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Scholar assesses homosexuality & the Bible

FORT WORTH (BP) — Those who defend homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage gain nothing by appealing to Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbors, in the view of New Testament scholar Robert A.J. Gagnon.

Gagnon discussed what the Bible says about homosexuality during Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Summer Institute on Work and Economics at its Land Center for Cultural Engagement.

Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, is the author of “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Text and Hermeneutics” and co-author of “Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views.”

Those who mention, for instance, Jesus’ citation of Leviticus 19:18, the command to love one’s neighbor, in defense of homosexuality and the redefinition of marriage, Gagnon said, often ignore the immediate context of this passage of Scripture, beginning with Leviticus 19:17.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart,” the passage states. “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Gagnon said that he and others who oppose homosexuality do not act out of hatred but, rather, out of love as defined in this passage of Scripture — a love that involves rebuking and instructing those who live in sin so that they will be saved.

“It is not about taking a pound of flesh out of somebody else for the sin they commit,” Gagnon said. “It is not about getting even with them or taking revenge or holding a grudge. It is not about whatever offense they might have committed against me and the sin that they committed. It is about only one thing — reclaiming the lost. And that is all we ever want.

“It is about loving enough not to be so beat down by the prevailing culture and wanting so much to be loved and approved and accepted by others that we accommodate on a matter which God has told us is foundational for sexual ethics,” Gagnon added. Then, discussing Christ’s comments on marriage and divorce in Mark 10 and Matthew 19, the creation account in Genesis 1-2, and the apostle Paul’s criticism of homosexuality in Romans 1, Gagnon described homosexuality as running counter to the biblical view of human sexuality and marriage.

Audio of Gagnon’s lecture can be accessed here (click on microphone icon).

Craig Mitchell, director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement, said Gagnon’s argument reflects the diversity of issues discussed during the Land Center’s May 20-22 Summer Institute on Work and Economics.

“The Land Center exists to educate and to equip and to help mobilize people in the church about a lot of the contemporary issues,” Mitchell said. “Our primary focus is the theology of work and economics, and that has applications to a wide variety of things — to the family, to the church, to the state, to environmental issues.”

Other speakers at the conference, addressing such topics as economics, war, the environment, socialism and other issues, included Mitchell; Richard Land, former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.; Jay Richards, research fellow at the Discovery Institute and author of “Money, God and Greed”; Michael Matheson Miller, director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.; Bill Eckhardt, clinical professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City; Cal Beisner, founder and national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation; Anthony Bradley, professor of theology and ethics at The King’s College in New York City; and Kevin Kennedy, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Seminary.

Southwestern’s Land Center for Cultural Engagement is on the Internet at www.thelandcenter.org.
Benjamin Hawkins is senior news writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews).

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