Time For Truth

A place to grow in the Grace & Knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

Gagnon’s response to Newsweek on Homosexual marriage

Robert Gagnon has just written a detailed response to the Newsweek article on homosexual marriage.  I recommend it highly. 

One section of his essay is especially insightful and exhaustive and I include it here:

Other Evidence for Jesus’ Negative Stance on Homosexual Practice 

In addition to arguments already brought forward, the following ten factors confirm the case that Jesus was absolutely opposed to homosexual practice:       

1.  Jesus’ retention of the Law of Moses even on relatively minor matters such as tithing, to say nothing of a foundational law in sexual ethics; and his view of the Old Testament as inviolable Scripture, which Scripture was absolutely opposed to man-male intercourse.

2.  Jesus’ further intensification of the Law’s sex-ethic in matters involving adultery of the heart and divorce (Matt 5:27-32), suggesting a closing of remaining loopholes in the Law’s sex-ethic rather than a loosening; also his saying about cutting off body parts, warning that people could be thrown into hell precisely for not repenting of violations of God’s sexual standards (Matt 5:29-30).

3.  The fact that the man who baptized Jesus, John the Baptist, was beheaded for defending Levitical sex laws in the case of the adult-incestuous union between Herod Antipas and the ex-wife of his half-brother Philip, a woman who was also the daughter of another half-brother.

4.  Early Judaism’s univocal opposition to all homosexual practice.

5.  The early church’s united opposition to all homosexual practice (completing the circle and underscoring the absurdity of positing a pro-homosex Jesus without analogue in his historical context: cut off from his Scripture, from the rest of early Judaism, from the man who baptized him, and from the church that emerged from his teachings).

6.  Jesus’ saying about the defiling effect of desires for various forms of sexual immoralities (Mark 7:21-23), which distinguished matters of relative moral indifference such as food laws from matters of moral significance such as the sexual commands of his Bible and connected Jesus to the general view of what constituted the worst forms of porneia in early Judaism (same-sex intercourse, incest, bestiality, adultery).

7.  Jesus on the Decalogue prohibition of adultery, which in its Decalogue context and its subsequent interpretation in early Judaism as a rubric for the major sex laws of the Old Testament presupposed a male-female prerequisite for valid sexual bonds.

8.  Jesus’ saying about Sodom (Matt 10:14-15 par. Luke 10:10-12), which, understood in the light of early Jewish interpretations of Sodom, probably included an indictment of Sodom for attempting to dishonor the integrity of the visitors’ masculinity by treating them as if they were the sexual counterparts to males.

9.  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.

10. The fact that Jesus appropriated the context of the “love your neighbor” command in Lev 19:18 by insisting on reproof as part of a full-orbed view of love (Luke 17:3-4; cf. Lev 19:17: reprove your neighbor lest you incur guilt for failing to warn him); and defined discipleship to him as taking up one’s cross, denying oneself, and losing one’s life (Mark 8:34-37; Matt 10:38-39; Luke 14:27; 17:33; John 12:25), indicating Jesus’ willingness to make hard demands of people. 

The idea that the historical Jesus provides any basis for affirming homosexual unions represents revisionist history at its worst.  

Here is how Dr. Gagnon ends his response:

Lisa Miller’s article is so poorly researched and so badly (and arrogantly) argued that the editors of Newsweek should be ashamed of themselves for publishing it. But they are not ashamed. In fact, managing editor Jon Meacham sets up Miller’s cover story in his “Editor’s Desk” column by writing: 

No matter what one thinks about gay rights—for, against or somewhere in between —this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism. Given the history of the making of the Scriptures and the millennia of critical attention scholars and others have given to the stories and injunctions that come to us in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament, to argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt—it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition. 

Let’s see if I understand this: Basing one’s views on the overwhelming witness of Scripture regarding an important issue of sexual ethics, including the teaching of Jesus—a witness understood, of course, in its historical and literary contexts—is “unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition”? Does Meacham not realize that obedience to scriptural authority and the teaching of Jesus is precisely how “the great Judeo-Christian tradition” formulated its theology since its inception? And how is a negation of appeals to scriptural authority consistent with the subheading for Miller’s article: “Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side”? So as an alternative to submitting to the overwhelming witness of Scripture on moral issues, which includes the voice of Jesus, believers should prefer the sloppy moral reasoning of people like Meacham and Miller?

