Ask Peter – Question One
Yes, they’re coming in thick and fast. Here’s my reply to the first question, asked by Ryan in Glasgow. Apologies for the sound sync problems – working on it!!
I was wondering what you thought of Gagnon’s use of dodgy statistics (Paul Cameron, the “dutch study” that excluded people over 30 in The Bible and Homosexual Practise. I used to think that it was unfortunate that Gagnon combined serious biblical scholarship with such flawed arguments but then it struck me that if you accepted Gagnon’s “embodied existence” argument then you would expect to see the sort of problems (due to structural incompatibility etc) that said studies attempt to prove. Some evangelicals ,when I make this point, say that other sins doesn’t have scientifically measurable harm but I don’t see how you can accept Gagnon’s premises and not expect evidence of the essential unnaturalness of homosexual unions ( in the same way that I don’t see how someone could believe that God created male and female with different roles whilst accepting completely the – post?- feminist view that gender is just a construct). And presumably , if Gagnon isn’t invoking said studies because they are implied by the conclusions of his biblical scholarships, then they are just an example of spurious anti-gay arguments being promulgated in spite of being inaccurate, which would (from an evangelical perspective) be a worrying thing to concede of the best anti-gay bible-based resource.
You are right. Many people do not even know the theological arguments as is evidenced by all this talk about Sodom and Gomorrah.
interesting new feature, this. Just watched the video above – I agree with much of your answer and commend your criticism of fellow conservatives, but would just say I don’t think the argument can be solely theological. I think you’re right that sociological argument such as reference to statistics won’t clinch it, but surely there has to be a connection made between theology and experience, carefully weighed and discerned, on this? Given ‘the gay issue’ is about an identifiable group of people, statements about gay people are ‘testable’ in a sense. Discoveries (if that’s the word) about other conditions are accepted – so if it can be said that it’s been found that being gay is not a pathology, shouldn’t that be factored in to the discussion?
On another note there’s some ‘reasonable doubts’ that could be raised about both Robert Gagnon’s reading of Scripture, and the way in which he argues his case…
in friendship, Blair
Didn’t know if comments on replies were encouraged, but as others have done it….
Thanks for the response ,Peter. I should say that I’m not trying to force evangelicals to value sociological arguments over theological ones, but I’m guessing that John Paul II’s Theology of the Body – which I really should read some time! – also talks about the innate “meaning” of male/female sex in a way similar to Gagnon’s “embodied existence” argument. Surely defying this embodied meaning ( as – to the conservative – in homosexual practise) would see evidence of “damage” greater than the violations of metaphors that you pointed out in your theology of sex essay? As you say, scripture points out that the sinful can be successful but I’m not talking about arguments on (say) gays having more disposable income, but the (to me) likelyhood that an essentially unnatural attempt to form “one flesh” relationships would lead to scientifically measurable harm. Do you agree with Gagnon that homosexual practise should still be condemned in the secular world, which would obviously entail offering extra-biblical (so most likely sociological) arguments?
Interesting answer, Peter. I agree with Blair, however, that I think that the experiences of individuals and groups needs to come into our theological arguments.
This isn’t unique to the gay issue, of course. If we look back at arguments made against slavery by the abolitionists, we see clear appeals to the evils visited on those held in bondage.
Slave owners, of course, tried to portray themselves as benevolent, and the slaves as actually benefiting from their lack of freedom – in much the same way that some conservatives try to argue (and you seem to suggest here) that gays/lesbians die earlier/etc, as evidence that homosexuality is inherently damaging.
Here is an interesting study, however, that demonstrates measureable damage caused in people’s lives when they are forced to hide who they really are:
When gays and lesbians were told to hide their sexual orientation, they performed 20% less well on spatial orientation tests and 50% less well on a physical endurance test. These are startling statistics – and demonstrate clear ‘harm’ being done in people’s lives when they are not accepted for who they are.
This is, of course, the position gays and lesbians find themselves in in our churches. :-(
I’d again go back to Romans 13: how do we know we are showing love and adhering to God’s primary command to us through Jesus and echoed again in Paul?
We know we are showing love if we do not harm others.
Yet we see the harm caused (clearly!) when gays and lesbians are not accepted for who they are.
Jesus never separated theological arguments from indidividuals. He interpreted the Sabbath Law in Luke 6 according to its effects on people. If this is how Jesus interpreted Scripture, how can we declare that the argument must be solely Scriptural, with no reference to the effects of our Scriptural interpretations on those we seek to control through those interpretations?