Robert A. J. Gagnon, Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, has contributed some of the most important biblical scholarship on the question of homosexuality and the New Testament. He is also a committed churchman who writes with outrage and grief over his denomination’s recent vote to allow what amounts to a local option on the issue of ordaining practicing homosexuals to the ministry.
In a recent paper, Professor Gagnon responds to Professor Mark Achtemeier of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, a member of the Task Force that brought the proposal adopted by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [See this news article].
In this important section, Professor Gagnon rejects the position that poses as a “middle” option. The entire paper deserves a careful reading, but this section is mandatory:
The truth is that Prof. Achtemeier has truncated the gospel definition of grace, which includes God caring enough about us to turn us from self-dishonoring, self-degrading sexual behavior that mars the image of God stamped on our sexual being to God-honoring, life-sustaining sexual behavior that enhances that image. Here too Prof. Achtemeier would have done well to compare Rom 1:24-27 with 6:12-23: Whereas God’s wrath is manifested in giving persons over to the mastery of pre-existing impulses for sexual “uncleanness,” of which impulses for same-sex intercourse are a paradigmatic instance, God’s grace is now manifested in delivering us from the primary lordship of such impulses so that we no longer put our bodies at the disposal of such “uncleanness” (Rom 1:24; 6:19).
It is a terrible thing to manipulate the text of Scripture to advance what is essentially an anti-Scriptural agenda. There can never be true Christ-centered unity around the toleration of sexual immorality that would have appalled, and does appall, Jesus. The church should be about graciously and humbly recovering the lost, not training them to be content with their lost condition.
In all too many cases of theological declension in denominations, the forces of theological and moral revisionism are “enabled” by an accommodationist “middle” faction that refuses to draw essential biblical distinctions or to defend necessary theological and biblical boundaries.
See “I Am of the Middle”: The Subgroup of the “Middle” and Its Accommodation to Sexual Immorality / A Response to Mark Achtemeier by Robert A. J. Gagnon, Ph.D., July 12, 2006. See other resources at www.robgagnon.net.