The Gagnon-Kirk Debate on Scripture and Homosexuality (Gupta)

This semester I am teaching a seminary course on biblical hermeneutics. There are several case studies we will discuss, but none that is more controversial and sensitive than homosexuality and the church. The topic has especially heated up in evangelical circles in recent years due to leaders like Tony Campolo and scholars like David Gushee becoming public supporters of same-sex Christian marriages and full inclusion of homosexuals in the church. Perhaps some of you know that Fuller Seminary professor Daniel Kirk has embarked on a journey on this issue that has now led to full support for gay Christians. Someone pointed out to me recently a debate between Robert Gagnon and Daniel Kirk on this issue which has been posted to Vimeo. I will be encouraging my hermeneutics students to watch this debate when we get to the homosexuality discussion in our case studies. I am very interested in your thoughts on this debate, especially as it pertains to theological hermeneutics and how the Bible should be used by Christians today to shape theology and ethics – so please comment here, leave a note on FB (if we are friends), or email me (you can find my email here).

Ordination Standards Seminar 2 from Valley Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.

7 thoughts on “The Gagnon-Kirk Debate on Scripture and Homosexuality (Gupta)

  1. You might find some of William (Bill) Loader’s writing helpful on this issue. He is Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Murdoch University and a Minister of the Uniting Church in
    Australia. He is a leading world researcher on attitudes towards sexuality in early Judaism and Christianity and is widely published in the field including (unfortunately, all books – although there are also articles available on his website:
    Making Sense of Sex: Attitudes towards Sexuality in Early Jewish and Christian Literature
    (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013);
    The New Testament on Sexuality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012) ;
    Philo, Josephus, and the Testaments on Sexuality: Attitudes towards Sexuality in the Writings of Philo, Josephus, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011);
    The Pseudepigrapha on Sexuality: Attitudes towards Sexuality in Apocalypses, Testament, Legends, Wisdom, and Related Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011);
    Sexuality in the New Testament: Understanding the Key Texts (London: SPCK; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010);
    The Dead Sea Scrolls on Sexuality: Attitudes towards Sexuality in Sectarian and Related Literature at Qumran (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009);
    Enoch, Levi, and Jubilees on Sexuality: Attitudes Towards Sexuality in the Early Enoch Literature, the Aramaic Levi Document, and the Book of Jubilees (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007);
    The New Testament – with Imagination: A Fresh Approach to its Writings and Themes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007);
    Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005);
    The Septuagint, Sexuality and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).
    I recently attended a workshop that he ran on this issue and I found what he had to say helpful. He argues that the biblical texts come from a perspective that we now understand not to be true ie that all people are naturally heterosexual and that we therefore need to rethink how we understand heterosexual relationships.

  2. I find conclusions like the one Judy espouses above to be hermeneutically difficult to swallow. To me it is espousing that we’re smarter, more enlightened people now and know better. It takes educated psychologists in the 21st century to come to the right conclusion about this. And the gymnastics and roundabout way scholars get there to me dies the death of a thousand qualifications. I do find it respectable that at least they’re being honest with the text and just flat out saying that it’s wrong and we know better now. It appears that in these cases, experience gets pushed to the front of the Wesleyan quadrilateral instead of letting scripture be the norming norm. Jesus was wrong when he explains marriage as being between man and woman because he was held captive to the confines of his culture. Sounds a bit dangerous and audacious. I’m sensitive to this issue but find it revealing with how much the spirit of the times often drives our biblical interpretations and theological conclusions. I also believe it shows how the western virtue of tolerance and making Christianity palatable to the wider culture is driving conclusions. To me it’s comparable to the classic liberal theologians trying to keep their Christianity but explaining away the supernatural and miraculous because “We know better than that now and are more enlightened.” Scripture allows for views on the evil of slavery, women leaders, and theistic evolution (lest those examples are brought up as evidence to the contrary), but I just don’t see how it would allow what Kirk is advocating. And the arguments he’s making (comparing it to Gentile inclusion) could be used with any heterodox position.

  3. When was this debate held? I’m somewhat surprised Kirk agreed to this since Gagnon is notoriously dishonest and unprofessional when he writes about and debates this topic.

  4. Eric

    I do hope you are going to offer evidence of your claim that Gagnon is unprofessional and dishonest in his writing or debates on the topic.
    It’s quite a facile claim,and the “notorious” claim is an inflammatory remark which is surely not needed in this debate.

    1. Thank you Eric.

      I will give the exchange a read, but it would seem to me that Martin and Gagnon are poles apart, and in a debate where much heat is generated one is always going to offer credence ( rightly or wrongly) to those whose thinking coincides with our own on the subject.
      I happen to think that in the Kirk-Gagnon debate that Gagnon had the upper hand, as it appeared to me that Kirk based his arguement not on Exegesis but
      on emotion and special pleading.

      Thank you again for pointing me in the direction of the Martin-Gagnon exchange.

      1. Although I admittedly sided with Gagnon before I watched the debate, afterwards I side with him even more. His arguments were the strongest, he provided the best and most persuasive evidence from scripture, antiquity, and modern day studies. Even if I personally aided more with Kirk, I would believe Gagnon was the clear winner in this debate. Kirk may have had a recent change of heart about this issue, but his arguments in support of it are weak and shallow

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