Here is Meacham’s whole case in a nutshell: “Briefly put, the Judeo-Christian religious case for supporting gay marriage begins with the recognition that sexual orientation is not a choice—a matter of behavior—but is as intrinsic to a person’s makeup as skin color.” Miller makes a similar simplistic observation: “If we are all God’s children, made in his likeness and image, then to deny access to any sacrament based on sexuality is exactly the same thing as denying it based on skin color.”   

The alleged analogy is wrongheaded for two main reasons. First, race is very different from “sexual orientation.” Race or ethnicity is a non-emotive condition that is 100% heritable, absolutely immutable, primarily nonbehavioral, and thus inherently benign. Homosexual “orientation”—which is no more than the directedness of sexual urges at a given period in a person’s life—is an impulse that is not 100% heritable (i.e. no purely deterministic mechanism for homosexual development has been discovered but at most only congenital or early childhood risk factors), is open to some change (i.e. certainly at least the raising or lowering of the intensity of impulses; if the Kinsey Institute is to be believed, some limited movement along the Kinsey spectrum from 0 to 6 is normal over time), is primarily behavioral (i.e. it is a desire to do something), and therefore cannot be regarded as inherently benign.  

Second, as even two prominent, homosexualist researchers of congenital causation factors for homosexual development have acknowledged: 

Despite common assertions to the contrary, evidence for biological causation does not have clear moral, legal, or policy consequences. To assume that it does logically requires the belief that some behavior is non-biologically caused. We believe that this assumption is irrational because … all behavioral differences will on some level be attributable to differences in brain structure or process. Thus, no clear conclusions about the morality of a behavior can be made from the mere fact of biological causation, because all behavior is biologically caused…. Any genes found to be involved in determining sexual orientation will likely only confer a predisposition rather than definitively cause homosexuality or heterosexuality. (my emphasis; Brian S. Mustanski and J. Michael Bailey, “A therapist’s guide to the genetics of human sexual orientation,” Sexual and Relationship Therapy 18:4 [2003]: 432) 

This is a fairly elementary moral point but Meacham and Miller miss it completely. Studies have shown that it is a cross-cultural (and cross-species) phenomenon that males find monogamy considerably more difficult than females (certainly due in part to high testosterone levels in males). Since men don’t ask to think about sex so often throughout the weak and don’t ask to be sexually aroused by the sight of beautiful women whom they know nothing about, shouldn’t society dispense with the monogamy principle for men? Isn’t a “polysexual” orientation “as intrinsic to [most men’s] makeup as skin color”? It is certainly not a “choice.” So why not promote committed, consensual sexual relationships with more than one person concurrently? Should we not rather reflect on the words of Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the Sexual Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins, on another sexual orientation? “The biggest misconception about pedophilia is that someone chooses to have it…. It’s not anyone’s fault that they have it, but it’s their responsibility to do something about it…. We’ve learned that you can successfully treat people with pedophilia, but you cannot cure them.” Few immoral impulses, sexual or otherwise, are matters of “choice” in the strict sense. So it makes no sense to formulate a moral argument based on an absence of choice as regards the mere experience of an impulse. “No clear conclusions about the morality of a behavior can be made from the mere fact of biological causation, because all behavior is biologically caused.” 

Meacham, consistent with Miller’s article, then adds: “The analogy with race is apt, for Christians in particular long cited scriptural authority to justify and perpetuate slavery with the same certitude that some now use to point to certain passages in the Bible to condemn homosexuality and to deny the sacrament of marriage to homosexuals.” In this faulty line of reasoning Meacham is asserting that it doesn’t matter whether or not an alleged analogy is in fact an accurate exegesis and application of Scripture. The only thing that matters is that an analogy was attempted, which makes all “similar” analogies wrong, even those that do accurately interpret Scripture. In short, Meacham’s (and Miller’s) reasoning treats as functional equivalents both inaccurate interpretations of Scripture and accurate interpretations of Scripture—an absurd view. 

