Tuesday, September 29, 2020

David Gushee's Failed Attempt to Affirm Same-Sex Marriage


I recently read David Gushee's Changing Our Minds. Gushee changed his mind about same sex marriage, moving from disaffirming to affirming.

As I went through the book, the one prevailing thought was that - I've read this stuff before. Very little, if anything, was new to me. And, chapters like "Two Odd Little Words" concern arsenokoites and malakoi, which are really not that little, nor odd. Gushee thinks we cannot know the meaning of these words. But scholars like Craig Keener, N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Richard Hays, Michael Brown, and Robert Gagnon disagree.

So does New Testament scholar Preston Sprinkle. Sprinkle writes that arsenokoites should be translated as "men who have sex with men." (See here.)

Sprinkle writes:

"I know that Robert Gagnon has stirred the pot on more than one occasion regarding the question of homosexuality. But the simple fact is: No one has thoroughly refuted his arguments. No one. David Gushee continues to repeat assumptions and arguments that have long been refuted by Gagnon. James Brownson may have challenged a couple points in Gagnon’s work (re: gender complementarity and some other interpretations in Gen 1-2), but even if we say that Brownson is right on these couple points, there are dozens of other exegetical conclusions that he didn’t address or didn’t convincingly refute. (Matthew) Vines didn’t deal very well with Gagnon’s work (didn’t even cite Gagnon in his chapter on 1 Cor 6 and 1 Tim 1) and Justin Lee misrepresented him. And now, David Gushee repeats the error by tip-toeing around Gagnon’s ever-growing scholarly work on the topic.

The fact is, until affirming scholars can actually deal with and refute Gagnon’s arguments, or at least a good portion of them, their view will not be considered as a credible biblical option by those who have studied the (LGBT)  question more broadly. And by relying on previous affirming arguments—ones which have been thoroughly refuted by Gagnon and others—“new” affirming voices are entering the rodeo on a crippled pony."

Gagnon is arguably the New Testament scholar in this area. See his massive The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. (I have it, and have read it.) 

Gagnon has elsewhere written about Gushee's failure to engage, over the texts, with him. See here

In this article Gagnon concludes:

"When did I ever say that I wanted David Gushee to stop following Jesus? I just think that he shouldn't be citing Jesus as justification for shoddy work that deliberately hides from readers the problems with his exegesis of Scripture. Apparently now "intimidation" occurs when one scholar shows the deficiencies of a poorly argued position by another scholar who has the intellectual wherewithal to do much better but refuses to spend even a half hour to investigate the counterarguments. Gushee, like Vines and Justin Lee of the "Gay Christian Network," is an intellectual coward (I'm sorry to say). By that I mean that he deliberately ignores the array of counterarguments to his own ideological position and sometimes even misrepresents the views and credentials of scholars in order to advance that position."

Put Christianity aside, for a moment. Gushee's book is hermeneutically unconvincing. It's just really hard to get the Bible to affirm same sex marriage, when there is not one affirming verse in the entire Bible about this, and while the entire Bible is - like it or not - a heterosexual document that has God affirming marriage as between a man and a woman. For those who have a high view of the Bible's authority, this is important.