clarifies:

Kinkaid characterizes my view as “tortured” because, he alleges, I believe that the “vote [by the General Assembly] guides ordaining bodies rather than the judicial commission directly.” This is not my argument but Kinkaid’s own distorted view of my argument.

My point is rather that, contrary to the desire of its supporters, the precise wording of the 2008 authoritative interpretation of G-6.0108 does not actually state that governing bodies have the right to ordain homosexually active candidates. [emphasis in the original]

I don’t wish to misstate Gagnon’s argument. I was incorrect in my understanding that his loophole was in the body addressed. His loophole is in the specifics of wording.

In a very exacting sense, Gagnon is correct. The words “homosexually active candidates” appear no where in Advisory Opinion # 18 Discernment in Examining Bodies – G-6.0108 (pdf).

But the heart of the opinion is found in its closing paragraph:

This means that ordaining bodies should be given the “benefit of the doubt” in making individual judgments regarding fitness for office. Correspondingly, it means that ordaining bodies are urged to not “push the limits” in making those determinations. While explicitly recognizing the right of review, the commissioners to the 217th General Assembly urged the church to exercise great restraint in utilizing that right, reserving its use to clear cases of abuse of authority by ordaining bodies. We remind the church that it is the duty of both individual Christians and Christian societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each another (G-1.0305). We pray that all ordaining bodies will exercise restraint and Christian charity.

Gagnon knows full well the intention of the Assembly. He knows that it was the intent of the church to instruct its Permanent Judicial Commission exercise great restraint in meddling in the ordination decisions of local bodies. And it was the intent of the church to advise those bodies to be charitable in considering the feelings of those who find homosexuality contrary to Christian faith.

Taken in the context of the debate and of the affirmative vote on revision to the Book of Order, Gagnon knows that it was the intention of the General Assembly to allow those local bodies who wish to ordain gay or lesbian Presbyterians the freedom to do so, provided that they do so with Christian grace and humility.

None of this matters to Gagnon.

Translating the opinion as though the Assembly had not spoken, he blathers on about “constitutional governance” and “churchwide essentials” and “precise wording of the text”. He contends that it is not the intention of the Assembly that matters, but “text of the A.I. itself, not the rationale accompanying it.”

So I am not arguing, as Kincaid confusedly claims, that the General Assembly authoritative interpretation “guides ordaining bodies rather than the judicial commission directly” but rather that:

1. The General Assembly approved only the actual text of the authoritative interpretation and not its accompanying rationale.

2. In this case the authors of the authoritative interpretation failed to word their overture in such a way as to accomplish their goal of allowing ordination of homosexually active candidates.

3. Therefore, the PCUSA high court has a right to continue to rule, and indeed should rule, as it did in its 2008 Bush decision; namely, that “it would be an obstruction of constitutional governance to permit examining bodies to ignore or waive a specific standard that has been adopted by the whole church, such as the ‘fidelity and chastity’ portion of G-6.0106b, or any other similarly specific provision.”

And this is the problem that I have with so many religious anti-gays. They care little about the spirit of the Gospel and instead look for jots and tittles. They quickly discard grace and replace it with legalism.

But regardless of Gagnon’s theology, it is his logic that I am challenging here. And having read his exposition, clarification, and argument, I return to my original conclusion: Robert Gagnon’s logic is excruciatingly tortured.

Gagnon’s position is that language technicalities are the means by which the court should ignore the intention of the Assembly.

His contention is the equivalent of a child that says, “I know Mom said to stop hitting you, but she didn’t write it down”. And just as a child finds that parents have little patience with obstinate children who look for loopholes in their parents’ wording, I think the Permanent Judicial Commission is unlikely to take shelter under the “but you didn’t use the word homosexual” defense.

UPDATE: Dr. Gagnon has corrected the spelling of my name on his site.

SECOND UPDATE (sigh):

Dr. Gagnon has responded with a 15 page rant about Why Box Turtle Kincaid Continues to Be Logic-Challenged and Now Also Principle-Challenged. Life is a little crazy right now and my real job is demanding my focus (16 hour day yesterday) but when I have time to provide Gagnon’s article the attention it requires, I’ll address his concerns.

At the offset it appears I quoted the wrong opinion (2006 rather than 2008). Obviously, this is quite embarassing. However, it does not change my conclusions about Gagnon’s logic process. If anything, Gagnon is continuing to reaveal a very wacky way of thinking. It’s too early to give a good analysis, but he seems be arguing that the other Presbyterians were confused and didn’t know how they were voting. (more on that later)

The more I read from Gagnon, the less I respect him. There are plenty of theologians with whom I may disagree on various issues but for whom i have respect for the logic, consistency, and level-headedness of their approach. But Gagnon’s wild presumptions, obsessive desire to ascribe to others an endorsement of views they have not expressed, peculiar logic, jargonistic language, personal insults, and general hostility make him seem much more a contemporary of Peter LaBarbera or Matt Barber (he does compare himself to these individuals).

Gagnon also seems have whipped out something called Box Turtle Kincaid Peddles Distorted Orthodoxy Test While Promoting Immorality, parts 1 and 2. I don’t have time to read it right now, but I’m sure it’s a doozy. It adds up to 24 pages.

But fear not. I will get to this. It’s just too full of hyperbole, frothing indignation, laughable proclamations and self importance that I just won’t be able to resist a proper treatment (when work lets me).

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic

Timothy Kincaid

July 5th, 2008

gagnon.jpg Anti-gay Theologian Robert Gagnon was not pleased by the decision of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to allow gay and lesbian clergy to be ordained by means of conscientious objection. The vote was in response to a judicial action and was to give the Judicial Commission direction. The Christian Post reports

Earlier this year, the PC(USA)’s high court – the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission – ruled that candidates for ordination must follow the sexual behavior standards of fidelity and chastity and no ordaining body has the right to ordain a candidate in violation of those constitutional standards. The ruling was issued in February in a case involving the Presbytery of Pittsburgh.

On June 27th, the General Assembly adopted an supplementary authoritative interpretation of the church’s constitution that would allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object the current “fidelity and chastity” standard and the local ordaining body to discern whether the declared objection is disqualifying.

Not liking the vote at the General Assembly, Gagnon has decided that it doesn’t really have to be recognized. Because the vote guides ordaining bodies rather than the judicial commission directly, Gagnon thinks he’s found a loophole.

In logic similar to those anti-marriage activists who argued that a County Board of Supervisors could overturn the decision of the CA Supreme Court, Gagnon thinks that the church’s judicial commission can reverse the decision of the General Assembly.

he says “nothing” in the wording of the 2008 A.I. prevents the high court from coming to the same conclusion – of disallowing any departure from the fidelity and chastity standard – in future cases.

Nevertheless, the Pittsburgh professor cannot guarantee that the high court will rule similarly in future cases, but he says “they should.”

And there’s no guarantee that Gagnon will ever stop his anti-gay campaign. But he should.

I think that both are equally likely.

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2008

gagnon.jpgRobert 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.

See also:
Gagnon Rants On And On
My Very Favorite Gagnonism
Robert Gagnon and the Grand Box Turtle Whirl of Immorality
Gagnon Revisited
Clarifying Robert Gagnon’s Tortured Logic
Gagnon Employs Tortured Logic
Robert Gagnon’s Unorthodox Approach to Doctrine

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