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Posts for July, 2008

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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