Meacham stumbles on: “This argument from Scripture is difficult to take seriously—though many, many people do—since the passages in question are part and parcel of texts that, with equal ferocity, forbid particular haircuts.” No, the forbidding of certain hairstyles is not approached in Scripture with “equal ferocity”—nor with equal pervasiveness across Scripture, the same backing from Jesus, the same absoluteness, and the same countercultural force. Any attempt to compare Scripture’s stance on a male-female prerequisite for sexual relations with its stance on “haircuts” shows the complete “intellectual bankruptcy” of the formulator of the argument. Meacham and Miller also make a comparison with the use of Scripture to promote anti-Semitism, which is absurd given that Jesus, Paul, and virtually the whole of the early church leadership consisted of Jews. Even the comparison with attempts to use Scripture to devalue women runs up against the numerous positive references to women and women’s roles in Scripture. Relative to the ancient Near East or Greco-Roman world the views expressed in Scripture toward women and women’s roles appear positive. But, again, as regards homosexual practice, Scripture’s views are more negative than the surrounding cultures. Scripture’s liberating message there involves freedom from enslavement to homosexual desires and behaviors. To claim that Scripture is opposed to Jews and women in a manner comparable to its opposition to homosexual practice is be either ignorant or disingenuous in one’s reasoning.  

The question must be asked: What is it with the “elite” newspapers and newsmagazines over the past decade? Are they so obsessed with promoting the homosexualist agenda that they have now given up even a pretense to objectivity, balanced research, and good sense? Do they care nothing for destroying their reputation, built up over many years, as credible sources for news and commentary? These news sources are more and more resembling a homosexualist Pravda—a different agenda but the same style of propaganda “news” reporting that would make the old Kremlin leadership proud.  

We should, of course, continue to dialogue with homosexualist advocates like Miller and Meacham. However, their support for a homosexualist ideology is so brazen and offensive in its blatant misinformation—obviously they are very angry about the passage of Proposition 8 in California—that subscribers to Newsweek should give serious consideration to canceling their subscription. For such homosexualist zealots as Miller and Meacham, reasoned argumentation is unlikely to have any major impact. They will understand the language of money, though. It is clear that, ultimately, Miller and Meacham have little desire to make responsible arguments about the merits of moral appeals to Scripture (their refusal to consider any major argument against their position is evidence enough of this). They have only one objective; namely, to intimidate Jews and Christians who appeal to Scripture for their opposition to homosexual practice. Such persons must either shut up or else be treated as the ignorant religious bigots that Miller and Meacham claim them to be.   

A final note: Should believers work to prevent government from foisting the homosexualist agenda on the population? Yes, very definitely so. The withholding of governmental incentives for homosexual practice is as much a civil issue as society’s prohibition of incest and polygamy (even of an adult, consensual sort). As Jesus argued, it is the twoness of the sexes that is the foundation for the limitation of the number of partners in a sexual union to two (bringing together the two primary sexes makes a third party both unnecessary and undesirable). And incest is prohibited in Scripture on the basis of the principle that too much structural (embodied, formal) sameness (here, as regards kinship) is problematic for sexual relationships—a principle established by the prior prohibition of sexual relations between persons too much alike in gender or sex. Paul made use of a nature argument in Romans 1:24-27, for those who don’t know (or don’t care) what Scripture says, alongside of an echo to Genesis 1:26-27. Both Jews and Christians in antiquity viewed the prohibitions of same-sex intercourse, incest, adultery, and bestiality as applicable beyond the sphere of God’s people. Today’s people of God should take the same view.

 

I will complete my own response to this Newsweek article in the next installment.

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December 11, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. If you would remain on the early Jewish (Judaism) reasons against sodomy, before and near the beginning of the CE, and exclude the oxymoronic Judeo-Christian “ethic,” you will remain on solid ground.

    Comment by Eliyahu Konn | December 12, 2008

  2. Mark Eaton says:

    The obvious ‘tab A slot A’ physiology of men to women would seem to be an obvious clue to the designed sexual interconnectivity between humans. The fortunate generation of offspring (brought about by Man-Woman intercourse) brings with it another clue as to a “designed order” of human sexuallity. I realize that this line of reasoning falls back on a presuppositions of meaning , purpose and design underlying any complex system (i.e., life on earth). Based on this same reasoning Saul of Tarsus, a 1st century Jewish philosopher, speaks to the the Greco-Roman world of his day. He refers to nature (created order) as being normative “the men also abandoned natural relations with women…” an argument opposing homosexuality. The differing of worldviews has always and will always exist. It is not some sort of “Homophobia” (what ever the hell that is supposed to mean), but a fundamental difference in worldview which fuels the ongoing argument centered around human sexuality. When many of us oppose homosexuality, we do so for good and well-thought reasons. The attempt to portray us as backwoods knuckle draggers or reactionary buffoons will not make us go away. We will instead continue to press our viewpoint vigorously because it alone can bring real, substantial meaning to all our lives.

    Comment by Mark Eaton | January 2, 2009


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