Thursday, July 06, 2023

David Gushee's "Embarrassingly Bad Exegesis"


                                (Monroe county)

A friend recommended David Gushee's Changing Our Minds to me. Gushee now supports same-sex marriage.

I haven't changed my mind, even after reading Gushee's book. Textually, marriage is between a man and a woman. 

New Testament scholar (which Gushee isn't; and, BTW, neither am I) Robert Gagnon was unimpressed. (Gagnon's massive The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, is essential reading in this area.) In a review, Gagnon writes:

"Dr. Gushee carries no "intellectual heft" on the issue of Scripture and homosexuality, for two simple reasons: 

(1) Dr. Gushee is heavily dependent on the "wet-behind-the-ears" Matthew Vine for his "exegesis" of biblical texts pertaining to the issue of homosexuality; and 

(2) Dr. Gushee has ignored nearly all the major arguments against his embarrassingly bad exegesis, even when I sent him links to online articles that summarize more extensive arguments in my published work."

One of Gushee's most disappointing chapters is called "Two Odd Little Words," on the meaning of arsenokoites and malakoi. Gushee says, because we cannot know the meaning of these words, we cannot use them in an argument against same-sex marriage. I find his reasoning absurd.

So does Gagnon (and many New Testament scholars, which I have named elsewhere). Gagnon writes (I quote him at length):

"Dr. Gushee was trying to argue that these terms had to do only with exploitative forms of homosexual practice. It was clear that he had no personal facility with Greek and was significantly dependent on Matthew Vines (who likewise has no personal facility in Greek). The research, such as it was, was amateurish and unworthy of a scholar."

Gagnon continues,

"I sent him a private message on FB, asking him that if he was not willing to take an hour or two to read my 33-page analysis of these two terms in The Bible and Homosexual Practice (303-36), he might at least look at a 5 page online summary of the 4 arguments for malakoi and 8 for arsenokoitai, arguments which indicate that these terms are inclusive of adult-committed male homosexual relationships (point 4 here). I asked him if he would revise his article by at least responding to these arguments, heretofore ignored. He thanked me and did revise his article, but not in light of my arguments; rather, only in light of the comments that others, who were not scholars, left below his online article.

In his revision, he not only ignored my arguments, but he also mischaracterized an important scholar's view (William Loader) as supporting his (Gushee's) viewpoint and opposing mine (the exact opposite was the case). He added a reference from "biblical scholar Michael Vasey" about the cultural milieu. Yet Vasey, who was not a biblical scholar but a gay Anglican priest who died at age 52 (of HIV complications, according to some accounts), was oblivious to the evidence for committed homosexual relationships in the ancient world.

Dr. Gushee followed this with an over-reaching theological claim about Paul that is unsustainable from the evidence. He claimed that God's grace precludes the possibility that Paul could have warned sexual offenders, including homosexual offenders, about exclusion from God's kingdom. Yet Paul's offender list in 1 Cor 6:9-10 is precisely such a warning ("Stop deceiving yourselves: [The following] shall not inherit the kingdom of God"), where the larger context is the shocking case of a self-proclaimed Christian "brother" at Corinth in a sexual relationship with his stepmother (1 Cor 5). Paul has similar warnings to converts about sexual immorality sprinkled throughout most of his extant letters.

So I asked Dr. Gushee a second time through private FB messaging to respond to the many counterarguments that I offered. He sent me the message, "I appreciate your comments. Thank you.""

Gushee didn't respond.